Therapy balls are a dog's best friend

Recently, I paid almost $20 for a pair of little rubber balls.

Mind you, they weren't ordinary balls. They were therapy balls, each about the size of a grapefruit, and they came in a lovely shade of teal. According to the accompanying instruction booklet, I was supposed to do various exercises on the floor with the therapy balls beneath me. By letting myself sink into the balls, I would undo any tense muscles that I might have.

I tried the therapy balls with some skepticism, but they really did loosen my eternally tense shoulders.

"These work wonders," I told my husband.

However, my husband looked at the balls, and said, "They look like regular balls."

"Well, they're not," I said haughtily. "These are therapy balls."

He looked at the balls more closely. "So how are these different from the $1 balls you get at Wal-Mart?"

"They are different, because they do not bear the image of Spongebob Squarepants, the Disney Princesses, or any other cartoon characters," I said.

"These balls are teal," I added. "Teal is a very grown-up color."

"Uh-huh," he said. "They still look like ordinary rubber balls to me."

He wasn't the only one who thought so.

Our dog Emily has a rule. If it's rubber, shaped like a ball and it's on our property, it belongs to her.

I've seen what she does when she's chasing a big, playground ball. The "pop" when she bites into its rubbery flesh is quite impressive. A summer doesn't pass without the dog reducing at least two balls to the consistency of pancakes.

Hence, there was conflict when I brought my therapy balls into our home.

I sat down with my dog and showed the balls to her. Then I tried to reason with her.

"These are therapy balls," I said. "They are not for you. Do not bite them. Do not slobber on them. Do not even look at them."

The dog wagged her tail in response.

An hour later, as the dog went loping by, I saw a flash of teal in her mouth.

I yelped, "Drop it!" Instead of dropping it, the dog loped a little faster. I chased her furry butt down the stairs and snatched my ball from her mouth. "Mine," I said sternly. "Not yours ... mine."

Without a blink of her big brown eyes, the dog trotted back to the living room, grabbed my other ball and tried to sneak it to her lair (which is the corner of our bedroom).

I snatched back my second ball. "Bad dog!" I said.

I carried my balls, now slobbery and sticky, into the bathroom and washed them vigorously.

I dried them and made the mistake of laying them on the edge of the sink to dry. The dog was there in a heartbeat.

"Get lost," I warned her.

The dog did leave, but she came back carrying her little Winnie the Pooh ball - which she had stolen from my children a few years earlier - and lay it at my feet, as if to say, "And how are those balls different from the $1 ones from Wal-Mart?"

I held up my balls to show her. "See? Your ball has Winnie the Pooh on it. My balls don't have Winnie the Pooh on them. My balls are teal."

Emily took her ball and walked away. But she still kept an eye on mine, waiting for me to leave them in her vicinity.

It happened a few days later. The phone rang while I was going through my therapy routine, and I left the balls on the couch. As an afterthought, I hid them beneath a big fluffy pillow.

When I came back into the room not five minutes later, the pillow appeared to be untouched, but the balls were nowhere to be found.

After retrieving them a second time and washing off the dog slobber, I discovered that my expensive teal balls were covered in doggie teethmarks.

And so the War of the Balls still rages in our household. Whenever I use the therapy balls to work out the kinks in my neck and shoulders, the dog is always nearby.

Waiting. Just waiting.

It serves me right for spending almost $20 on a pair of $1 balls.

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