Monday, August 24, 2009

When the light comes on

There’s something all but magical that happens when a dog “gets it,” no matter what the “it” might be.

Recently we gained the use of a swimming pool. Darby has seen pools on many occasions, but has never been up close and personal with one that’s in use. Other than trying to avoid falling in, he hadn’t found any real benefit to the giant puddle in the ground.

The first couple of times we went swimming, Darby would wander around the pool, head slightly tilted. While I doubt he was pondering our fitness as pet parents, he seemed decidedly confused about why in the world people would choose to climb into such a puddle and seem happy about doing so.

After nearly daily visits to the pool, somewhere near the one-week mark Darby was pacing around the edge, following us as we wandered our way from one end to the other. The summer’s 100-plus degree days made the concrete around the pool far from comfortable, so we began splashing some water over the edge of the pool to try and get the ground to something slightly below foot-sizzling.

Darby, seeing water fly through the air, albeit all of six inches off the ground, whipped around like a shot. He has always been singularly crazy about water that comes from a hose or a sprinkler head --- so crazy that if you actually want to get some watering done in anything approaching a timely manner it’s best to leave him inside. He scurried to the edge of the pool and hunched there so intensely you’d have thought we were dangling steaks from the end of our fingers. Darby was quickly rewarded with another splash and a chorus of “yeas” and “go Darby” as he raced around trying to catch the water coming at him from different angles.

In that moment, it was obvious he “got it” --- “it”, in this case, being the fun that can be had poolside. If you’re attentive to your dog, whether they’re learning to shake hands, lie down on command, or the finer points of chasing splashing water, you can almost see the switch flip on behind their eyes when they’ve figured out what you want, and why it’s good for them to give it to you. Dogs live for those moments, and dog owners should, too. They represent the coming together of two different species, with two different communication styles, into a single, agreed-upon understanding that benefits both parties. What could be better?

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