Thursday, August 23, 2007

Doggies Day Out

I took my dogs swimming at the lake (Lake Michigan) last weekend. There is this fairly isolated stretch of beach an hour’s drive away from where I live that few people know about. It’s a dog lover’s paradise. And because it’s not really a public beach as such, the only rules or regulations are those created out of common courtesy by the few people who frequent this beach. And most of us are dog owners. So dogs are welcome here.

So last Saturday, on a particularly hot summer day, after a strenuous hike over the sand dunes, I introduced my dogs to the lake. As we meandered down the dunes, and the lake came into view, Ally (my two and a half year old black lab mix) took one look at the massive span of water ahead of us, wagged her tail and let her inner Labrador loose. And no, I don’t mean figuratively, I mean she literally ran loose. She tugged at her leash, broke free and made a sprint toward the lake, and by the time I had caught up with her, she was already swimming like a pro, going in circles around me as I tried to get hold of her leash. Labradors are known for their love for water, so I wasn’t too surprised to discover that she already knew how to swim. Besides, aren’t ALL dogs born swimmers?

The answer is NO. Nope. Not ALL dogs know how to swim, and not ALL dogs are born swimmers. And how do I know that? Because the whole time that Ally and I were in the water, there was Charlie
Charlie
(my one year old German Shepherd pup) standing at the shore, with the most perplexed look on his face, head cocked to one side, barking in utter confusion at the water.

“Chaaarlie! Come! Come!” I shout out to him, coaxing him to join us in the water. He wags his tail happily in response to my call, tiptoes into the water, gets startled by a big wave of water exploding over his paws, and then turns out and runs back to shore, finding comfort in dry sand. Charlie
Charlie
is a big boy – even at just one year of age, he weighs about 90 pounds. But despite his big size and intimidating looks, everyone who knows Charlie
Charlie
will tell you that at heart he is just one big baby. And so here we are, Ally and I in the water, Charlie
Charlie
on shore…too big a scaredy cat to get into the water.

Given his big size, I can’t exactly pick Charlie
Charlie
up and drop him into the water. And calling him while I’m in the lake with Ally hasn’t been working out too great either. It’s time for a different approach. So this time, I pick up his red ball. Yup. The red ball. The red ball that is the one great love of Charlie’s life. He loves the ball to bits and pieces. Knowing his obsessive love for the ball, I carry it with me for moments when I need to distract him. And I figure if anything is going to coax Charlie
Charlie
into the water, it’s going to be his favorite red ball.

“Chaaaaarlie! Come! Go get your ball!” I shout again, tossing the ball into the water. “Ball?” his ears perk up at the sound of the one word that he knows so well. His eyes dart quickly to his most prized possession floating away in the water. And into the lake he goes, barging clumsily through the water, frantically trying to get to his toy, all the while bewildered by the waves crashing around him.

I lure him in further away from the shore, wading in the shallow water with the ball in my hand, drawing him deeper into the lake. Charlie
Charlie
follows, with his eyes glued on the ball, all the while with Ally swimming expertly in large circles around him, sticking her tongue out in a grin and showing off in front of him. I reward him occasionally by tossing the ball back to shore and he clambers after it, happy to be back on land. And on and on it goes, me luring him into the water with the ball and him anxious to be back on land.

And then just like that, several repetitions later, it happens. He is no longer afraid of water. He is no longer anxious to get out of the water. He is confident. And he believes he can swim. Um. Er. Ahem. Except that he really cannot swim. In fact, he doesn’t even have a clue. But in his doggy little head, Charlie
Charlie
whole heartedly believes he is swimming.

What really happens is this:
“Chaaaaarlie! Aaaally! Go get the ball!” I shout and toss the red ball into the lake. Ally swims gracefully toward the ball. Charlie
Charlie
leaps confidently into the water with an impressive, water-spraying splash. He splish-splashes his way through the water, all four paws in all four directions, and fully convincing himself that he is swimming in water shallow enough for him to stand in. He steals the ball from Ally as she’s swimming back to shore. And then brings the ball to me, his tail swooshing merrily back and forth, eyes sparkling in giddy joy, proud of his brave achievement. I look at my brave little pup, pat him on the head and let him believe he can swim.

It’s finally time to head back home, and I drag two pooped out dogs back to shore. It turned out to be a pretty successful first day out at the lake. “Swim? Let’s go swim?” I think my dogs just picked up a new favorite word.

~vagabond~ © 2007

2 comments:

aqua_nymphette said...

what fun! hey ... charlie and ally are simply adorable!!!

~vagabond~ said...

Thanks! *beaming with owner's pride* :)