Monday, July 5

A Dog Story With A Happy Ending

This week we discovered that our dog is a retriever. Of course, we knew when we bought her that her official title included the word, but she failed to live up to the promise of her name. She thought fetching was boring after a toss or two, but what she hated most of all was going into water any deeper than her knees.

Every summer before this, we have tried to coax her to swim with us. She knew it looked like fun, and she really wanted to be out there with the gang, so she would make a half-hearted attempt to join us, but as soon as the water touched her belly, she would turn around again and slink back to the shore. We tried gentle coaxing with sticks, throwing them out into the water for her to retrieve, but she was already an unenthusiatic fetcher, so she had no qualms about leaving a stick floating if fetching it required more than a little shallow wading.

Once the boys took turns carrying her out with them into deep water and then letting her go. She proved that she was a strong and competent swimmer, as long as the swimming was straight toward the shoreline. As soon as she reached the beach, she'd slink off to the bushes, crouching low in hopes those boys wouldn't see her and carry her off to do that horrible thing again.

Friday night, the youngest son and I took her for a walk on the Miles Canyon trail. When we got to the pool along the edge the river that is good for swimming, my son tossed a stick just a few feet from the bank. I'm sure it looked like a simple enough fetch to the dog, so she jumped quite willingly into the river after the stick. What she didn't know is that the bank drops off steeply in that place, and there is no wading. Once you're in, it's swim or die. Somewhere in those first few seconds of instinctive paddling, she discovered that she likes swimming. Maybe she loves swimming. Out she swam to the stick, and then round and back to the bank. Again and again, round and round, eager for more when we grew tired.

Last night we took her with us to Long Lake. She ran down ahead of us to the beach, and then out into the water to try to retrieve what she thought was a stick but turned out to be the branch of a dead tree lying just under the water. There were three of us, and we tossed sticks until we all grew tired. After we stopped tossing, she jumped in to swim out to greet some canoers paddling by, but we had to call her back. Nothing makes paddlers more nervous than seeing an enthusiastic dog swimming toward them.

I take that back. An eagerly swimming grizzly might be worse.

Yes, after three summers coaxing, we suddenly have a retriever. Now, if only we could get her to stop wallowing in the mud like a pig every time she leaves the water.

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