Saturday, December 26, 2009

Doing the dog paddle

A dog in a life jacket .... whaaaaaat!!! I hear you say. Like most people I have been under the mistaken impression that dogs are born with innate Ian Thorpe like tendencies, i.e. all you need do is point them towards the sea, or chuck 'em into the nearest creek, lake, dam, or whatever and off they'll paddle like the proverbial ducks, not a care in the world, budgie smugglers not required, let alone life jackets or other such flotation devices. However on a recent stay with my brother in Kadina I was well and truly disabused of such notions.
Graham has been taking his border collie, Darcy, to weekly swimming lessons for some time now in a therapeutic pool designed especially for dogs. On boxing day Fergus and I accompanied them on the pool visit, ostensibly as observers. The woman who runs the facility explained that dogs are not natural born swimmers. Quite the contrary, some dogs are afraid of being submerged, panic and sink to the bottom like stones. Not only is it therefore good for them to learn, in case they find themselves in water, but dogs who suffer any form of injury or arthritic problem can benefit enormously from a little swimming in a controlled environment, as of course can their human friends. This is why Darcy was originally introduced to the pool, as a while ago she suffered a minor injury that restricted her ability to maintain her normally maniacal workout regime. She has since developed a passion for the pool and while we were there zoomed up and down like an Olympic champion for three quarters of an hour.

Although Fergus looked decidedly sceptical about the prospect, he was offered the chance to have a go and I accepted on his behalf with alacrity. So with no say in it at all, he was duly buckled into the smallest size doggie life jacket. On being introduced to the water at the shallow end, his face took on a look of appalled disbelief, as if to say .... what the hell!!! With hysterical encouragement from me on the sidelines and cries of "good boy, you can do it..." and other such patently manipulative blandishments, he bravely launched himself into the depths, where he thrashed about like a drowning rat, drenching me in the process. On turning around at the end to face the shallow end again, he did manage a few clumsy dog paddles, enough to keep himself afloat. I think this was, rather than natural born skill, an attempt to save face in front of the dolphin like Darcy, who was showing off like mad, gliding past with a superior smirk on her face.

To give him due credit, Fergus did labour on with a few more thrashings interspersed with frenzied paddlings. However there's little chance that he'll become known as Fergus the fish. Eventually I took pity on him and lifted him out. Once safely back on dry land and divested of his life jacket, there was lots of vigorous shaking. After a few baleful backward looks at the pool and Darcy streaking up and down, he sidled off to the farthest corner of the enclosure, giving me a look that said, "try that again Mum and you'll be history".