Gael loves to play fetch, and I enjoy it, too. It's relaxing to just throw the ball and watch her chase and finally catch it. It's fun to watch her, especially if the ball takes a weird bounce, and it's fun to just watch her run around with the ball, before she decides that she'd like me to throw it again.
The only downside to the game is that the ball tends to get a bit soggy, if you're using a tennis ball, and it's just plain disgusting if you're using a plastic or rubber ball. While we didn't have much winter, it was cold enough to wear mittens and mine got pretty wet. Fortunately, my mittens have leather palms, but still, I had to wipe them off at the end of every play session.
That's why I was delighted to get a Wood Chuck from Planet Dog. The Wood Chuck is a lovely gadget that allows you to pick up and throw a ball without ever touching the ball. The bamboo Wood Chuck is made from sustainable bamboo (which grows up to 24 inches a day) and from recycled cork scraps. Plus, 2 percent of every purchase goes to the Planet Dog Foundation (www.planetdogfoundation.org), which offers grants of $10,000 to animal welfare organizations.
Susan Ewing and Gael
Along with the Wood Chuck, I also received a 2.5-inch ball for using with the Wood Chuck. That's the only size ball that fits, which is fine with me, as the dogs love the Orbee-tuff balls. They bounce well, and are very durable. There's no evidence of any wear and tear on the ball at all, after two months of withstanding Gael's teeth.
Some tennis balls may fit the Wood Chuck. Mine didn't, but it may be because Gael had worked bits of the fuzzy covering off, so the ball was not smooth.
Anyway, I was thrilled to receive the Wood Chuck and went outside with Gael to test it immediately. There was a very light coating of snow in the yard, but it was enough to put a bit of ice on the ball, and after about three throws, I could no longer pick up the ball with the Wood Chuck. Still, even three throws was a treat, and I used the Wood Chuck off and on through February. On warmer days, it worked better. Now that we seem to have skipped spring and gone directly to summer, I'm using it more. Still, there are times when the little wooden grippers just won't pick up the ball. I don't know why, but it doesn't worry me much, because I can still gingerly pick up the slimy ball, drop it into the cup area, and then throw the ball.
I like the feel of the bamboo and cork and I like being able to throw the ball a bit further than I'd be able to do with just my hand. The throwing can be a bit erratic, but that's me, not the Wood Chuck. Sometimes, the ball just soars, and other times, it lands with a thud about 10 feet from me. I have a bit better luck with a side-arm throw, and that also keeps the ball a lower so that I don't risk having the ball go over the fence.
Another benefit of the Wood Chuck is that I can use it with either arm. Without the Wood Chuck, if I tried to throw the ball with my left hand, well, let's just say it's not a pretty sight. I might as well just drop the ball where I stand. With the Wood Chuck, I can throw side-arm and the ball goes more or less where I want it. I might not be able to hit a target, but that's not the point, and Gael just wants to chase the ball, no matter how I throw it or where it goes.
I don't know why the Wood Chuck sometimes won't pick up the ball, but I like it anyway, and I love that it's made of sustainable and recyclable products. I also like that a percentage of the price goes to a foundation that helps animal welfare organizations. I love that I don't have to bend over to get the ball and that my hands or gloves or mittens remain dog-saliva free.
Gael doesn't know any of this, but I'm sure she also endorses the Wood Chuck. After all, anything that extends playtime must be a good thing.