vendredi 15 octobre 2010

The further mésaventures de Mlle Fia Lux de la Pellousery

Wisp and Fia
Naptime by the fire

It was a tough day for a small dog yesterday. Her staged "theft" by the village caretaker and various inappropriate pipis were nothing compared to her mésaventures at the pool.

September was a month of rain, and a month without chlorine tablets for the pool, and the consequences of nearly two months of neglect were becoming significant days away from closing the pool for the year. Last year, I closed a pristine pool, and come spring, I reaped the rewards with the easiest opening ever. I did not intend to close it with a deposit of algae settled on the bottom and a layer of dead leaves floating on the surface, so I went and got chlorine and carried Fia, who is still too young to go up and down stairs (that many, anyway), down to clean it, Rapide on my heels. This was one of those rare opportunities to see how little your puppy understands of the world in which she now lives and what first encounters of the terrorizing kind are like.

Fia nosed around the edge of the pool, sniffing, picking up dead leaves in her puppy mouth, and stepping around Rapide, in her usual position at the far corner of the pool's deep end, while I skimmed out the leaves from the two Clerodendrum tomentosums, or Downy Chance, trees at poolside. Then, suddenly, she didn't make it past Rapide on another trip around, but found herself paddling frantically in the cold October water, blind from fear and the desire to live past her mere 10 weeks.

I dropped my net and bolted the few feet that separated us and grabbed for the cord I had tied around her collar for her to trial along behind, part of her leash training, feeling suddenly very grateful for the cord. She was, nonetheless, doing quite well, even if she didn't realize it, but my eldest stepson's possible future father-in-law's words at lunch last Sunday came back to me, "Oh! Jamais dans la piscine!" He shook his head gravely and took a sip of his Graves. He's a vet.

My husband was quick to agree with him, but I am of the opinion that if you have a pool, your dog should a) know how to swim, b) understand that she can fall into it and stay afloat, and c) be able to find the stairs out. I didn't ask his reasons, but I suspect they have more to do with a dog's place in the human household universe than with anyone's health or safety. I remember nearly losing Baccarat because she never discovered she can swim and with the summer cover down, she couldn't understand that -- even had she known she could swim -- there was a stair to safety just across the pool from where she had been clinging for dear life to the crown.

This, I was not eager to repeat. I pulled her trembling little body out of the pool and set her down, dripping all over the fake stone pool deck. Rapide looked on, implacably. She knew perfectly well this little one was not going to sink to the bottom of the pool like a stone, but she was not also about to rise to pluck her from the water.

Fia continued on her rounds of the pool, occasionally stopping to shiver pitifully.

"Fia," I told her, "reste au soleil l'où il fait beau et plus chaud, comme ça. Oui, ma fifille, c'est bien," and she gazed at me, checking to see if it was plausible that I could be believed. On the other hand, what choice had she?

The surface skimmed, I prepared the tube for the vacuum attachment (we are too fold-fashioned or poor, more truthfully, for a robot, or the money just goes to the dogs) and headed to the pump house, followed by Fia, to change all the valves, and then back to the pool, still followed by my little shadow. She resumed her trips around the pool edge, occasionally heading off to sniff a plant, a bush, or to shiver by the chair on which my jacket and Sam's camera lay. I was sure she wanted to put my wool jacket on. I considered it, but she was just too wet.

Working on the shallow end and nearly done with the job, Fia cut the corner to get past Rapide, who had changed corners, and -- splash! She was back in the pool. This time she went in feet and not head over tail (literally) backwards. Puppies, as much as they are all that is good, cannot walk on water. The little paws went into motion and she kept herself above the surface, far from convinced this could last longer than the next paddle. I looked at her. Rapide looked at her. She looked at me and asked, "Why are you not getting me out of here?!"

I reached down for the cord again and began to walk toward the stairs opposite, her little body moving through the water along the wall of the pool, eyes darting sideways up at me to see what I was doing and tell me she really wasn't sure it was the best thing, until her paws made contact with the stairs. The water was still over her head, and she knew it, but then they touched the top stair and -- oui! Je peux me mettre debout!

She was fatiguée. More nervous exhaustion than physical in Rapide and my opinion, but those legs had moved awfully fast. She placed her forepaws on the crown and stood, trying to pull her hind quarters up out of the very cold and not very nice to be in water, but it wasn't working. She wasn't strong enough. She looked at me. I reached down and placed a hand under her puppy butt and gave her a boost. She shook herself and remained soaked, trembling and miserable; swimming might not become a favorite activity, and if it never does, the pool will be anything but a temptation.

In fact, today when I carried her down to vacuum again after the floculant (heaven knows how you say that in English, but it's the stuff that makes the algae clump and sink to the bottom for easier removal with the vacuum), she took one look at the pool and made a bee-line for the stairs, hopping up them as fast as her four legs could carry her.

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