Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Boys Learn to Swim (the hard way!)

Piper took just one look at the brown ducks gliding effortlessly across the mirror-smooth surface of the lake and he forgot all about his aversion to water.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while probably remember how much Scrap loves to play in the sprinklers.

Piper, on the other hand, absolutely hates the water. If he sees me pulling out the garden hose, he cowers on the porch until the tap is turned off and he knows the coast is clear.

A bath is his worst nightmare come true! If he thinks he’s about to be groomed and bathed, he plots his escape and hides from me.

In late August, we took a vacation trip to northern Ontario. Our destination was a campground just outside the town of Sturgeon Falls. 

A couple of hours north of Toronto the landscape changes quite perceptibly. The hills get taller and deciduous trees give way to pine and fur. Traffic thins out the further you go. If there was any doubt about the wildness of the landscape, yellow signs begin to pop up warning drivers about the possibility of encountering a wandering moose. 

Have you ever seen a moose? 

I haven't. The whole way north, I kept hoping we might catch a glimpse of these huge, lumbering creatures, but the only excitement we experienced was a family of wild turkeys scurrying from one side of the highway to the other.

After a long day in the car, the dogs were restless. The clerk manning the front desk at our hotel in North Bay told us there was a leash-free park nearby. Perfect! 

So off we went to Champlain Park on the shores of Lake Nipissing.

That's where Piper saw the brown ducks. Squirrels and large birds are enemies you ward off in Piper's mind. He took one look at the small flock of brown ducks and forgot all about his dislike of water.

The ducks weren't exactly worried about the barking dog. They simply moved a little further out into the lake and quack, quack, quacked their disdain from a safe distance.

 Scrap modeling a lifejacket.

Neither Piper nor Scrap can swim. Whenever we're out in our canoe, the boys sport canine lifejackets. Should they ever have the misfortune to tumble overboard, the lifejackets would keep them afloat.

It's a comfort to know that the lifevests would save their lives in such an eventuality, but they wouldn't spare the dogs from being in a state of complete panic. It would make it much easier on them if we could ease their fear of water.

So we didn't discourage Piper from charging into the water after the ducks that day. We even had them fetching the ball just off the shore at Lake Nipissing.

A bend in the Sturgeon River.

The following day we arrived at our final destination– the campground in Sturgeon Falls. After we unpacked our camp gear into the cute, one room cabin, we decided to go for a swim even though the grey clouds overhead were spitting rain.

Dogs were not permitted to swim at the campground's tiny beach, so we skipped the usual precaution of the lifejackets. When we discovered that we were the only crazy people swimming in the rain, we let them off-leash so they could watch us swim from the safety of the floating wharf.

Big mistake! The Sturgeon River is both wide and deep. A few feet from shore the sandy bottom drops away into deep, dark depths.

I bravely took the plunge into the cold water while my husband stayed behind with the two boys. The dogs were transfixed by the sight of me floating in the water. Barking madly, they followed me along the wharf jostling one another for the best vantage point.

Not five minutes later Scrap lost his balance and fell in. I am not sure who was more shocked him or me! You might think that instinct would kick in and Scrap would begin to dog paddle, but no. I watched with horror as he began to sink like a stone.

Thank goodness I was just inches away! I reached down and grabbed Scrap by the scruff of the neck. In one quick movement, I hauled him back up to the surface. 

Treading water, I held Scraps up as he recovered his composure. Unfortunately, he is almost 40 lbs. After a minute or so of treading frantically, I had to let go and pray he would swim on his own. As one final gesture of assistance, I propelled him in the direction of the shore.

Instinct finally kicked in and Scrap began to paddle the water furiously with his front paws. My husband, who had dashed into the water at the first sign of trouble, reached out and dragged him back to safety.

In hindsight, we should have foreseen the possibility that the dogs might accidentally fall in the water.  Lesson learned the hard way! From that moment on, we resolved to use the lifejackets whenever the dogs are anywhere near water.

Thankfully Scraps wasn't at all traumatized by his ordeal. In fact, he waded back into the river a couple of minutes after he was taken to shore. I guess if you're a furry beast cool water is always a relief in the heat of summer.

We put our new rule into practice the very next day. This time it was Piper fell into the Sturgeon River. You should have seen the look of shock on his little face!

The lifejacket did its job and kept his head up above the water. In this instance, instinct had enough time to register and Piper began to paddle. Unfortunately, he chose to head in the direction of the wharf floating high in the water rather than the safety of the beach, so he still needed rescue! Luckily the lifejackets have a handle across the back that allows you to lift the dog out of the water in a pinch.

Even if Piper eventually becomes a confident swimmer the brown ducks, like those on Lake Nipissing, have nothing to worry about. If threatened, they'd simply take to the air.

It's highly unlikely that Piper will ever learn to fly!


  1. They don't look only cute, they are beautiful and show royalty. By the way I did not know there were dogs who cannot swim. I always thought they all can swim instinctively when necessary. The photos of them are really great.

    1. Before this incident, I would have thought all dogs could swim if needed. Perhaps that isn't always true. We have never felt comfortable with them being without lifejackets in our canoe. Even if they did manage to dog paddle, I am not sure they'd make it safely to shore.

  2. Lovely pictures!
    Yes, I have seen a moose:). We have several of them here in Sweden.
    Have a lovely weekend
    Hugs Maria

    1. I haven't been lucky enough to see a moose even in a zoo. I would have loved to see one at a safe distance, but I am glad we didn't encounter any crossing the highway in the dark of night. They can cause a lot of damage (and it would be heartbreaking to injure or kill an animal).

  3. Fabulous, I guess the temptation was just too much even for Piper, Perhaps he would like a plastic duck at bath time.


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