Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to Swim with a Hot Dog

No, I'm not talking about juicy delicious frankfurters, although if someone would like to invent a way to swim in a twenty-feet-deep lake while eating said frankfurter without using a floatation device or getting the hot dog wet, I'd be alllll ears.

I'm talking about weinerdogs.

The only pet dog I've ever owned is a weinerdog. My family bought him in the spring of 2002 as a suprise father's day present for my dad, who's always wanted a dog, despite our family being more of a family of cat-people. My mom decided she would finally bow to my dad's wishes, and sent my brother and I to pick one out at a pet store as a surprise. (I know, I know, the pet store industry is terrible, I promise I'll never buy a dog from one again.) The only rule was that it be a small dog. We already had three cats at home, so we couldn't deal with a big horselike animal joining our flock.

Brother Caterpillar and I were not expecting to fall so deeply in love with a weinerdog, or even prepared to consider a weinerdog as a likely purchase. I don't think we even had any particular breed in mind, but I think we were both expecting to come home with some sort of little terrier. But holy fuck, are weinerdog puppies the cutest things ever!


So we bought a little 8-week-old puppy, and brought him home, and named him Moose, which is an appropriate balance of adorable, hilarious, and confidence-boosting. And over the years, Moose has grown to be very much a part of the family, like anyone who's ever owned a pet can understand. Although I don't live at home with my parents anymore, I still think of Moose as my widdle puppayyyy and he's such an awesome dog.

Moose is, however, getting on in years. He'll be ten in January, and his old-mannishness is showing. He doesn't run and play and go on adventures chasing foxes and deer like he used to. (There is a small part of me that has always wanted him to catch a deer, because what the fuck would he do with it?) As an old-man-dog, Moose is now content going to the cottage for the weekend and maybe finding a nice, sexy leg to hump, then rolling in the dirt for a bit to sufficiently bother his old-man-eyes, then sitting around begging for food with drool dripping down to the floor. He'll join us by the campfire and, after awhile, get up and go wait to be let inside to go to bed. 

The point of all this is to say that Moose is not much of an adventurer. He's old, he's tired, and he's okay with that. What he doesn't seem to understand, though, is that his humans are not old men like him, and we are still sometimes into the "active" thing. In the case of my mom and I in particular, we are big fans of the water. We like to swim, and the lake outside my cottage is super deep - you can't wade into it slowly like at the beach, you have to jump right in. Fellow daschund afficionados know where I'm going with this.

Daschunds are not strong swimmers. The problem is physics, really; their funny long bodies and little chicken legs make for a difficult propulsion-to-weight situation. Here's a diagram:

This is Moose. Isn't he handsome? Yes he is! He's a handsome puppy! GOOD DOG MOOSE.
Daschunds get stressed out in the water. They have to paddle their little legs so hard just to keep their long, muscular bodies afloat, and as such they're among the few breeds of dog that don't really like to swim. Most of them aren't too bad in shallow water (I know Moose in particular likes to run along the coastline at the beach) but when it comes to deep water that they can't reach the ground in, daschunds are not too happy.

Daschunds are, however, dogs, which means they're animals with a strong pack mentality, and they like to be a part of things. Moose always wants to do whatever his human companions are doing, so when we swim down by our dock at the cottage, we usually get a heartbreaking situation of pathetic dog whimpering from him and guilty consciences for us. We'll be in the lake, treading water or floating lazily on our noodles, and Moose will be standing at the end of the dock or on the edge of the paddle boat (or pacing between the two), making sad little hound noises or barking loudly. He wants to come in the water, but he knows he'll regret it the second he jumps.

It is sometimes kind of excruciating to witness. For the chronically guilty, like myself, it can make one fell selfish - like I'm putting my own happiness ahead of my dog's well-being. It doesn't take too long for me to come to the sensible conclusion that that's fucking insane, but for a few brief moments every weekend, I wonder if I'm slowly killing my dog's soul with my love of the water.

Why don't you love me?

As a puppy, or even a dog of a few years old, he would sometimes suck it up and power through it. He would jump in, and get stressed out, but we would make sure to swim nearby and sort of help him float along. If he started really stressing, which was almost always the case after roughly twenty seconds or less, we'd bring him right back to the dock and someone outside the water would wrap him in a towel like a furry little orphan left at the door of a nunnery.

We also had a life jacket for him, that sort of worked for a summer or two. It had a handle on it that rested along the dog's back, so we used to pick him up like a piece of luggage and place him in the water, or, when he was done, back on the dock. It was pretty damn hilarious and I really wish I had a picture to share with you. But, alas, I do not.

Over the last five years or so, we've pretty much given up on it. Whenever we do put him in the water - he never goes in on his own - he just swims right up to the ladder and tries to hilariously climb up with his sad little paws. So we've come to realize that he feels the same way about swimming that I do about pizza: he wants desperately to like it, and he knows it would be socially acceptable for him to like it, but it is just not working out for him, no matter how many people demonstrate its sheer awesomeness. He watches us in the water and he whimpers and whines, occasionally barking in a panicked, don't-leave-me sort of way, and we realize that he's afraid we're never, ever going to come back on land again and he's waging an internal battle with himself, trying to decide if jumping in and joining us for a life of struggled paddling is worth it.

So until this summer, we've had to just deal with our guilty consciences, watching our dog stress out and cry every time we want to go in the water (which is generally a couple of times a day whenever we're at the cottage). It was sad, but there's nothing we could do, other than not swim, and it seems pretty stupid to say "I want to go in the water, but I can't, because my dog has abandonment issues."

But then.

My mom and my aunt (who has a cottage right next door to ours) were poking around in my aunt's shed one day. They found some old stuff that we used to use a lot when we were kids, but don't really indulge in much anymore now that we're grown up and our parents have traded in the motorboat for a pontoon party boat: an old inner tube, a kneeboard, all kinds of little water-sport things that used to be a regular part of the cottage routine. And inspiration struck.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the solution to every cottager-with-a-weinerdog's swimming problem:

Look! Look at him floating! A kneeboard (or surfboard, or any other long flat floating device, really) is the ideal method for a swimming-phobic dog to join in the family fun. Just attach a rope to the board and place the dog on it, and you can now lead him around the water with you! Moose loves it; he doesn't have to stress his poor little weiner legs, he gets to drink lots of lake water which is his favourite thing ever, and he doesn't feel left out of the fun.

I feel like this should be developped into a "three easy payments" commercial product. They can air the informercials late at night on Animal Planet when the crazy lapdog ladies are cooking the next week's meals for Jason and Courtney and all their other child-replacement-dogs with real-people names. I can just see the commercial now:

Are you a daschund owner? Does it break your heart every time you are enjoying a dip in the lake or river and your daschund wails by the side, wanting to come in but too scared to do so? Are you giving up your much-needed summer exercise in order to preserve your dog's fragile psyche?

[Insert obligatory sad shots of humans clutching daschunds and staring longingly out over the water, then retreating inside to glare self-loathingly into a mirror]

Then it's time you learned about the Floating Doggie Dock!

A Floating Doggie Dock lets your little companion come far out into the water with you without any need to swim. The lightweight waterproof material is easy to carry to and from the lake, and is built to withstand up to 50 pounds for any small- to medium-sized dog to enjoy. Just listen to these happy customer reviews!

"Before the Floating Doggie Dock, my summers were hell. I couldn't enjoy a decent swim without the grating sound of my stupid dog wailing at me, thinking that I'd never come back again. God, my dog is a fucking moron. But I love the little idiot, so I've been avoiding the lake like a plague. But then, my neighbour told me about the Floating Doggie Dock, and it's turned my life upside down! Little Pooper can now enjoy the lake with the rest of us, and I can swim away the fat ass that I've been piling on since Christmas. Thank you, Floating Doggie Dock!"

Do you see the possibilities? This product is awesome. Maybe I'll patent it.

Shit - SHOTGUN. Please completely forget everything you just read.

I have nothing else to say about this, so here's another picture!

Yes, I definitely wrote this entire post just to show you these pictures.
Lolcats, eat your heart out.

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