Tuesday, August 21, 2007

As Good As It Gets

A few of them sprinted enthusiastically to the edge of the shore, slowed down, felt the first inklings of water tickle their paws and, without stopping, retreated backwards. They then quickly spun around and ran back up onto the sand. In general these "retreaters" were the smallest members of the group, (black and white terriers, shelties) - but not entirely. A gray scrubby-haired Irish Wolfhound - other than most of the people the largest one at the festivities - likewise deigned to dampen his ankles.

The remainder however got into the water at least minimally and the vast majority committed themselves totally to the pond. But barely-damp or totally-soaked all of the canine participants in "Dog Day at Mill Woods Pool" looked to be having as much fun as could be had by anyone, anywhere.

Mars and I had stopped by the local swimming hole to check out the goings-on. This small pond with a concrete bottom and sandy beach, is normally used for the recreation of the human residents in our town. But for the second consecutive year, after the swimming area was closed for the season, its doors were reopened specifically to allow the canine citizens of our town to partake in a day of running and splashing in the town waters. The folks who run Wethersfield Dog Park organized the event. Weather was sunny and the temperature in the high sixties at 11:30 a.m. when we were there - probably too cold to have attracted any human bathers but apparently just perfect for Canis familiaris. We do not presently have a dog but we certainly enjoy watching them, so we dropped by to do just that.

One step beyond the "retreaters" was the "waders". These dogs were willing to walk into the water until it touched the bottom of their chests - at which point they stopped and, like the non-swimming bathers frequently seen at people beaches, looked around and let the waves brush against their undercarriages.

Next came the "bounders" - canines clearly in love with the idea of wetness but only as long as one of their feet was touching bottom. Comprised mostly of various breeds of spaniels these dogs ran frantically across the pond, leaping upwards and forward and arching their backs like a fur covered slinky toy. They bounced along like this up to the point where their downward rushing paws did not feel earth until after their head and shoulders were below the surface. Then they immediately turned tail and bounded back to shallower waters.

The "swimmers" however, while indistinguishable from the "bounders" in the less-deep parts of the pond, instead of heading landward at the first loss of footing transitioned smoothly to a text-book dog paddle stroke and continued their trip out into the higher waters in search of the thrown ball, or Frisbee, or whatever. All of the swimmers that we saw were some form of Retriever.

Off at the far end of the pool however were the real daredevils - the "leapers". Performing from a narrow wooden dock these dogs would, without any apparent prompting, run along the dock and hurl themselves, paws, legs and tail akimbo, into the waters. Once there they rapidly devolved into a swimmer, then a bounder, and then a rapidly running rapscallion returning to the wharf for another encore.

Mars and I are partial to the leapers having once had one - Nicole Marie, a Lab Retriever/Irish Setter cross.

We do however realize that what appears to be timidity in regard to water - it seems wrong to call it hydrophobia when talking about dogs - is not necessarily a character defect but rather the humanly-designed evolutionary result of specific breeding and training. Each class of canine from the land-locked to the waterlogged was, within its own genetic milieu, pushing their own envelope and as a result feeling just about as good as it gets.

Joy doesn't only come from the breadth of your experience but even more from the depth of your commitment.

(Photos by Mars)

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