It was so beautiful out today. The boys wanted to ride their bikes up and down the street. I agreed, and had one of them move a chair out to the front yard so I could keep an eye on them. Trouble cries if we go out to play without taking him with us, but I wasn't exactly in the physical condition to hold his leash, thanks to my back. So he got tied to a tree in the front yard, and I sat down next to him.
All was fine for a while - Trouble liked watching the boys on their bikes, and every time they rode past his tail would wag. Several other kids came out, and there was all sorts of activity - biking, jogging, skateboarding, babies in strollers - lots for a young dog to watch. A couple of boys remembered that he's a gentle dog, and brought him a few sticks to gnaw on.
A few boys decided to start a game of soccer about three houses down from us. Now, you should know that Trouble LOVES balls. When a ball is involved, there is no talking sense into that dog. So you can just imagine the whimpering and whining as he watched those boys kick around that lovely bi-colored toy. He actually started to drool with anticipation.
That's when it happened. One boy kicked the ball towards the goal, and missed. The ball rolled past the goal and came to a stop at the curb - right in front of Trouble. With a huge jerk, that silly canine snapped his harness into pieces and pounced on the ball. His entire body language was one of sheer joy - "It got it! I got it! Ball! Ball! Ball!"
I knew there was a very good chance that Trouble would puncture the toy in his exuberance, so I called for my sons (since again, my back injury prevented me from participating in anything). Jonathan managed to pin the silly pup, and James got the ball out of his slobbering maw. In the manner of little boys all over the world, he wiped the drool off the ball with his shirt and offered it to the ball's owner. Accepting this behavior as fair and just, the young man accepted his ball with dignity and headed back down the street to home.
The boy was three houses away when Jon somehow lost his grip on Trouble. Like a bullet, Trouble aimed at the ball and hit his fastest stride. "HEADS UP!" I shouted in the kid's direction.
The boy turned around to see 60 pounds of jet black pit bull barreling towards him, teeth gleaming in the late afternoon sun. For a moment, he froze. I'm sure it must have looked terrifying - Trouble isn't a small dog, and since he's a pit bull, most people have an instinctive fear of the breed. But everyone who was watching - from the youngest toddler to the oldest grandma - knew exactly what Trouble was aiming for. And it wasn't the kid.
A dozen voices shouted out in unison. "THROW THE BALL!"
And the kid snapped out of his paralysis and threw the ball when Trouble was about five feet from him. The result was utterly comical. Trouble put on the breaks so hard he somersaulted, and somehow ended the somersault with a springing leap in the direction of the ball. Within seconds, he had his jaws around the irresistible toy, and his tail was moving so fast his whole body was shaking to the rhythm.
This time, when Jon came to pin him, he involved everyone in a merry game of keep-away, letting kids get just close enough to touch him or the ball before springing back. About a dozen boys ended up circling him until he had no backwards direction left to jump, and then Jon pinned him down while the ball was once again muscled out of his jaws.
Fortunately for all, the ball wasn't damaged, nor was the dog. In fact, Trouble seemed mighty thrilled with how the evening turned out - his tail didn't stop wagging for nearly an hour. And he had the hugest doggy grin ever. Once we had him safely on a leash (attached to his collar, since his harness was hanging in shreds from his shoulders), he personally went around to each boy and gave them a happy lick on the hand, as though to thank them for the wonderful game.
~sigh~ I know he meant no harm, and I am very fortunate to live in a pit-friendly neighborhood (Trouble is one of a full dozen of pits on this street alone, and it seems more are arriving every day). But someday we will move, buy a place of our own, and I can't guarantee that our new neighbors will understand a soccer-loving pit bull racing down the street towards their children. It looks frightening and dangerous. In one way, it is VERY dangerous - to Trouble. All it would take is one call from a concerned parent and Trouble could be taken from us and euthanized.
He's GOT to learn that not all balls mean playtime. I want him to be a lovely ambassador to his breed - not one that frightens parents and children alike.