A dog out of water

My dog, Bindi, is attracted to water like a fish.

She will dive into water and lay on her stomach with her legs stretched out in front and behind her. There is just glee on her furry face. In fact, she’s usually so excited that she’ll snort water up her nose or swallow it the wrong way and end up coughing for five minutes. She’ll run after sticks and splash all around.

However, she has certain demands about that water before she will jump in and go swimming. First, it cannot be above her head. Second, there must be no waves. Third, baths are not the same thing as swimming in water and must be avoided at all costs.

In North Carolina mountains, nearly every hiking trail curves alongside some type of body of water. There are shimmy lakes, swift streams, muddy creeks and mosquito-laden ponds. Bindi jumped in all of them.

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Swimming in Cullowhee, N.C.

However, when we moved to Florida, Bindi quickly realized I wasn’t allowing her to play in the water anymore. At 55 pounds, she is the perfect size to be eaten by an alligator. She’s probably big enough to give a it a good fight, but I think ultimately, she will meet a heartbreaking ending.

I tried to introduce her to swimming in the ocean. Well, the ocean breaks criteria number two, so once a wave slapped in the face, Bindi wasn’t interested in the ocean anymore.

So, I bought a plastic kiddie pool from Walmart. It was $8, a perfectly priced investment in my dog’s happiness. Seriously, some of her chew bones cost more than that. An $8 kiddie pool wasn’t going to break the bank. I dragged the kiddie pool from the car to the backyard, filled it up and brought Bindi outside. She absolutely refused to get in the pool. So, I stepped in. She walked into the pool and right out of it again. I pleaded and begged her to get in the pool, but to her, it looked too much like a bath tub. Eventually, she learned that “Bindi, get in the pool,” meant to hop in, which she would, but only for a minute or two before jumping back out. It turned into a required trick to perform, not a fun activity. She wouldn’t wag her tail. She just looked nervous. Well, so much for that idea.

So, Bindi has had to go without swimming for quite some time. Then, recently, we drove to the Port Charlotte area to visit Petsmart and take a walk at Bayshore Park. It is a beautiful spot right on Charlotte Harbor where you can get some great exercise and watch wading birds look for food in the shallows. There are also beautifully painted benches and several cool statues, like the two manatees in the playground area.

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Meeting manatees in the playground

When we arrived at Petsmart, Bindi and I hung out in the car for 20 minutes while a thunderstorm rocked us in the parking lot. Eventually, the rain tapered off just enough that we could sprint to the doors without getting too soaked. When we left the store, the rain had moved on. However, the evidence of the heavy storm was everywhere.

Florida has puddles like out-of-towners wouldn’t believe. I mean, there are whole areas of parking lots that become submerged underwater after a good storm. Streets turn into canals. My own front yard will disappear in a few minutes and water will lap at my front steps if the rain is heavy and lasts long enough.

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In the Petsmart parking lot

When we arrived at Bayshore Park, it, too, was showing evidence of the heavy rainfall. While the sidewalks around the edges of the park were clear, there were deep puddles drowning the grass all throughout the park. It might as well have been one big lake.

The nice thing about the puddles is that I could clearly see there were no alligators or predators hiding there. Bindi noticed, too. She immediately started dragging me toward the puddles. It was almost like a toddler that had seen a desired toy on the other side of the store. When Bindi starts pulling, it takes all of my strength to stop her, and even then, my shoes are still skidding across the pavement.

I didn’t have a towel in the car, but when I looked at her eager face all excited about possibly getting to swim, I sighed.

“You know what? Go for it,” I told her and released the tension in the leash.

Bindi flew into the nearest puddle, nearly dragging me in with her. She laid down in the cool water and began lapping at it with her tongue while stretching out her back feet behind her. You could see the happiness radiating from this dog just because she got to go swimming. She paddled around, shook herself off, dove back into the puddle all with a huge smile on her face and wagging her tail with glee. Whoever said dogs don’t have personalities has never seen a dog participating in its favorite activity.

I believe that my pet’s safety is far more important than her getting to swim in every body of water we encounter. So, if Bindi wants to keep swimming safely, we’ll keep going to parks and finding giant puddles. Since it rains every afternoon, it seems we won’t have a problem. Now as for her love of sledding on her back in the snow … well, I think the only solution will be to visit North Carolina in winter once in awhile.

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Bindi in full happiness mode while paddling in a puddle at Bayshore Live Oak Park.

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