Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 2-13-12
“Sink or swim.” It’s a frightening proposition when you’re the one thrown into the deep end. Those first few moments are horrifying. But soon the will to survive usually overtakes the sense of unbridled panic. I’ve felt that feeling many times in my life – the first semester of college, the first few weeks of motherhood, and the first day I set foot in the classroom as a teacher.
But sinking and swimming also have literal meanings. I remember my kids’ anxious faces when they met their stern swimming instructor in the deep end of the pool. Crying was tolerated only momentarily, and fear was no excuse for not learning to swim. Thankfully they are now excellent swimmers, although it seemed a little doubtful for a while.
Dogs can have that same experience when first getting in water. When I got a Labrador retriever puppy, I assumed that she was born knowing how to swim – au contraire. When she was about three months old, I took her with me to a lake to go swimming with some friends. We were all laughing and splashing. But my puppy was crying and pacing up and down on the bank. Finally, she waded out in the water to come to me. When she walked about 10-feet from the bank, she disappeared under the surface. She came up snorting and thrashing. She dog paddled out to me using giant flapping motions. She then proceeded to claw most of the flesh off my upper arms.
My 20-year-old daughter, Lucia, gave her boyfriend, Clark, a Queensland red heeler for his birthday. The other day they decided that it was time for little Duke to “sink or swim.” They took him down to the Brazos River but kept him on a long leash, just in case. Clark had tied two leashes together, or so he thought. Duke was happy to be out of the house that bright January afternoon, so he was friskier than usual. As soon as he got out of the truck, he bounded toward the water. When all the slack was out of the first leash, the knot in between the two let go.
Duke skipped into the frigid water, relishing his new found freedom. In just a few steps, the bottom dropped away sharply. Duke’s red head went right under the water and didn’t reappear. Lucia and Clark were about 20-feet from the water watching in horror as their “baby” disappeared into the river. Lucia had been a lifeguard for two summers, and her lifesaving instinct snapped into overdrive.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she covered the distance at a full sprint and dove right into the nippy water. She swam out to the dog and grabbed him as he surfaced. He shivered and leaned into her chest as she waded up the bank. She trudged up to where Clark was standing openmouthed at the sight of the two of them dripping wet. Lucia put the sopping dog down, and he shook off the excess water. He showed no inclination to go for another swim.
Even though Lucia’s not a teenager anymore, sometimes she’s still just a kid. Once she realized that Duke was all right, she burst into tears. She turned to her boyfriend for comfort. He hugged her and stroked her wet hair. When she looked down, she noticed that she had on her new pink Nikes. “Oh no,” she sobbed, “I’ve ruined my new shoes! They’re going to shrink and fade. I’ll never be able to run in them. I just got them, and Mom will be so mad!” Clark shushed her. He assured her that she could wash them in the washer and set them in a warm oven for an hour or so and they’d be good as new.
The pink tennis shoes survived their drenching and even if they hadn’t, it would have been worth it to have saved a good dog from drowning. It will probably be a while before Duke gets another chance to swim. Next time it will be in shallower water and certainly not in the middle of winter.
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