Get the Kong!

The Kongs

Buki and I have several games we play daily. But “Get the Kong!” is more than a game. It’s like a sport. It involves two Kong flying discs. They’re made of rubber, and they have just the right floppiness and weight and aerodynamic-ness to fly superbly. Much better than rigid plastic discs. And they’re easy on a dog’s teeth for catching. Plastic discs yield little shreddings of plastic in a dog’s mouth (terrible!). So rubber is better. We love everything about Kong flying discs, except that they don’t float (guests, please don’t throw our Kongs into the pond).

Here’s how “Get the Kong!” works (refer to map). You don’t have to understand all the elaborate rules, but I will try to describe them clearly:

The layout of “Get the Kong!” The excellent base map is by Jason Hollinger.

1: Buki gets into position on the top of the hump in the driveway, and looks at me with an expression of urgency. No matter how busy I am, that expression says “We gotta play Get the Kong! Right now!” So I get into position 2: From where I throw first one Kong, then the other, with a right handed hook to try to pass the Kongs’ flights between the trees that line the driveway. When thrown well, the Kongs fly right to Buki, who then leaves the Kongs where they lie on the driveway and runs to position 3: To where I then have to throw the two Kongs from position 1, this time with a left-handed hook to clear the trees. I then proceed to position 3 from which I throw first one Kong to position 4: To which Buki runs to be ready to catch the first Kong in the air, before it can touch the ground. I then throw the second Kong to position 5: To where Buki must run to catch that Kong in the air, and from where I then throw that second Kong to position 6: To which Buki must run as fast as she can to catch the Kong in the air. I wait at position 5 until Buki connects with the Kong at position 6, at which point I then take off sprinting as fast as I can and scoop up, in mid-stride, the Kong at position 4 and then sprint to position 7: which is where a cottonwood tree grows. The cottonwood serves as a sort of finish-line to which Buki must sprint from position 6 as fast as she can to try to get there before me. According to the rules, I have to throw the Kong that I picked up at position 4 at the moment when Buki passes me. If I’m too slow, then I must throw in mid-stride before I reach the cottonwood and Buki wins that round. If I sprint fast enough, I get to the cottonwood before Buki, and I win that round, and I can throw from a stationary position, or at least with a more controlled mid-stride throw. In order to win the round, my Kong-throw from position 7 has to be from the road bed, not from a shortcut in the meadow, which often means that I have a longer sprint to the cottonwood. Buki is so much faster than me that I need a run that much shorter than hers for it to be a fair contest. If I throw badly to positions 4, 5, and 6, then Buki’s sprint is usually shortened, and I have a harder time of getting to the cottonwood before her, so my good aim is key to a well-played round of “Get the Kong!” From position 7 toward position 8, I throw the Kong downward, so it bounces up off the ground on a ricochet flight (Kongs will fly after a well-done bounce). If I’m really good, the Kong bounces up off the ground right in front of Buki’s face as she runs, and then she and the Kong travel at almost the same speed, and she tries to accelerate to catch the Kong before it touches the ground again. That is not easy, especially if I’m throwing in mid-stride. But when it works, we both feel especially happy. And so, Buki tries to catch the Kong at position 8: Where I then proceed to retrieve the Kong from her, which at this position always involves play-growling, tug-o’-war, and Buki being propelled through the air, her grip on the Kong fighting against centripetal force as I spin her around in the air, which she loves. Once I gain the Kong from Buki at position 8, I then throw it back to position 5, where Buki tries to catch it in the air. And from position 5, I throw again to position 6, and from position 6, where I retrieve both Kongs, the game begins again with another round from that position to positions 4 & 5. We repeat for the best three out of four rounds. After that, when we return to position 6 on the last round, I then throw the Kongs to position 1, meet with the Kongs there, while Buki runs to be ready to catch the Kongs at position 2, to which I throw with a tight left-handed hook to keep the Kongs from crashing into the trees on the side of the driveway and to keep them from landing on the woodshed roofs. And once again, at position 1, Buki tries to catch the Kongs in the air. The longer Kong flights between the positions are 40–50 meters, so our sprints are fairly long and the exercise we get is intense.

By the time we’re done, Buki is panting and in need of a cool-down, so we then go to the pond, into which I throw a stick so she can splash into the water to get the stick and to cool off, which she does with a highly dramatic bowwowing bark. Or if it’s winter and the pond is frozen, Buki eats snow to cool off, and she rolls in the snow for maximum cooling. And then we go have treats and Buki feels satisfied. And I can then get back to work without Buki distracting me.

Anyway…This is one way for both Buki and me to keep very, very, very healthy and happy. We do this once or twice each day. Even in winter, when we have to run through the snowpack, I in gumboots.

I don’t remember how “Get the Kong!” evolved out of our random Kong throw-and-catch games, but its evolution was organic, with elaborations added periodically. I’m not 100% sure that Buki understands “Get the Kong!” as a competitive game as much as I do. But I think there really is a bit of the competitiveness for her in it, at least the part where we sprint to be the first to get to position 7. If there is some degree of competition for her, as there is for me, then I must wonder if there is any other game of competition between two very unrelated species.

Purple and I had a similar, but non-competitive game, which I will describe in a future post. I would love to know of other elaborate games played between humans and dogs, or other species.

Thankyou for reading.

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