Lilly constantly reminds me that she is my baby girl. She wakes me up daily, sits in the dining room and watches me while I make coffee, in the evening she lies on top of me while I watch television, and she hangs her head low when I leave for work, among other actions.
On the other hand… Dash doesn’t always act like my baby boy. In fact, I think he likes to act like his own guy. I certainly tell him daily that he is my baby boy, but he has a way of acting independent.
He sits separate from Lilly and me when we sit outside on the deck. Recently he stopped sleeping on my bed, and instead sleeps on the floor near the door. He wakes up later than both Lilly and me (I think the guy would easily sleep until 10 if we weren’t here!). When they get bones to chew, Lilly gobbles hers up while Dash will run around with it and eventually bury it for a later treat.
So this past Saturday I took Dash for a swim experience. Just Dash and me. I had read about the center–it is a therapeutic center that has opened their pool for “free swim” on the weekends. On hikes and at the park Dash is a good swimmer. He walks right into lakes, ponds or creeks, retrieves toys (whether or not they are his!) and comes back to me. I thought joining the pool might be a fun activity for us. And great exercise for the guy.
But first we had to pass a test. At the dog pool, they have to see that the dogs are confident swimmers. The dogs have to walk down the ramp, fetch the ball, swim back to the ramp and walk out of the pool. All on their own. The pool managers have to be confident that the dog is a confident swimmer and comfortable at the pool before we can join the “Fetch Club.”
Dash was suited up in a life vest and the “teacher” was suited up in waders. She tossed the ball, she waded in and called Dash, and Dash would not do what she wanted. I stood on the side of the pool near the ramp. His tail was wagging the whole time, but he didn’t really want to participate. He looked over the fence at the dogs in the therapy pools, he ran around the pool. He wagged his tail. He looked at me.
He would inch down the ramp and get closer and closer to the ball… and then stop. A couple of times, the teacher pulled him in by grabbing his life vest and then Dash would swim. And then just as quickly he would race up the ramp, shake off the water and run along the side of the pool.
I could tell that the teacher was getting a little impatient. She asked me, “How old is he?” I said, “Seven.” She said, “Months?” I said, “Oh no, seven years.” She said, “He acts like a puppy.” She didn’t say that with any love in her voice.
I pleaded with Dash, I thought about thanking the teacher and leaving. Then the teacher suggested that I go to the other side of the pool and call him.
Dash freaked out when I left the pool and went to the other side of the fence. He ran up and down the side of the pool and yelped. Even the therapy dogs stopped to look at him. The teacher waded into the pool and called Dash. Then, when Dash could see me at the other side of the pool, he ran to the ramp, ran down the ramp, slid into the water and swam! Paddle, paddle, paddle, went his paws. His eyes right on me.
When he got to the other side, Dash was searching for a way out of the pool to get to me. The teacher had to turn him around. He did a couple of laps like that. He even fetched the ball a few times for the teacher.
And when I came back through the gate and climbed up to stand near the ramp again?
He came up the ramp, shook off the excess water and leaned against my legs.
My baby boy.