We have a dog-tennis club on Highbury fields. Carter is a greyhound-cross and lives to run. The only way that I’ve found to satiate his lust for the chase is by taking a junk shop racket and whacking a tennis ball as far as I can. After twenty or so hits he begins to return more slowly and eventually lies on the grass and pants. His pink tongue flaps out of the side of his mouth like a cheap salesman’s tie. Eyed at first with suspicion by the other dog owners, dog-tennis seems to be catching on and there are now three other owners with rackets who stand with me each morning, taking turns to smash the tennis ball for the three mutts to chase. I don’t know the men’s names only their dogs – Wichite and Toby.
Wichite’s owner arrives with a new toy. A ball on a length of cord that you can spin above your head and release to go soaring through the sky – three hounds bounding after it into the distance, straining for speed in the fierce competition for the prey. I ask to try it. I spin the ball as hard as I can and let go but my timing is wrong. The ball flies off at 45 degrees, high into the air and snags on the top branches of a tree. The three dogs stop, look up at the branches, bark and eventually turn to look at me with questioning eyes.