Tuesday, 31 March 2009

All your football are belong to us

Bingley has loved football ever since his first introduction (Mad about the ball), but just recently his infatuation has turned into obsession!

Our basic twice a day walk almost always involves at least one ramble around the grounds of Gateshead Stadium. There’s plenty of green space there to walk through and to play in; Bing can have a good romp and we can enjoy the views down the river.

Gateshead Stadium of course has a long history of athletics events, but it also houses soccer and rugby clubs, as well as a football academy. Most of our routes around the grounds run close to the practice pitches for all these sports, and although most of the training areas are enclosed by high fencing, footballs inevitably get kicked over. With equal inevitability not all of these balls get rescued. At least not until (with yet more inevitability) Bingley turns up.

When he found the first abandoned football early one morning he treated it like the most wanted Birthday present you can ever imagine. Enthusiasm doesn’t come close! But sadly the ball was no match for Bingley’s teeth and within minutes it was a deflated lump of plastic.

The second football he found was greeted with equal surprise and enthusiasm. And it lasted about as long as the previous ball.

But having found the second ball we then also encountered the first of two problems.

Bingley’s a bright dog and he can put two and two together (even if he doesn’t always get the answer right). One football might have been an accident, but two footballs are surely beyond a coincidence. Those footballs must be there for a reason and that reason must be him. They were his footballs - no doubt left by some magnanimous benefactor who, presumably during the night, walked around leaving footballs just where Bingley would find them.

Expecting to find footballs was the first problem. The second problem was that when the football fairy hadn’t left him anything Bingley would go looking for footballs.

I’ve been walking Bingley off-lead for a long time now and he never goes far from my side. But earlier in the year my complacency was shattered when he suddenly shot off down an embankment and galloped across a rugby field. I was even more perturbed when my shouts were totally ignored: I thought we’d mastered recall!

His single minded intensity puzzled me; I just couldn’t work out where he was going. Then the penny dropped. It had been snowing the day before and Bingley was heading over to the remains of a snowman. It was round and white; and to Bingley’s little lemon brain that could only mean one thing.

A sniff and a lick and he realised his mistake; his tail went down and he ambled back over to me looking, it has to be said, rather sheepish.

Not that he learned anything from his error; it was just the first in a long list of mistaken identities that have had him dashing forwards with giddy excitement. Windswept plastic bags: footballs. Boulders on the beach: footballs. Soggy cardboard boxes: footballs.

He’s also started eyeing up the players who are training on the practice pitches; staring longingly (and with a touch of accusation) as the football gets kicked to and fro.

But footballs are still being lost and sometimes he gets it right and actually finds one; then its jackpot for Bingley.

Thankfully, the footballs now last longer since Jane had the brilliant idea of combining Bingball with football. With a small ball clamped in his mouth he doesn’t even try to bite the big ball. Instead he’s now become quite the footballer, using his paws and his muzzle to skilfully stop and direct the ball back to whoever’s kicked it.

Now that the footballs are no longer rapidly reduced to a flabby mass of plastic we play with them for a while and then hide them until next time. And we now have footballs hidden all over the place! Bingley being Bingley of course remembers every location and will run over and retrieve a ball whenever he’s asked to (and sometimes when he’s not asked).

But honestly, to watch him muzzle a ball back across the field is amazing and so funny: I’m certain that if he was on two feet he’d be a first round pick!


Gill Woodhall said...

'Phone Mike Ashley and Alan Shearer to see if Bingley can play for the Toon!

Rob said...

Well Gill, desperate times call for desperate measures and if Alan Shearer saw Bingley's football skills I reckon he'd sign him before the end of the season!

But Bingley, it has to be said, plays on his own terms and I’m afraid that he could give even Didier Drogba a run for his money: not only would the referee be in danger, neither team would be safe!

Maybe I should give Gateshead Thunder a call instead?