“Do you know if there are any rehabs for dogs?” I asked my husband.
“And you’re asking me this because…”
“I think Monty has a tennis ball addiction,” I said solemnly.
We both looked down at the dog who had been following us from room to room with a bright yellow tennis wall clenched in his mouth.
“So he likes to play fetch, big deal. He’s a dog. That’s what they do,” said my husband. He took the ball from the dog and threw it out the back door. The dog bolted out the door like he was shot out of a cannon, got the ball, and then came back and waited. My husband threw the ball again. And again. And again. And again.
“Doesn’t he ever get tired?” he asked, a little winded himself.
“No. Never. He’s a tennis ball addict.”
There was no denying it. The dog had a problem. At first, it was one ball toss a day. Then two. Now he needed a dozen tosses or more to get the same tennis ball rush. At some point he crossed the line from fetch enthusiast to full-blown fetchaholic.
Of course he hadn’t always been addicted to tennis balls. When he was a puppy, he had many interests: Squeaky toys, chew toys, frisbees, stuffed squirrels, and even a stuffed moose we called Bob. But over the years, he slowly lost interest in all the other toys and became obsessed with the ball. He had red balls, orange balls and purple balls. There were rubber balls, fuzzy balls and balls with holes in the middle. He had balls that floated and balls that glowed in the dark. He’s had more tennis balls than the U.S. Open, and he loved them all. Yes, I knew we had enabled him in his addiction (someone had to buy him all those balls), but the obsession was his alone. Even with all his own balls, he has been known to steal balls off the lawns of other, less fortunate dogs. The day he grabbed a ball out of the mouth of a mere puppy, I knew it was time.
I decided to do some research and see what I could find to help our poor, fetch-addicted pooch.
I figured this must be a common problem for a breed that is born to retrieve. Clearly, there would be multiple programs for the four-legged, the furry and the fetch-obsessed.
I looked online and found a number of sites for dogs with chew toy addictions, but nothing on tennis balls.
“We don’t necessarily need an inpatient treatment center,” I said to my husband. “Maybe just a good 12-step program he can do at home with our support.”
My husband looked at me like I had dog chow for brains.
“How about if we just don’t buy him any more tennis balls,” he suggested.
“You mean, like, go cold turkey?” I shook my head. “That’s cruel. He could go through ball withdrawal. Get depressed. Chew up our socks.”
“So, what do you suggest?” he asked.
“We have an appointment at the vet tomorrow,” I said. “Maybe I’ll ask him.”
Optimistic that we would find the solution to this problem, the next day I loaded the dog in the car and headed over to the vet. As we went in, the dog seemed to get a whiff of something that sent him into a frenzy. Suddenly I noticed a promotional table set up by the desk with some literature and some dog toys.
“Hi,” said the woman behind the table. “We’re giving out some samples of healthy, new dog biscuits, and…” she picked up one of the dog toys.
“…a free tennis ball for your dog!”
— For more Lost in Suburbia, follow Tracy Beckerman on Facebook at facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage or on Twitter at @TracyinSuburbia.