A Dog Called Mixture

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Yes, there is a point to the story, and it comes at the end. If you want, you can just skip to that and save yourself the time and effort of reading the story, but it's not a long story, and it puts that closing comment in context.

But it's up to you.

Some considerable time ago I was giving some talks at a school, and my wife and I were kindly hosted at the home of the Headmaster and his family. And his menagerie, as it turned out.

They had quite a few beasties, from the usual to the less usual. Of all of them, the one that's stuck in my mind, though, is their dog, called Mixture. The name was appropriate - they didn't know what mix of breeds was in there, but it was wide. Mixture was affectionate and fun, friendly without being overpowering, and had a genuinely lovely temperament.

So one day five of us went for a walk - the Headmaster's wife, their son, Rachel (my wife), and Mixture. Out of respect for his privacy I'll call the son "John" (not his real name ... or is it?). John (who was about 11 years of age) had brought with him a battered old tennis ball, clearly to throw for Mixture to chase.

We'd been walking in the park for some time when I asked John when he was going to throw the ball. He handed it to me and said, "Here, you throw it." I did, and Mixture screamed off after it, collected it, and raced back. John said "You know that's the end of it, don't you." I didn't quite understand what he meant until I tried to retrieve the ball from Mixture, who was clearly having none of it. It was now his, and his it would remain.

John was amused, but that amusement rapidly turned to astonishment when I stood up with the ball in my hand. I cast the ball into the distance, and John, clearly confused and more than just a little impressed asked, "How did you get the ball ?!?"

Well, I'd used what seems to be a little known technique, and when Mixture again returned I demonstrated. Holding the ball in one hand, with Mixture gripping it firmly and pulling a little, I lifted his ear and blew into it. Instantly Mixture dropped the ball, and I held it damply, but triumphantly in my hand before again launching it into the distance.

John, of course, was eager to try the technique, and we watched as Mixture again retrieved the ball, and again raced back to us, but this time with a difference. Instead of coming straight back and playing the "I've got the ball, you can't have it" game, he orbited, at speed, in circles, just out of range.

Mixture he might have been, but stupid he was not.

Never assess someone's abilities based on where they come from.

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