The Dog’s Balls

Some time ago we bought LarryBStanding a toy – it was on offer for about a tenner at a pet store that’s no longer there, and it was a kind of football-thing with rope tassles attached to both sides through some fabric loops. We figured he’d like it given his predilection for swinging any kind of rope-based toy around in circles. I THINK we unveiled it on a beach trip – where he was able to swim after it as well. Little did we know just HOW much he’d love the damn thing.

However as all things go when you get them near a labrador, the ball was not destined to last forever. To be fair to it, we got a good couple of years out of it – the ball was a fairly sturdy leather construction with a rubber inner and the rope was decent-gauge and heavy duty fabric tags. He eventually punctured it when it went down a bit – allowing purchase and then, inevitably, chewing.

“No problem!”, we thought – we’ll just buy him a replacement! And it wasn’t a product that seemed particularly difficult to come by. So a few mouse-clicks, the disappearance of around £22, and a couple of days’ wait, and the replacement arrived. 2 sizes were offered – size 1 and size 3, whatever THAT means. Picking over the carcass of the orginal ball size 3 seemed to fit the bill.

Straight away it was clear that the build specs on this thing had changed. Initially I only noticed the ropes, because I couldn’t work out how Larry was going to do his signature spinning around move with those pathetic little nubbins to grip on to.

In hindsight it was totally predictable: the new ball did not last a couple of years like its predecessor. It did not last a couple of weeks. It lasted about 5 minutes.

With ruthless skill and efficiency he chewed off both ropes, and then getting his teeth into the flimsy ball was trivial. Bye, new ball.

I reasoned that if the first (leather) ball had a rubber inner bladder then it MUST be possible to somehow get the bladder out of that ball, replaced with a new one, and pumped up to the point where Larry couldn’t get his teeth into it. And here’s where I learned a lot about modern football construction.

It turns out that the leather outer/rubber inner construction of my childhood was in fact no longer how it’s done – and footballs bought now are all much lighter polyurethane affairs (helpfully described as “PU Leather”, so as to thwart easy keyword searching). After about an hour of searching I’d found one – however it was about £30, and I wasn’t even entirely sure how I’d get the bladder out of the original ball so it seemed a bit of a gamble. I concluded that the replacement must’ve been PU leather, and its single-wall (MUCH lighter-weight) construction was what made it vulnerable.

A new approach was needed.

I tried contacting the manufacturer to see if the old model was available anywhere. No dice.

I scoured EVERY pet store on the interweb and checked the photos to see if they were selling the old or new model. 2 places showed photos of the old one, so I put an order in with one and got sent the new model… and when I contacted them about it they gave me some arse about product photos being provided, etc. & so I sent it back. I emailed the other one to check BEFORE ordering, and turned out they only stocked the new one too. And the annoying bit was that neither of them seemed to have any idea what I was talking about re: different materials.

Most people, I assume, would give up about here. Not this little black duck. Larry LOVES this ball, and not only am I 100% focussed on my dog’s happiness and wellbeing, but I also value that when he gets it in his mouth he tears around the park like a maniac with it, and gets way more exercise than were he just to walk around with me.

One website turned up something that looked vaguely promising – though it was a bit hard from the picture to see exactly what was going on… so clicky-clicky, another £19, and voila we had this thing in our house. This picture makes it a lot clearer than the one on the site I bought from: it’s a rubber football with a sort of strappy webbing “harness” around it, which the rope loops are affixed to.

And then another 5 minutes in the park and I was holding onto this deflated, defunct piece of shit.

The cheap rubber ball was no match for Larry.

Fortunately though, the weird ball-harness thing was still intact and I was able to find it in the twilight of British October. My last-ditch effort would be to try to procure a more robust ball to pump up and put in the harness… and if THAT worked then we’d see how long it took Larry to destroy. And if it DIDN’T work, well, the whole project could go get stuffed.

I’d already discovered how difficult it was to find a football (i.e. what sensible people call a Soccer ball) with a leather/bladder construction – so I was starting to think I was beaten.

And then I found it!

A sport played with a round ball but which needs something a bit more robust than a single-wall poxy English bullshit PU Leather ball…


Clicky-click, £13 + £4 shipping later and I’d ordered a gaelic football (size 3 – I’m no dummy) from an Irish sporting goods retailer.

And then a short matter of a few days later I realised that I didn’t have a ball-inflation needle for my bike pump.

Clicky-click, £3 later, and a 3-day wait…

And I discovered that a size 3 gaelic football is Tiny. Definitely not big enough for my ball harness thing to snugly fit around. I tried throwing the ball to Larry anyway, and he initially went for it – but without ropes to grip onto, and being unable to puncture it or otherwise get purchase, he soon lost interest. And, as it was now covered in mud & assorted random park shit I couldn’t send it back.

SO back to the website, whereupon £17 further was spent. Plus shipping. And the requisite waiting period. A size 5 gaelic football arrived, was positioned, inflated, and I’m DELIGHTED (and relieved) to report that we are now BACK IN BUSINESS!

The key to the continued longevity of this item I think will be ensuring that the ball stays pumped up enough to remain Larry-invulnerable. The ropes seem the right length for swinging, the ball’s heavy enough to give momentum, and the ball-harness seems well-made enough that he can’t tear it to shreds.

So… Larry’s back in action.

And it only cost me about 4-5 hours of internet searching, around 14 days of waiting time for various shipping, 2 or 3 hours of communicating with online retailers, and £78.

The Dog’s Balls
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