Sometimes it feels like Shiva and I are living on borrowed time. As she is my first dog I don’t know if the kind of danger we encounter on a monthly basis is normal for life with a canine or if near-death experiences just seem to tread in Shiva’s shadow. Maybe we’re just that lucky.
Now that the temperatures have dropped from bearably chilly to unseasonably frigid, it seems dogs have a new enemy to fear and humans have one more thing to keep on our radar. In Nova Scotia alone I’ve heard of two stories related to dogs falling through ice-covered lakes. One had a happy ending. I wish I could say the same for the other.
Typically Shiva is not a fan of icy surfaces unless I have proven to her they are safe. Her distrust of deep water keeps her on the shore even in the winter. It usually takes a lot of encouragement to get her to take a step into the unknown. You see, she can’t be sure the lake monster is hibernating. Sometimes he likes to pretend, lying in wait for unsuspecting puppies who trot along the ice.
You’ll notice I said typically. Shiva also likes to keep me guessing. Right when I think it’s okay to relax, she does something completely unpredictable and out of character. Often this just leaves me laughing. Unfortunately, it can also get us both into trouble.
Yesterday morning was bright and clear so I decided to head into the forest. I had the day off so wasn’t worried about getting home at a certain time. It was just the two of us, human and dog, enjoying nature. After a few games of hide and seek, we walked down towards the lake.
Well, I walked. Shiva torpedoed.
Because it was slippery on the trail, I took my time getting to the bottom of the hill. There was no one else around and I wasn’t worried she’d go too far. Shiva never likes to go where she can’t see me for very long. Her abandonment issues come in handy. So as I made my way to the shore she ran back and forth, up and down, on either side of the trail. Very typical actions for her. However, once I got close enough to where she could see me from the lake, she did something new.
Racing up behind me she then tore ahead, beyond the trees, up on the rocks and right onto the semi-frozen water.
I don’t know how many agility videos you have seen of my wackadoodle but Shiva runs fast. Too fast. Much faster than the synapses of my brain. It didn’t even register with me that Shiva was zooming over the barely-ice-covered lake before she was already a quarter of the way across. When I finally did acknowledge it, I could hear the ice cracking under her feet as she moved. A sound that clearly meant nothing to her as she kept moving forward regardless.
I was so startled by her unusual lake bravado that all I could do was call her name in a surprised tone. This had her turning around to face me, ears pricked. Only then did she realize how there was now nothing but cold water where there used to be solid ice. This discovery showed in her expression and if I had been closer I am sure I would have seen panic in her eyes.
Not that this stopped her movement. Shiva then chose to leap around the water in order to get back to me on the shore. Jumping on thin ice is not recommended, unfortunately, and she went right through. Luckily, before I had to take any action to rescue her, Shiva’s survival instincts finally activated – she apparently does have a tiny sense of self-preservation – and she started to half-swim, half-flail her way out of the water. She made it over to a rock and then jumped the rest of the way to dry land.
This all happened in a very short period, less than a minute, but it felt like at least ten. We came very close to a nightmare scenario and I won’t forget it any time soon.
Shiva herself was pretty shaken up after it was all over. Her eyes were pretty wide and she had to do a lot of running before she could calm down. I hope this will make her more cautious around the lake in the future but I can never be sure with her. Water is probably her largest remaining fear and yet even that didn’t stop her from rushing out this time. She isn’t the type of dog to let one mishap deter her from trying again either.
It doesn’t matter how many times she falls on her ass after taking the teeter the wrong way. She’ll do it again if given half a chance.
Life with a Shiva can be precarious at times. I have to balance between protecting her and giving her a full, active life. She doesn’t make it easy. But I know I can’t let my fears for her safety keep us indoors all the time either. It’s not fair to either of us.
Besides, don’t most accidents happen inside the home? I have no doubt she could get into trouble just about anywhere. Including in a padded room.