Heretofore You Shall Be Known as “Swimmy”


I have a new nickname for one of my dog-sitting clients.  That nickname is “Swimmy”.  Not just because she enjoys the water.  No – I’ve watched quite a number of dogs who enjoy frolicking in the water.  Some, like Dingo, seem to delight in merely wading, others like to venture in over their heads, and still others will chase a ball into the depths of any body of water for what seems like an infinite number of times.   I’ve even known a couple to launch themselves off aptly placed docks to chase their prize.  “Swimmy”, however, seems to enjoy the water in a bit of a different way than my other charges.   Unfortunately, I learned only after jumping into the Arlington Reservoir after her, that Swimmy’s idea of fun in the water involves swimming out to quite some depths and proceeding to swim in circles.  Incessantly.  For minutes, sometimes hours on end.

Now let me backtrack a little, the last time I watched “Swimmy” (real name: Leila), a beautiful white and black Staffordshire Terrier with one crystal blue and one brown eye, and her “brother”, Kona, a Rottweiler/Boxer mix, it was winter, so our walks around the Arlington reservoir provided no opportunity for swimming, or in Leila’s case, “crazy face” (Leila’s owner’s professional diagnosis) shark circling.  Last Sunday, however, as soon as I removed her leash she bounded into the water.  Okay.  No big deal.  Kona and Dingo did a little swimming of their own.  But Leila started swimming out far.  Really far.  I figured, nervously, that she would come back eventually.  After all, the survival instinct in any animal is strong enough to force them to willfully return to shore at the onset of fatigue.  Gulp.  Right?

I began calmly calling Leila back to shore.  She’d always listened to me pretty well in the past and I figured once she heard me energetically calling her name and waving her beloved ball in the air that she would surely return safely to dry land.  Wrong!  Leila, teasingly, would start swimming towards shore but then she would abruptly turn around and start paddling in the other direction.  This went on for about ten to fifteen minutes before I started to get nervous.  My mind started churning, “What if she is getting stuck in the weeds growing so abundantly from the bottom of the relatively shallow (though certainly over her head) reservoir?  This might be preventing her from swimming back!  Worse even, what if her paws get tangled in one of these weeds and pull her under!”

Now I really start panicking.  In my angriest, I-mean-business, “big girl” voice I start, now sternly and vehemently, calling her back.  “Leila, come back here NOW!”  While this alternative approach likely elicited some stares from other pedestrians walking around the reservoir, it did nothing to assuage Leila to come back in.  Leila continued to swim like the desultory wind – this way and that – with no rhyme or reason to her paddles or direction.   Either she was completely ignoring me in the same way a willful teen would his parents or, I reasoned, she was so fatigued and lacking oxygen to her brain that she was delusional and could not sort out in which direction to head to shore.

After a long thirty minutes of pleading, yelling, praying (it’s amazing how we all, myself included, become zealots at the slightest inkling of trouble), and otherwise causing quite a seen, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be jumping in after Leila.  There is nothing I wanted to do less than get into the dirty, mucky, brown, god-knows-what-is-festering-in-the Arlington Reservoir, in fact, on the way in I noticed that the town sewage runs into this particular body of water (I guess it’s not for drinking) but I refused to allow this dog to drown on my watch.  I jumped in, sneakers and all.

I would like to say I swam out and rescued Leila, relying on my previous life-guard training, but in incredibly anti-climactic fashion, as soon as I got about waste deep, wouldn’t you know that Ole’ Swimmy came doggie-paddling back.  I was relieved that she was safe.  Then angry that she pulled that stunt.  Then annoyed that I was wet.  All in that order.

The next day, Swimmy’s owner g-chatted me to find out how her dogs were doing.  I have included a small excerpt from our conversation after I had already told her about our escapades from the day before at the bottom of this post.  Lei’s owner, who I will just call “L”, literally caused me to laugh out loud.  I was certainly happy she had a good sense of humor about the situation and I couldn’t help but laugh at Leila’s antics myself:  As a disclaimer, because I know you don’t know Leila, she is a totally sweet, completely loving dog, but she is, as her owner and I mention in our upcoming conversation, a tad crazy/nuts.  Still, she is one of my favorite clients, and I think maybe, just maybe, it’s because I can sort of relate.  If I had to describe myself to a potential suitor, I would likely describe myself in the same way I describe Leila, totally loving and seeking approval but a little bit crazy in her own idiosyncratic way.

L: “She is a seriously crazy little dog, fortunately she has a ridiculous amount of endurance. I am so sorry. She is truly nuts at times. The easiest way to get her out of crazy face is to give her a tennis ball even in the water. It’s a substitution thing for her one obsession for the other.

Me: “I tried the tennis ball trick but it did not work.”

L: “She was totally out of her mind then. Seriously, she’s nuts. We’ve had that experience before – I should have remembered to tell you about her water – nutso. The last time you’ve had them it was winter and I didn’t remember to update you on the spring/water business. [laughing] Oh i am so sorry and she’s nuts. We used to put her in a lifejacket because she scared us so much and one time we did that and just let her go crazy. Marc tied her to an inner tube with a rope (she was in her life jacket) and he just sat in it drinking beer watching her go crazy. She swam continuously, in circles, for over an hour and a half”

Me: “LOL – I’m literally laughing out loud. She’s nuts!”

L: “Totally. if she was a human she would be on heavy meds and this is coming from a psychologist.”

Me: “So, unfortunately, as this was happening, Kona’s harness came off at some point and must have sank to the bottom of the reservoir. I’ll buy you guys a replacement.”

L: “Oh please don’t – we’ll call it less than even for my failure to tell you about crazy face and your swim in the gunky Arlington Reservoir”

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