Written by Christine Blum
Bardot never met a puddle she didn’t like. She’s a Yellow Lab, the diminutive runt of her litter, which I was told meant she’d be submissive and shy. (I should have re-checked my sources.)
I brought her home at 7 weeks with the intention of not replacing, but hopefully starting to fill the void left by the passing of my best friend, another yellow Lab named Garbo.
I enjoy year round sun living in Southern California, and have the requisite backyard pool. Bardot was so tiny that she fit comfortably in my hand. From the day I brought her home, I held her in the water, just to get her used to the feeling. This was also a precaution, since I’d seen her do those crazy vertical puppy leaps that come out of nowhere and defy gravity. If she accidently fell in, I didn’t want her to panic before I had a chance to scoop her out.
In a matter of weeks she was swimming around like a guppy. When the spirit moved her, she’d get up, head to the edge and jump in to cool off. Bardot was not a delicate swan swimming neck extended to avoid getting her hair wet, she reveled head to toe in the water.
This all seemed fitting since she was named for the French bikini model and actress, Brigitte Bardot.
I’d read and seen YouTube videos of dock jumping, so when she was 6 months old, I took her to a class. While other beginner dogs were edging with trepidation down a ramp to the water’s lip, Bardot looked out at the cool blue pool and took a running leap over their heads. “This one’s got potential,” I heard the instructor say.
Around that time, Bardot and I also started playing with sinkable toys in the pool. I would put them on the steps and she would dunk her head the inch or two into the water to retrieve them. Within a week, we’d upped the ante and I was dropping the toys into the 4ft. shallow end and she was diving down and bringing them up. I would not call her graceful at this point, legs and other private parts were splayed all akimbo in the air as she taught herself how to propel underwater.
I could tell she was proud of her newfound talent. And I was beside myself. I ran out and got an underwater housing for my camera, and made the kind folks at my pet store fill a bucket with water so I could test and find toys that truly sank.
One such toy was a rubber ball made of multi-colored ropes of plastic. I tossed it in one Saturday, and she stood at the edge ready to leap as it started rolling into the deep end. Pretty soon in was at the lowest point of the pool, in 8ft. of water. She looked at me forlorn, and I said, “Hold on, Bardot, I’ll get the net”. I was headed to the pool shed when I heard the splash. I turned around and she was gone. Seconds later she broke back through the surface, ball in her mouth, releasing a big breadth of air. About that time I let out my own gasp followed by massive hyperventilation.
Bardot dropped the ball at my feet, and cocked her head at me, wondering why on earth I was breathing like that.
Well, like a proud parent witnessing baby’s first steps, I took photos day and night and paraded family and friends to the pool’s arena. Though they had all heard my bragging, each was still amazed and let out the now obligatory gasp as Bardot plunged into the depths.
You can catch Bardot in action in my video entitled, “Out For A Sunday Dive”, http://youtu.be/RcPZdYNhayg
I was careful not to let her deep dive more than a few minutes at a time, and asked my incredulous Vet, (until she saw the video), what precautions I should take to protect Bardot’s ears and body from the effects of this. She thought it was a good idea to limit the amount of time she deep dives, (easier said than done), and told me to carefully dry her ears after each swim. It also goes without saying, that I am always right there when she’s in the water.
Next came the notoriety. A photographer named Seth Casteel, of Littlefriendsphoto.com had heard about Bardot from another diving dog and her owner, Nevada and Shari Robinson. Soon he was shooting both dogs diving underwater and posting photos on his Facebook page. Literally from one day to the next, Seth’s images got discovered and we all went viral around the world. Do an internet search and you will see what I mean.
Secondly, the folks from Natural Balance Pet Foods created a show on Animal Planet called “Who Let The Dogs Out”. They heard about Bardot and came to our pool to film an episode of her diving. (It airs in the U.S. on March 24th) Once again we upped the ante, and I spent several weeks before teaching Bardot to dive for a specific toy from several that I had thrown to the bottom. She aced it!
Which brings us pretty much to today. Bardot just turned 4, and we are just scratching the surface of what she can do. She loves being in the water with people as well as diving, and each time we go in, I work on a new skill. It is not my goal to have her appear on late night talk shows or do TV commercials. My last dog Garbo and I were a pet therapy team visiting Alzheimer’s patients. It gave such joy to both of us that I know I want to carry on the tradition in some way. But Bardot is an athlete and very active.
I know the pure joy that comes from sharing the water with Bardot, and I see the happiness deep within her from doing the same with me. Her thirst for learning and pleasing is as endless as her energy. We would love to bring this to others.
Dogs have been proven to provide special therapy to patients on land, now it is time to take that to the water.
Bardot and Christine will be on the Pet Radio Show June 7th.
Copyright © 2012 by Christine E. Blum