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Life with Dogs and Cats

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Everybody into the Pool!

The reporters on TV were gleefully attempting to fry eggs on sidewalks. Mayors were online and on the air promoting cooling centers. Headlines everywhere ensured that every last human on the east coast knew that it was The Hottest July On Record. As if those of us living it didn't realize it was hot.

Triple digits hot. High humidity hot. Wilting people hot.

During the worst of it, the dogs went outside, did their business, and came right back in. I certainly didn't blame them; I don't think I'd want to walk into an outdoor oven while wearing a fur coat. Lilah, with her hippie-long obsidian black fur, has known since she was a puppy how to cool down in the summer heat, finding the shady--and muddy--spots in the yard. But even she stood by the door asking to go back inside to air conditioned relief.

On the days when it was tolerable--and safe--for humans and canines to be outside, we all tried to make the best of it. The people gravitated toward the pool, which, for several days, featured water temperatures above ninety degrees. Even that was a refreshing difference compared to the warm, moist dragonbreath heat of the day. Night time swimming became the activity of choice when the sun was no longer an issue; the high heat and humidity were tempered by a dip in the water. Well, more than a dip; we spent hours cooling off there.

Previously, our terrier Rosie had love to swim; she'd leap into the water to chase a stick and climb onto a wobbly raft when she needed a lift. Our current dogs had no desire to set so much as a paw in the human pool. So, in an attempt to offer them the same relief as we two-footed creatures were enjoying, I set out two small kiddie pools in the yard.

As always,  Lilah jumped right into each pool as soon as I filled it. Snout under the surface, she walked counter-clockwise, blowing bubbles through her nose.  She lifted her face dripping with water and a smile, and offered a wag of thanks. Jasper and Tucker, on the other paw, gave the pools a wide berth, in case an errant drop of water would trouble their otherwise dry fur. The boys don't like Wet.

Wiley Lilah used the situation to her advantage. During a game of chase, she aimed for one of the pools, landing with as huge a splash as she could muster. Jasper skidded to a halt, looking like a kid crying "No fair!" Tucker just kept running, never breaking pace as he made an extra-large detour around the water hazard. I swear I could hear Lilah giggling.

Lilah enjoying the water.

Up to this point, the only possible use the boys could think of for the pools was as giant water bowls. This year, though, I thought maybe with the severity of the heat, I could interest the dry dogs in at least getting their paws wet. Perhaps they could learn that water didn't burn and might actually feel good on a hot summer day.

I armed myself with numerous treats--and not just any dog biscuit or training aid. I brought out the big guns, what my trainer would call a high-value treat. Hamburger pieces. Left over from a recent cookout.

Three dog noses lifted high in the air, huffing in great chuffs of burger smell as I walked toward one of the pools with enticements in hand.

Jasper, perhaps the most food-oriented dog I've known, quivered with anticipation. His eyes glittered as he looked at me, then my hand then me again. Whatever I ask. What. Ever. He would do it for that meat.

Now began a merry dance between Jasper and I as I held out one of the precious burger bits in front of his nose and quickly moved to position the pool between me and the dog. As he tried to circle around, I kept the pool between us. I held the bit just out of reach over the water.

Jasper's right paw lifted. Slowly he moved it over the water. Like a paw crane, he began to lower it, stretching his neck to get the coveted morsel. His paw stopped a whisker's breadth above the water. He looked at me again, pleading. He touched the water, drew back, touched again.

"Good boy, Jasper!" I handed him a treat. He didn't realize his entire paw was in the pool until the deed was done. I gave him another bit for keeping his foot in the pool. He began to lift it out. Once again, I held the burger piece just out of reach. He put it back. Now his left paw slowly lifted. With eyes on the prize, Jasper gingerly placed his second paw in the water.

"Good boy!" A few more treats. Jasper managed a subdued wag.

While all this was going on, Tucker maintained his distance, mournfully watching his brother undergo water torture. Lilah lay down under a clump of Lilac bushes with a bored sigh.

"I want all four feet now, Jasper." He looked up at me. I waved the treat in front of him as he stood with two paws in the pool and two paws out. Beef aroma wafted toward him. The third foot was much easier. The burger reward was worth it.

That last paw, however, stayed anchored to try dry land. No matter where I walked, Jasper would try to reach the treat without lifting the fourth foot. He wasn't really In the Water as long as one foot wasn't.

But. Hamburger. Hamburger! The siren smell drew him ever toward the cool depths of the kiddie pool.

It was too much. As if it had a mind of its own the last foot landed in the pool as Jasper lurched toward me to get his treat.

Lots of treats. Burger bit after burger bit. Happy, happy Jasper. He walked around, getting more bits as he explored the entirety of the 5-foot wide, 8-inch deep plastic pool.

I looked up. Lilah sighed again and closed her eyes. Tucker looked nervous and backed away slowly, keeping his distance.

"C'mon Tucker!" He lowered his head. "Look, Jasper is in the pool and he's still alive."

Jasper stayed in the pool while I walked over to Tucker, who was trying to look small and comfortably arrid. I asked him to sit, and gave him a taste of the meat.

He followed me back to the pool. Having seen his brother go through the exercise, Tucker knew what was expected. At first he hoped he could just put a paw on the edge of the pool. Perhaps that counts? But plastic bends with the weight of a dog and the result was a small river of water pouring over the edge, soaking his front two paws. He tried again. Same result. This plan wasn't working.

As Tucker watched sadly, I gave Jasper a few pieces of the burger for staying in the pool.

Ears back, neck bowed, my dry terrier submitted. He put his right front foot in the water.

"Good boy, Tucker!" Treat.

Left front foot. Treat. Right rear foot. Treat. Left rear foot hovered just above the water. As it was with Jasper, so it was with Tucker. Not the last foot. Please? Tucker pleaded with me silently. The burger whispered sweet scents in his nose. I gave Jasper another piece. With a doleful glance that questioned my humanity for requiring this task of him, Tucker slid the fourth paw into the pool.  Two dogs, eight paws in the water.

"Good boy!" Treats and treats and treats for Tucker and Jasper.

I called Lilah over to see if she would join the boys in the pool. She was having none of it. "Now everyone's in the pool. It's not cool anymore." She crawled deeper under the bushes, enjoying the mud bath that was hers alone.

The boys. "How long do we have to stay in here?"