Dog on Snow Skis - My Dog Meatball

My dog snow-skiied

In 1982, due to a remarkably generous Judge who I think liked my ex-wife, I found it necessary to find an apartment which allowed one house dog. It worked out that I wound up living in the Safety Patrol building at a very small snow ski resort (which was otherwise only used for maybe three months each year, and then only a few hours during evenings and weekends). Meatball was a very sweet and friendly dog, and the Ski Patrol quickly took him on as a Mascot, and I got to live there with Meatball. It was not a normal ski resort as they did not allow alcohol, so most customers were little kids.

When the kids discovered Meatball, an "arrangement" quickly developed, where when a hundred kids showed up around 6 pm, and Meatball made sure to go and sit next to each kid so they could all pat him on his head. It was as though Meatball saw that as a responsibility!

And many of the kids even sort of lined up, so Meatball did not have to run all over the slopes to find all of them to get petted.

The people in the Ski Patrol were all very nice and friendly. Every early February, the resort would have a Race Day for every category of little kids; boys 3 to 5; girls 10 to 12; etc. So the owner of the resort would always buy the trophies and display them in the Lodge, so all the little kids could get motivated to want to win one.

Being the analytical person I am, one day I counted the number of shiny new trophies, and the number of different categories of kids. The slopes had just closed (at 10 pm) and all the Ski Patrol people and I were around a big table in the Lodge with the owner of the resort.

In a lull in the conversation, I decided to ask whether he had bought extra trophies for DOG DIVISIONS. I knew he hadn't, and he always bought a few extra trophies in case one got broken. But the Ski Patrol people all immediately responded, and all agreed that dogs were too stupid to learn how to ski.

I considered this to be a challenge to Meatball where I had to stand up for his honor! So I asked the owner if he would have a Dog Division (IF there were any entries!) In a spirit of humor, he agreed!

For the next hour, the Ski Patrol people and I argued over the rules of a Dog Division. THEY all wanted the Dog Division to be on "the Wall", which was a very steep slope which all the kid Divisions had to go down, and where each skiier got airborne at least once during the run. I argued that Meatball was very old, 12 years old, (84 in dog years) and I worried about him breaking some bone and never healing. I also conceded that in just a couple weeks, I probably could not teach Meatball how to slalom back and forth around the zig-zag course around the flags. I finally got them to agree that the Dog Division could use the Bunny Hill (which was nearly level for beginners) and just one flag would be put, halfway down the hill.

Three of the Ski Patrol people volunteered to be Judges, "in case more than one dog entered." And so, IF Meatball could just make it down the Bunny Hill, and not HIT the one flag, it was agreed that he would win the Dog Division.

But now I was faced with what kind of skis a dog should use. Should it be FOUR very short skis? Or two longer skis with two bindings on each? And what kind of bindings would be safe for a 12 year old (that is 84 dog years!) who had long skinny legs?

I eventually settled on getting a pair of used kid skis (appropriate for a 58-pound kid, like Meatball was, and I bolted them together where they slightly tilted in toward each other. And I got a Tupperware laundry basket which I cut away to form a basket sort of seat for him. I had to cut a slot in the back for his tail to go through.

But the premise was that Meatball would sit down, and his front paws would rest inside butter containers on the front of the skis. I thought that if he could could learn to LEAN left or right, he might even figure out how to steer (sort of), but that was not really necessary by the established rules of the Dog Division.

The kids LOVED hanging around Meatball when I was doing short test runs with him on his skis. He was NOT happy when the ground started going past without his legs doing anything, and his eyes sort of bulged out from fear! The kids were all cheering for him as I sent him down ten-foot-long gentle slopes next to our house!

I think that most of the kids realized that Meatball WAS likely to win his Dog Division (assuming no other dog entered), but a new problem developed! Since Meatball was constantly in terror while he was moving on his skis, his tail got really rigid in fear. The way the basket was made, where he was sitting, this resulted in his tail sticking nearly straight down into the snow (between the skis) and it was a BRAKE which barely allowed him to move!

The Ski Patrol unanimously offered to crop his tail (which I vetoed)!

But it turned out that the Bunny Hill was not actually steep enough to cause him to actually overcome his rigid tail acting as a brake! (His father, Phobos, for whom I had made a Dogapult several years earlier, would have sailed down the Bunny Slope! But even though I built Meatball's skis (and still have them, even though Meatball is long gone), I never entered him in the Dog Division, as it seemed clear that he would have remained motionless partly down the hill, due to his tail-brake!

So he technically DID ski, but only among a crowd of little kids on a very short and gentle slope next to our apartment. No Moguls or Air or Slaloming!

There are some other web-pages which are dog-centered:

Animal Intelligence. Does It Exist?
Animal Insight, Intelligence, Logic

My Dogs - Their Chores
Birthday Calendar for Dogs
Dogs Are Being Exterminated in the United States
Dog on Snow Skis - My Dog Meatball

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago