Brenda's been telling me about this tree, this tree they pass on their walks, she and Hooper. Apparently there's a knothole at the base of this tree, where Hooper keeps one of his prized possessions -- a tennis ball.

I was told where the tree was, and all I had to do was unclip his leash when we got close and say "go get your ball", and off he ran. He bounded across the tall grass and hooked around the tree I suspected. I found myself running so I could catch up and see where he was hiding this ball, but, too late. He trotted out from behind the tree with a celebratory strut and a faded tennis ball jauntily held in the lower left corner of his jaw.

As it turns out, the hidey hole tree is conveniently located next to the Boulder mountain bike short track race course across the street from our house. This provides an excellent location for a Sunday evening walk.

Walking along, I threw the ball and Hooper would sprint down the track and fetch, like usual. But the variety of up- and downhill sections, the berms, the ruts, added a lot of fun to the proceedings. We made our way to the middle of the course, where there's a high vantage point and from which there were steep dropoffs in every direction. I coordinated my throws so as not to send Hooper into a collision course with any of the mountain bikers who were also enjoying the evening on the course.

After a while, Hooper & I were really hitting a groove. He was familiar with all the varied ramps and dips, and my throws were timed just right so that Hooper'd reach the bottom of a particular hill just as the ball did, usually timing it just right so he could catch the ball on a bounce with a nice leap.

And then, the capper. Hoop caught air. Hooper caught air off a jump, so help me god. Hooper is better at BMX than I ever was. I threw the ball from the top of the hill, toward this steep jump; Hoop tore off down the hill after it, bolted up the slope, and leapt for the ball as it arced over. The jump was so steep and Hooper was going so fast that he literally caught air, as he flew up and over the jump and disappeared behind the mound. Moments later, he charged back over the hill, ball in mouth, ears flapping, and I just beamed with pride.

After an hour of this, it was time to go home. Hooper & I walked back to the tree, the special tree, and I guess we hadn't exercised enough because I had to go put the ball away in the hidey hole. According to Brenda, when he's really tired, he puts it away himself.

Hoop hasn't moved much since dinner.

It's tough to put into words how special this dog is.