The High Seas
You can learn everything from the internet these days. It is quite possible to never leave your house and yet become an expert on dog training or mountaineering! Dave and I learn hands-on as we go. I have never enrolled Dave in any formal training classes.
He’s an intelligent puppy from working dog parentage. Hundreds of years of working alongside man and selective responsible breeding has produced an intelligence to rival young adults.
For us, learning and training takes a few attempts and then that is usually enough to remember the lesson. Border collies have an amazing desire to learn and “please” their master.
Armed with nothing more than a tennis ball I decided to take Dave to the local beach and see what he thought of swimming. Also my poor parents needed a break from gardening tuition with their enthusiastic apprentice.
Babbacombe was a short walk along the South West Coast Path from where I was staying and had a small sheltered cove that was ideal for Dave to get his feet wet from salty sea water. We walked onto the beach and up to the water line, gentle waves barely rippled as the late summer breeze blew.
Puppy was eager to play fetch, his eyes transfixed on the tennis ball in my hand, in that collie hypnotic stare no other breed has quite achieved.
Look into my eyes, my eyes, my eyes. I began to wonder who was falling under who’s spell.
Swimming lesson number 1: I threw the ball into the shallow water. Dave splashed into the sea and brought the ball back. Swimming lesson number 2: I threw his ball into a deeper part of the water. Dave swam to the ball and swam back confidently with it. Swimming lessons over.
No drama. I didn’t make a fuss, Dave didn’t make a fuss. I very much believe that when you introduce a dog to new experiences you need to remain calm. Jumping up and down shouting “good boy, good boy,” as he swam back to shore would probably have caused more anxiety in puppy than just giving him a loving rub on the ears when back on dry land.
So Dave’s natural ability to swim was assured. Another micro-adventure ticked off the to do list. Of course Dave isn’t instinctively aware of rip-tide currents and underwater obstructions or the danger of palm oil and jelly fish. That’s my responsibility as his pack leader and companion. Dave and I look out for each other.
I might have told a small white lie when I said Dave had two swimming lessons at Babbacombe, he’s a border collie with an overwhelming urge to work and play hard. So Dave encouraged me to throw the ball into the sea a few more times that day. I was so proud to see my “boy” achieving something new.
Dave’s adventures on the high seas were anything but over during those early weeks in Devon, no sooner had he mastered the art of keeping his nose above water then he was patiently waiting to board a passenger foot ferry on Plymouth Hoe.
With a firm grasp of his lead I walked the gangplank onto the Plymouth to Cawsand ferry, puppy followed with bursting excitement, a four-legged Drake embarking on his first short maritime adventure. We chose to sit at the back of the boat in the open air and Dave sought fuss from anyone who happened to smile at him.
All was calm as the passengers jostled politely to get the best seats. Some like me wanted an open sky experience, others sat under cover and chatted about their day, clasping full shopping bags from their Plymouth day out.
The skipper raised the gangplank and set sail. Children and tourists looked out to sea at the best of the Royal Navy, anchored in their home port.
As the engine started to rumble beneath the deck Dave looked startled and worried. Of course the engine bay was at the stern of the boat – the planks beneath his paws were rumbling and making strange noises. He tried to climb onto my lap but I wasn’t about to hold a wet dog that probably wanted to swim in Plymouth Sound and meet the Royal Navy for some fuss!
An elderly couple sitting away from the engine room, under cover smiled at Dave and beckoned him over. His lead was long enough to allow this. He sat ever so politely at their feet and calmed down just as soon as the couple fussed with his ears.
The people were happy as they had a friendly dog to fuss and I was happy because Dave was away from the noisy engine bay.
The return trip later in the day was less eventful as I wisely sat away from the engine bay at the bow of the boat. Dave unfortunately couldn’t see the sea very well and that bothered him. I was getting all the fun and he was missing out. I was whimpered at and nudged firmly several times because of that injustice.
Spray from the choppy waves drifted over the bow of the boat and landed on Dave’s nose with regular occurrence, the smells must have been wonderful for him. All that maritime adventure and sadly he couldn’t see any of it!
At the time of writing this blog post we haven’t been back on the ferry. I’ll add that to my ‘to-do-again’ list. It was a very enjoyable day out.