Sunday, June 10, 2007


City-living plus kids plus soccer coaching plus Sunday school plus all the rest has equalled little time to get Stella out for formal training. She gets walked a lot, which means she's okay on leash. She's pretty good with land retrieves, despite her catch as catch can training regime.

Today was a small breakthrough.

Took the wife, kids and dog to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chapter of the Izaak Walton League (I joined recently) to muck around and have a picnic near the trout pond. Lots of thick, tall grass growing around the pond. Stella dove right into the grass, charging through and tumbling out - splash - into the pond on the other side. She didn't get in over her head and, unfazed, climbed back out then charged back into the grass, rolling, bounding and happily goofing off.

Karin grabbed the retrieving dummy and tossed it into the grass near the water's edge. Stella retrieved without a problem. Karin threw the dummy into the water near-shore. Stella with a bit of hesitation picked it out of the water and brought it back without getting her tummy wet. The kids gave it a go, keeping the dummy in the shallow water, Stella continuing to bring it back. Karin and I looked at one another and I said, "I can always strip down and take a dip and get the dummy if Stella refuses." Karin throws the dummy 10 yards out into the pond. Stella runs to the pond edge, refuses to go further.

I grumpily tell Karin I was joking about going in to get the dummy.

Stella starts getting agitated, running back and forth across the shallows, taking a few steps into the water and coming back - Karin, the kids and I giving her encouragement throughout. Stella, staring down that dummy, works her way deeper and deeper again. Finally she's swimming for the first time in her life. It's clear she's not thinking about swimming, she's focused on getting that damn dummy. Out she goes, not graceful but with purpose nonetheless. She grabs the dummy first try, makes a turn in the water and comes back, comes out and brings the dummy to hand. Karin, the kids and I are jumping with joy, giving her attention and big wet hugs.

We all take turns throwing the dummy farther and farther out, with Stella gaining poise with every retrieve. Over the course of 10 minutes, her swimming improved noticeably. After each retrieve she would turn around and sit facing the water, waiting for the next throw.

Breeding told us Stella would love the water. Breeding told us Stella would retrieve from water. In theory.

Today Stella showed us some of her stuff, and I'm looking forward to seeing more