When we adopted Teddy, the backstory we got about him was a little sketchy. Teddy had apparently belonged to a woman — one volunteer said she was elderly, one said she was younger — who mostly kept him outside. Or maybe she didn’t let him out enough. And was he brought in because the lady couldn’t care for him anymore, or because she was moving? No one could quite remember. All we knew about him for sure was what we could observe. He was black, fuzzy, and really excited to meet us.
Over the next few months, he began surprising us with little glimpses of his “true self,” things that we would only have otherwise known if we had been able to ask him. Turned out he was already housebroken. He was allergic to some grains, but not others. We were surprised that he knew to go get a ball but didn’t know how to bring it back. But the best surprise Teddy showed us in those first few months came the second time I took him hiking, and has now become a regular part of our lives together.
The first few times we had taken Teddy to Eno River State Park, we’d been on trails that don’t prominently feature water. When I brought him back to the park by myself, I decided to give him a little variety. We went on a different trail. This one ended at a nice natural pool, or “swimming hole.” The closer we got to the water, the more interested Teddy seemed to be.
Finally, standing on the bank of the Eno, I reached down and picked up a decent-sized stick. Teddy was watching me, but as far as I knew he had never fetched a stick and wouldn’t know what to do if I threw it. I checked to make sure there weren’t any other hikers or dogs in the immediate vicinity, then unhooked Teddy’s leash and hurled the stick into the river. Without hesitation, Teddy leaped in after the stick and swam towards it.
“Water dog!” I said, to no one in particular, as he retrieved the stick and swam back to shore with it. I laughed. I was so delighted that this mystery mutt was a swimmer. Not just a swimmer, but a swimmer who also fetched!
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. When trying to figure out what breed Teddy might be — Border Collie? Lab? Chow? — we noticed he had webbed toes. But we didn’t know if had ever been near the water, let alone gone swimming. And there he was, swimming from shore to stick and back again for what seemed like a half hour. Since that day, any time we’re near a body of water (in which swimming is allowed), Teddy goes wild. And because I now know how much he loves to swim, I always chuck a stick into the water to watch my “water dog” do his thing.
How has your dog surprised you? Has that surprise changed the way you interact?