Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Water is Bluer on the Other Side

It is good to know that in an emergency, Honeybun recognizes the need to obey without pause. We hadn't known that....before yesterday.

Up until now, we have been training the dogs to stay in the kayak on the large flat kayak (not Asherel's beloved "sit in" kayak), and only at the small lake where the most dangerous thing we have to contend with are snapping turtles. We had practiced trying to haul Honeybun in the boat should she fall out, but Asherel just was not strong enough to lift a soaked dog out of deep water herself. We practiced close to shore. However, we have kayaked on the lake many times now and felt HB was ready for a new challenge. She has never jumped out of the boat. Lucky is still unpredictable, and he may never be ready to kayak anywhere but the lake. We decided it was time to try the Catawba river with HB. Lots of people kayak in the area we go to, and the river is narrow and not very deep.
It is deep enough to drown in, of course, but we were determined not to do that and spoil the day. And for all you worrywarts, we do wear life jackets, even HB.

Asherel begged me to let her try HB in her "sit in" kayak. I had not thought it would work, but actually HB snuggled in the front of the the kayak body happily with her natural "den seeking" instincts and we practiced along the shore. Since Asherel was shoveling food in the dog's greedy little mouth, HB was content and all seemed well.

Within seconds of gliding into the deep water, a motorboat whizzed by and tsunami waves raced under our boat. HB had never seen a motorboat, let alone a tsunami, but all she did was perk her ears and furrow her brow. As of yet, she was still trusting we knew what we were doing.
We kayaked to a popular sandbar and pulled our boats ashore. We ate the lunch I had packed and watched a blue heron fly among the opposite shoreline tree tops. A flotilla of kayakers stopped to swim and rest and then floated away again.

After lunch it was time for serious kayaking. I have discovered that Asherel does not love the kayaking part of kayaking. She loves the dog being in a boat with her, and she loves getting to the sandbar to swim, and she loves the snacks I pack for us to kayak with..... but the actual kayaking part- not so much. However, I had acceded to her request to use her boat,not the safer flat top boat, and I had packed a fantastic lunch, and I had let her swim her dog at the sandbar.

"It is my turn now," I told her, "Now we will kayak, use these boats for what they were intended for, not just for floating kennels."

She acquiesced, finally, and except for asking, "What time is it?" 7,543 times, showed no other indication of impatience. We wanted to see if we could find the boat launch area that is half the price of the place we had parked. However, 40 minutes of kayaking up river still yielded no sight of our goal, and Asherel was tired of pretending she was still having fun. It was a hot day and HB was whining. So we pulled over to shallow water, and HB hopped out of the boat. She dragged the laughing Asherel like a cart horse all over the shallow lagoon. Asherel was half-heartedly telling her to stop, come, and all those dog commands that some dogs obey. But HB was having fun racing through the water, towing the boat behind her.

Then suddenly, I heard Asherel's voice become deep and commanding.
"Honeybun, come!" she bellowed.
Honeybun whisked around to the boat, and jumped in. Asherel grabbed her paddle and with HB still standing one paw not quite in, Asherel began paddling like a windmill towards me. As she approached, her face a worried crease I rarely see on this unflappable kid, she said, "Snake."

Even the word snake makes me nauseous. I just cannot abide snakes, particularly since so many of them in NC are poisonous. I told her to have HB sit, so she paused long enough to do that, and we paddled hurriedly out of there.
"How big?" I asked, when we were a safe distance away.
"3-4 feet, and this big around." She held her fingers in a 5 or 6 inch circle. Her description of the color and markings makes me pretty sure it was a copperhead. Oh horrors. Ick.

So we learned two things. Number one, we will only get out of the boat at the swimming sand bar where everyone goes. The water is too disturbed too frequently for snakes to want to hang out there. Number two, HB listens to and understands emergency commands.

As we neared our docking area, I heard a splash.
"Honeybun," said Asherel, "What are you doing?"
Honeybun was ignoring lesson number one, and swimming. The water was still quite deep so no snakes were a threat but I sure didn't want to go anywhere near the shore where snakes by the millions were surely lurking.

I pulled my kayak up beside the swimming dog, and as Asherel hoisted, I got close enough so HB could brace a back paw against my boat. With a leap, she managed to get back in Asherel's boat.

Lesson 3 was a good one- with both boats we could haul a dog out of deep water.

We don't know why she jumped in. We suspect she was just plain tired of kayaking and wanted to be somewhere other than the boat. She quickly realized that swimming was exhausting, and the water was not any more fun than the boat, and a lot more work. In the end, in both minor emergencies that day, she decided her master really did know best.

It is so easy to ignore what is asked of us, expected of us, even required of us. The grass is always greener and the water always bluer where we are told not to wander. It is so easy to think of obedience as restricting, as undesirable. Good masters know that, and smart dogs eventually learn that the Master really does have their best interests at heart.

Deuteronomy 4:30
When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him.

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