Ever since his first outing to Beetley Meadows, Ollie has liked nothing more than to be in the water. Starting in the small River Whitewater nearby, he has graduated to other local rivers and ponds, and also been in the sea on the north coast. It was there, at Holkham, that he was scared by having a wave wash over him, and since that incident, he only ventures into the shallows anytime he is near salt water.
When playing with other dogs in Beetley, I noticed that he never liked to get out of his depth. As small terriers and spaniels fearlessly embarked on long swims to retrieve sticks and balls, he would get as far as his chin, then stand waiting for them to return. I tried to encourage him. In better weather, I walked along into the deeper water, until he would have to swim to keep up with me. But once the water touched his face, he stayed where he was, and cried until I returned. As a non-swimmer myself, I decided not to force the issue, and left him to stay where he was confident and comfortable. We came to the conclusion that he would be a non-swimming dog, and that was OK. After all, some of the local dogs refuse to venture into the river at all.
After his recent attempt to chase game birds, something must have clicked in his canine brain. Returning from a wet and lonely walk at Hoe Rough yesterday, he spotted some ducks on the water, just under the Fakenham Road bridge. The water is deeper in this area, and he rarely goes any further than the bank-side for a drink. Wagging his curly tail, obviously seeing the group of ducks as potential playmates, he could not stop himself plunging straight into the water. The ducks were not about to hang around to see if he was indeed harmless, and they flapped low across the water, taking off in an easterly direction.
Ollie decided to follow them, wading into the deeper water near the opposite bank, jumping and splashing in a pointless pursuit. He suddenly realised that his paws were not touching the bottom, and looked alarmed for a moment, before beginning to paddle along. His first swim! I could see his legs clearly under the surface, and he was most definitely swimming. It was a brief experience, as he was soon back to the bank. I felt a sense of pride for my dog. like a parent watching their child’s first faltering steps. Unfortunately, as often happens, there was no-one else to witness it.