The power of cheese balls

By Kris Ferrazza | May 03, 2019

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: “Never underestimate the power of cheese balls.”

OK, so maybe I’ve only said it twice, and that was just yesterday, but I now know it to be a universal truth. Through cheese balls, all things are possible -- at least as far as my dog goes.

When we adopted her a few months back, we knew Bella the collie dog was a skittish little thing. Just 3 years old, it’s clear she has seen some things. Life has thrown her a few curve balls, and she’s just doing the best she can. We accept that. After all, who among us can honestly say they don’t have a little baggage? Truth be told, it only makes us love her more. She needs us, and we love to be needed.

But I can’t lie; there are times when her behavior is so neurotic it can be maddening. And I’m not known for my patience. But now I have a new secret weapon.

A few months back, she had an appointment at the vet. I put her on a leash and tried to walk her to my car like a normal dog. But she isn’t a normal dog, at least not yet. So the moment she realized we were going to the car instead of the sidewalk, she slammed on the brakes. Don’t ask me how, but my 47-pound dog suddenly weighed at least a ton. I could not get her to budge. It could have been the perfect opportunity to work on getting Bella to go up to the car, but I didn’t have time. So that teachable moment was lost when I finally just picked her up and carried her to the back of my SUV.

After returning from the appointment, I realized I had to work with her and practice getting into the car, but what to do? I pondered a moment and then it hit me: she is obsessed with cheese balls and chips. When her former owner told us of Bella’s weakness for junk food, I swore I’d never feed her any of that. But desperate times call for desperate measures. So Old Mother Hubbard went straight to the cupboard to fetch her dog a cheese ball (or 10). Bella was right on my tail, because believe me when I say she can hear a chip bag crinkle from 1,000 paces.

Filling my pocket with cheese balls, I headed to the front porch with Bella on my heels. When I started toward the car, she planted her rump on the porch. I put my hand into my pocket. She tilted her head. I opened the back door of the SUV. She watched intently, but still didn’t budge.

“Bella ... cheese ball!” I called cheerfully, lobbing an orange orb into the car. She galloped off the porch and leaped into the back to claim her prize. I was stunned. We repeated it half a dozen times and have no problem getting her into the car now, so long as we are armed with cheesy Utz or Planters snacks.

A few days later, my daughter was playing with the pup and decided to introduce her to the “circus act” she used to do with our last collie, Angus. So Elizabeth went into the barn and emerged with her favorite hula hoop. The dog cowered and ran to the porch, shaking and with her tail between her legs.

While Elizabeth apologized and consoled her, I made a beeline for the pantry. When I returned, my 12-year-old was holding up the hula hoop and asking Bella to jump through it. Nothing doing.

“Try this,” I said, handing her a snack.

“Bella ... cheese ball,” Elizabeth said casually, tossing just one treat through the hoop. Without hesitation, she jumped right through.

Then my husband got into the act. Together, they raised the hoop each time, as Bella showed how well she could leap. The “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” jingle played in my head. I swear we could have set that hula hoop ablaze and she still would have gone through to retrieve every last cheese ball.

Our first collie, Milo, was talented like Bella, but had absolutely no fear. He was raised by us and had endured no hardships in life. I taught him to “speak,” and then turned it into a little comedy routine. I would say, "Milo, speak!” and he’d say, “Roof.” Then I’d say, “Where's the chimney?" and he’d say "Roof." And if I asked, "Who is the greatest hitter of all time?" He’d answer "Ruth." No cheese balls required.

Teaching him to speak was a mistake in hindsight, as he became quite a barker. So one day I held my finger to my lips and said, "Shhhhh..." and we invented “the silent woof.” He would bark, but it was barely audible.

He was a smart dog, and funny too. One day my mom and stepdad stopped by, and we were chatting in the kitchen. My stepfather left to use the restroom and while he was gone, the rest of us watched Milo sneak under the table and slowly remove the John Deere baseball cap from his chair. Once he had stolen my stepdad’s hat, Milo put one of his dog toys -- a squeaky pig -- in its place.

But that wasn’t Milo’s best trick. One day I was throwing a ball onto the roof because he liked to catch it after it rolled down. Alternately, I would toss the Frisbee, and he would drop the ball and catch the disc.

Right away I could see there was a problem: when I threw the Frisbee, he didn't want to give up the ball, and vice versa. He wanted both toys at the same time. I could see him working the problem over in his mind. Ball, Frisbee; Frisbee, ball … what to do?

Now here’s the incredible part, and if you don’t believe me, I don’t blame you, because I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it. My dog actually figured out that if he caught the Frisbee upside down, he could then catch the ball in the Frisbee. This realized his dream of having both toys at once.

When he did it the first time, I threw my hands in the air and yelled, “Un-believable!” I immediately looked around for a witness. There was nobody, not even a passing motorist, who could confirm my story. I was completely alone.

Of course I told my husband, but I sensed a hint of skepticism. That is, until it happened to him. He didn’t have a witness, either. He later admitted, “I mean, I believed you when you said he did it, but now I saw it, and I still can’t even believe it.”

One thing is for sure. If we ever could have harnessed Milo’s superior brainpower with the power of cheese balls, we’d be an unstoppable force of nature.

And the beat goes on.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Helen H Silk | May 03, 2019 10:38

Thanks for this .  Made my day.

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