You Can Lead a Dog to Water

Mister PresidentThe ridiculously gorgeous weather of spring — the reward for months of crappy winter weather — is starting to visit the New York area now. Though it was overcast and raining today, it was gorgeous on Saturday, when my girlfriend and I took Mister President up to Fahnestock State Park, where we hiked about 6 miles, part of it along the Appalachian Trail. We made the trip as much for us as for the dog, who we let off the leash (probably at the risk of a fine from a park ranger) for the entirety of the four hours.

Mister President Goes Swimming

As city dwellers, we’re not accustomed to letting him run freely, but he did really great, always sticking with us even as he took lots of detours to pursue his own canine hiking agenda. People sometimes ask me if it’s tough having a big dog in the city, but I’ve always felt that, with all the dog runs and the social life that he’s got here, Mister President actually has it better than a suburban dog fenced into a backyard with little companionship. Still, when I saw him running down that trail, practically electrified with enthusiasm, it did make me regret not owning a huge plot of land in upstate New York.

It was also a kind of a banner day for Mister President in that he took his first ever self-determined swim. Almost. I’ve no idea why, but he’s always had, since we adopted him, an almost hilarious fear of water, this in spite of his obvious Labrador heritage. We’ve tried to take him swimming at the beach, in swimming pools and in streams before, but he’s always displayed a frightful aversion to all kinds of bodies of water.

For some reason, Saturday was different. Halfway through the hike, we came upon a lake, and Mister President decided he would work up the courage to wade in after a stick floating in the water. It took literally ten minutes for him to gingerly ease in up to his chest — to a depth of about a foot and a half. I can’t possibly do justice to the blend of child-like apprehension and comical determination with which he applied himself to the task. He was whimpering like a wounded puppy the whole time, but it was obvious he had set his mind on going in as far as he could. At one point he started paddling the water with one paw while standing there, miming in part the motion of swimming, but not going anywhere at all.

Unfortunately, he got no further than the shallow edges of the lake, and after fifteen minutes or so, we decided to ease the pressure off of him and continue on our hike. Happily, he resumed his wolf-like pretensions as he bounded back down the trails, completely forgetting all the whining and anxiety he’d just demonstrated. All the same, I was pretty proud of him.