Of course, the main attraction of being at the lake isn’t normally puppies, but the water. It was pure heaven to swim in a lake again! I think it’s been more than five years for me, and I have always loved to swim. The boys were less certain about it. They’ve spent time near a cold ocean, a pretty-cold river, at a fountain park, and even in a community pool, but they’ve never really learned to swim. Or even to float. I was really hoping to change that while we were at the lake.
Marybeth started that first day by trying to coax the kids to walk into the lake from the edge. Ryan got up to his knees. Nathan only went to his ankles. Then they were both done, and wanted a ride on the motor boat instead.
Day by day we worked on getting comfortable with the water. Both of them loved to see me swimming, especially diving. The kids learned to jump off of the shallow side of the dock into the arms of a waiting adult. Nathan became enamored of having me kick up huge plumes of water to splash him, and they absolutely adored the game where I stood halfway up the ladder and let them push me back into the water. I felt that we were making good progress.
Then, midweek, Ryan fell out of the kayak. I’d envisioned the possibility beforehand; his lifejacket was so bulky, and his arms so short, that in order to touch the water (which he loved to do) he had to stretch his little body out horizontally. As we came in to the dock one time, he leaned just a tiny bit too far, and in he went. It wasn’t a huge deal, or it wouldn’t have been if he’d just floated quietly. Instead he flailed and cried and managed to stick his face in the water a couple of times, poor guy, and I had to jump in to get him while Nathan grabbed the kayak.
Needless to say, that set him back a bit. By the end of the week, he’d gotten happy again with jumping to me, and I’d let him sink down in the water pretty far as I caught him. But floating? He was not happy with that idea. Eventually I came to understand that he equated “floating” with “floating away,” which given his experience of floating away from the kayak isn’t that surprising.
Nathan, though, managed quite a bit more. On our last day at the lake he allowed us not only to float him freely in the water, supported only by his lifejacket, but to pass him from adult to adult. Then he started kicking his feet and reaching with his hands, and before we knew it, he was dog-paddling between us like nobody’s business. Pretty impressive for a little guy who a week before would only go in up to his ankles.
All in all it was a marvelously successful vacation. The kids didn’t even get sunburned! I did a little, and Dave kindly pointed out to me that having the kids be responsible for applying sunscreen to my back probably wasn’t the smartest thing. He says there’s a pale patch in the middle of my back, and then I’m red all around the edges. Oh well…
When my aunt Marybeth invited us to stay at their lake cabin for a week, she mentioned that she’d have a litter of eight-week-old labradoodle puppies at the time. I immediately set to plotting how to get the boys to see the puppies, but then Marybeth informed me that the puppies pretty much needed to come with her whenever she was at the lake, and it all became easy.
Almost as soon as we arrived, there were five wiggly puppies (as well as three long-suffering older dogs) let loose near the front door. They followed what was to become a familiar pattern. On first being released, they went into ecstatic contortions to connect with any human present, jumping up, licking, and trying to nibble on toes.
Then there would be a period with more exploration: running under cars, disappearing into the little patch of woods nearby, and digging in any soft patch of dirt. Much wrestling and chewing would ensue. Nathan and Ryan, closer to the ground than the rest of us, sometimes seemed to be dubbed honorary puppies. Finally things would begin to settle down, and the mellowest of the puppies might look for a human lap to claim.
This little girl was so sweet, with such a strong prediliction for climbing into laps and snuggling, that if she hadn’t been spoken for already I might have been severely tempted by her. Well, I don’t think I’d really have tried to take her home: we like the fact that we are not responsible for any dependent creatures other than our children. Still, she was a sweetie. Her coat was so soft and her personality so loving that it was easy to fall in love with her.
Of course, being eight-week-old puppies, they were not always amenable to direction. As the week progressed they became more and more adventurous, making forays into the neighbor’s yard and down to the beach. Twice Ryan came to tell me “We’re missing one puppy!” with the glee of a two-year-old who loves a good adventure and is distinctly not responsible for the puppy himself. It all ended well, though. By the time we left, three of the puppies had already gone to their new homes, and the other two were soon to follow.
Nathan has since informed me “I like the lake because I like playing with puppies.” I’m not sure he understands the the two don’t necessarily go together…