Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Summer and Dog Paddling

Earlier this year as Summer gave way to Autumn, I counted down the days leading up to the local “Dog Paddle.”

Dog Paddles have become successful fundraising events for canine advocacy groups across America and the Bluegrass is no exception. People pay (that is, donate to whatever the cause is) to give their dogs free rein in and around a sparkling pool.

I could hardly wait to attend, anticipating snapping some great pics of dogs flying into the water, dogs shaking off excess water, dogs playing with new water mates. I could hardly wait to share all this dog love on Lull. It was to be my first Dog Paddle, and I lived within walking distance of it.

Yes, there had been Dog Paddles in the Windy City, but they were not the type of events my pooch appreciated. First, too many dogs. She enjoyed one-on-one canine companionship, but throw another dog or more into the mix and she felt threatened. Second, swimming was an activity she saved only for desperate situations. (At least, I presumed she could have dog-paddled if she needed to. Thankfully, the occasion never arose, so my presumption was never verified.)

Mind you, during her near-daily walks along Lake Michigan, the pooch thought nothing of dunking her entire head into the murky waters to forage for interesting items. Besides the detritus of the lake’s bottom, she led us to a turtle, a Conch shell, scores of “Gull breakfasts” (i.e., dead fish), a melon, three swans, and a kayak. But should that water even touch her belly, the Spotted Thing flew to the safety of the beach. Exploration over, pleasure undone.

I even tried to alleviate her water-reluctance with marine-related toys. But to no avail. Of the creatures pictured here (a pelican, a trout, a crab, a mammoth fish, and a sea turtle I was partial to), only the pelican attracted her attention—due, I think, to its strange honking vocalization. More often than not, though, the pooch needed my assistance to get the bird to “talk.” She was so gentle with her mouth and her paws that she couldn’t apply the appropriate pressure to the toy.

Now without the pooch, I frequently need a dog fix, and the Dog Paddle had promised to deliver. After I signed the waiver all participants had to agree to, I asked how much the fee was for folks without dogs. The volunteer said she didn’t know, but she’d check.

My husband and I waited and watched as more dogs and their entourages were allowed entrance to the pool. The woman returned to us to say, “There’s no more room. It’s too crowded.”

She was polite. We were dumbfounded. And overcrowding certainly wasn’t the issue.

For years we’d felt the injustice of discrimination because we HAD a dog or because our dog was “BIG” (read: heavier than a Chihuahua). It prevented our dining al fresco, of romping on the beach during summer afternoons, of living in most condo and apartment buildings, of staying in most motels, even of visiting my grandmother.

Now that we were dogless, we again were “other.” Friends of the Dog Park, the organization hosting and benefitting from the Dog Paddle fundraiser—the organization deserving of kudos for developing four huge dog parks here in Lexington—had declined our bid for friendship. I wouldn’t say they made enemies of us, but they did nothing to gain our support.

We left with only a photo of tennis balls waiting for action, and yet another reminder of the ache and void that our dear pooch left behind.

[At top: The Elderly Spotted Thing on a warm March day at her beach. Too tired for underwater investigations, but alert enough to enjoy the sun and smells.]

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...