Our new puppy, Holmes, is smart. It’s weird.
I’m not used to having a bright dog. I’m used to dogs that are a “challenge,” as they say. The first dog we had (Austin) didn’t know what his name for months and therefore didn’t come when called. If given a chance, he’d run away. Despite lots of training, he never got the hang of our invisible dog fence. When I took him to a dog trainer, she said, “Oh, he’s an a**hole. I can help with that.” He didn’t care about me or anyone else very much. He wanted to eat and chase the ball.
My beloved Henry was even more difficult, but he was so cuddly that I forgave all his sins. After Henry was at training boot camp for a two-week session, the trainer called me to say that she needed another week of training with him. When he went to her again for “fine-tuning,” I asked how he was doing. She said that he was “full of it.” She was also surprised how needy he was. Maybe if she would just let Henry curl up in her lap, she would not have judged him so harshly.
So, my expectations were way down there for our new dog. You know your name? Brilliant. You come when called? Genius!
The first day we were home, Holmes began playing fetch with me. I threw the ball for him down the hallway and he brought it back repeatedly. Yup. Very smart.
He also seemed to be housebroken instantaneously. His first night home, I caught him having an accident indoors. I whisked him outside and let him finish his business. Ever since then, there haven’t been any accidents. I’m used to housebreaking taking weeks, if not longer. I didn’t expect it to take less than one minute.
But Holmes’s intelligence hasn’t made our time with him dull. He loves water. Austin and Henry hate the water. I did not realize what could happen when a dog is on the lookout for places to swim. I now know it means *I* need to be on the lookout for places where a dog could swim.
Last weekend, I took him for a walk on the nearby golf course. I let him walk off-leash. He stayed a few feet away from me for an hour. He didn’t chase squirrels, wild turkeys or rabbits. Weird! But I loved it.
A few days later, I took him for another off-leash walk early in the morning, before any golfers were out. It was hot and humid. At the end of our walk, we walked along one of the polluted, shallow rivers that runs alongside one of the golf holes. Because it’s late in the summer, the water is murky and algae is growing on its surface. The river captures all of the run-off from the city’s nearby storm sewers and is environmentally unsafe. The state Department of Natural Resources often warns against immersion in this water.
Henry and Austin liked to explore the tall grass on the edge of this area (see above picture). I thought Holmes might like it too. Instead, Holmes saw the water and jumped in! He began swimming away from me, as I stood on the land. If he got to the other side, I might never see him again. Or he could drown. The banks on either side of the river are steep. There was likely no way he’d be able to get out by himself.
I had to save Holmes. I jumped in. I had no idea whether I’d sink in up to my neck, or be standing in ankle deep muck. Luckily, the water was only a few feet deep and my cell phone in my fanny pack stayed dry. I crawled out of the water with a muddy, green Holmes in my arm. My running shoes and shorts were sopping. I had grey, stringy things on my legs. Holmes’s nose was covered in green algae. But we were safe. Bedraggled, we walked home.
When we got home, my neighbor was outside watering her grass. She hosed both of us down well enough so we could go inside.
That river contains the most disgusting water one can find in town. But that also made it funny. Given the heat, it actually was refreshing to have been in the water. It reminded me of being a kid and swimming in a lake, worry free and not concerned about water quality or safety.
The adventures with Holmes have begun. He hasn’t learned to sleep in my lap yet. If he starts to do that, then I will do whatever he wants me to do. Given his IQ, that will probably happen any day now.