August 25, 2003

Alpha Male Bonding ~ Day Nine

It is legendary how Labradors love the water. They were bred to swim out into the waves and fetch fishing nets in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic (and were originally called Newfoundland Dogs). They even have webbing between their toes that makes them excellent swimmers, and heavy insulating coats to keep them warm when wet. On Tsuga's second day with us, I couldn't wait to carry him down to the edge of the water knowing what a puppy joy it was going to be for him to discover that he would grow up on a place with two creeks right out his back door. You can imagine my disappointment when he was not only not interested in the water, but seemed to actually be afraid of it... ran away from it, as if it were coming after him. Maybe the fact that there was motion and noise set off his alarms, and it might be that he could not smell any signals-- of either friend of foe-- from this long undulating creature and this may have been unsettling to a pup with such limited exposure to this strange world where all the water he had ever known was mirror-still in a round plastic bowl.

Image copyright Fred First
Today, Tsuga was ready to get his feet wet, on his own terms. He hopped off the end of the bridge across the branch by the house and headed straight to the shallow water very intentionally, as if it was something he finally mustered the courage to do, and must do quickly before his fear could talk him out of it. Jumping into the trickle with all fours, he attacked the muddy bottom and quickly became, for the first time, a mostly black yellow lab. He looked for all the world like a little kid making mudpies and proud that he was really dirty now-- like a working dog. This seemed like it might be a good time to take him to the creek for a bath, but I would let him decide if it was time to face the bigger waters.

He followed me over toward the creek by the barn at the crossing. I sat just at the water's edge while he fumbled around in the high grass. Soon he came cautiously to the land's end, his paws just barely in the current. His ambivalence was comical-- he so wanted to see what it was all about, but had no idea what to expect. But his drive to exlore won out, and all at once he pounced with all four feet through two inches of flowing water for the very first time. He even flopped down with his pink tummy in the stream of cold spring water for in instant. You could see the glee and terror in his eyes! After no more than a few seconds, he tore out of the water past me and was heading for the safety of the house. But stopped in his tracks as if he had realized that he was wet, a bit cooler, but safe. And he came back to lie under my bent knees where I sat... taking refuge, chin down on his paws; then, creeping on his belly, he went back to the edge, then in, then ran around wildly, and back under my legs for protection... over and over again he tested the waters, again and again he returned to sanctuary.

It was the funniest, dearest-doggiest thing I had seen since Buster left us. I laughed til I cried, and this is not a figure of speech. I can't explain it, but the beauty of that moment, the pure goodness of the sunshine, crows and ravens and goldfinches all around on a clear, crisp autumn day; the innocence of a young life in the place of one I still remembered and miss so much; the rightness and goodness of this new bonding with another intelligence and the transcience of all of it... Sometimes there is a poignance in a Kodak moment that is ineffible and overwhelming, and so it is today. Thanks, Little Buddy, I needed that.

Alpha Male ~ Entries to Date
Posted by fred1st at August 25, 2003 07:23 AM | TrackBack



Posted by: Pascale Soleil at August 25, 2003 09:08 AM

That is so sweet. You know, I think I've heard that the water-loving nature of water dogs does not kick in until they hit a certain age, and then it's like a switch was flipped. Can that be true?

Posted by: Fran at August 25, 2003 03:22 PM

Lovely post! Would love to see some pics. of your property with creeks, barn and house so that I can explore Tsuga's new environment with him. It all sounds so idyllic !

Posted by: Jenny at August 25, 2003 06:41 PM

When that final sunset arrives to carry us to sweet sleep, many years from now, all any of us will take on that journey are memories and moments. It seems you're harvesting some good ones alright. I wish you many, many more. And thank you for sharing them with us as you putter along.

Posted by: Anne at August 25, 2003 08:02 PM

You painted the picture so well that I could see it in my mind and laugh at his antics along with you!

Posted by: bogie at August 26, 2003 08:03 AM


Sorry, can't help myself.

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at August 26, 2003 11:17 AM

You made me laugh and cry along with you.

Excuse me.....must find a tissue.

Give Tsunga a big lovey hug from me. That reminded me so much of a dog I once had.

Posted by: Da Goddess at August 26, 2003 02:35 PM

Ohhhhhh he is precious!! My family and I have a 7 month old yellow labrador named Tucker. He LOVES the water too! I know just how you feel about Tsunga...I'm so glad you had one of life's best moments with him!!

Big Hugs from OK,

Janet & Tucker :)

Posted by: janet at August 26, 2003 03:13 PM

Enjoy your pup. They are such great companions and give us something that most of us lost a long way back!

Posted by: Coup de Vent at August 26, 2003 06:23 PM

Oh I could kiss Da Goddess for passing on this link... LOVELY...

Posted by: Ren at August 27, 2003 12:59 AM

Oh I could kiss Da Goddess for passing on this link... LOVELY...

Posted by: Ren at August 27, 2003 01:01 AM

Autumn? Already?

We're still anticipating summer in the Bay Area. Soon the Big Valley temps will drop and the coastal fog will abate for the season...time to quaff coffee and sip wine in the evenings. OUTSIDE. Without a down vest & mittens. Autumn will blow in about the middle of November...just in time for Turkey Day.

Sweet imagery Fred...thanks for sharing Tsuga's adventures and the many word pictures you paint for us so well.

A treasure you are.

Posted by: feste at August 27, 2003 09:38 PM

Oh how sweet! Puppies always make me smile. :)

Posted by: brandy at August 27, 2003 10:04 PM

Unusual ideas can make enemies.

Posted by: Hall Carolyn at December 9, 2003 08:34 PM

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