Late every afternoon I drive my standard poodle, George, to the Outback, an off leash dog park of over 100 acres. It makes my heart happy to drive down the boulevard with George. He hangs his head out the back window and sniffs the breeze like a wine connoisseur testing the latest batch from a favorite vineyard.
The time we spend at the Outback is therapeutic for us both. It’s good for me to walk outside in the fresh air while George “visits” with the other dogs. “Visit” is my euphemism for all the sniffing of sensitive areas the dogs do. It’s fascinating in an anthropological sort of way. What in the world do they actually learn about each other? Does one breed smell different from another?
George has simple pleasures. All he wants to do at the park is run. Nothing pleases him more than to find another fleet of foot pooch willing to chase and growl with him. The growling is essential. The two usually run long spurts and then make a tight circle back to their owners. That’s when they growl at each other. It reminds me of little boys in the back yard playing cowboy and Indians and making shooting noises at each other.
My dog doesn’t want to chase a ball or stick or frolic in the water. We’ve been visiting this park daily for almost a year ago, and in all this time, not once on even the hottest most humid day has he offered to join the others in one of the three shallow ponds on the property.
We are not fair weather attendees. Two days ago we were there almost by ourselves to walk the paths in cool, softly drizzling rain. We took our usual route through the park with George leading the way. As we headed back to the entrance, George took a detour and walked straight into a pond. Standard poodles have a delightful prance which was totally absent on this occasion. It was more like he was headed to the guillotine. He stopped with the water at chest level and turned back to look at me with an expression that seemed to say, “Now what?”
I don’t do water. As a child growing up on a secluded piece of property with open stock tanks, Mother taught me to fear the water. She knew I was likely to wander away from the house and wanted to avoid the need to drag the two open bodies of stagnant water if I went missing. I signed up for swimming lessons at university but had so many ear infections, I was given a medical release from the class.
I do sort of know how to swim. Well, I can float and my dog paddle isn’t bad but not in boots and a rain coat. George and I stood staring at each other in the misty rain. No amount of cajoling or whistles would make him budge. He seemed frozen with fright.
There was no choice. I set my handbag on the bank and waded in praying all the while that any water moccasins residing in that particular pond were busy gathering their supper on the other side. I had to drag my beloved hound out by his collar.
We were back at the park yesterday. George resumed his usual routine. My dog friends laughed about our adventure and reminded me poodles are water dogs. They know it and I know it, but did anyone think to tell George?