For most of her life, as we knew her, Sirus wouldn’t touch the water. A paw, maybe. But wetness was not her friend. We spent years coaxing her into lakes. Two summers ago she finally waded in, a ball as her incentive. But she’d never swim.

Last summer, camping in the Catskills, we took her for a walk around North-South Lake. A momma duck and her ducklings quacked close to shore. Temptation. She jumped right in — and started swimming. The ducks quaked and swam. Sirus barked and swam. Quack bark, quack bark, round and round.
We tried in vain for a duck-less repeat. At the ocean a few months later, she ran from tiny wavelets. For months, we’ve tossed her ball in the local park dog beach — but she just wouldn’t pick up her legs.

On July 4, something changed.

In Maine, with a pair of dogs born to the ocean, Sirus finally started paddling. Maybe it was because we took to inner tubes and left her alone (though only a few feet away) on shore. Maybe her alpha-dog-ness kicked in, with the others showing her up. Whatever the reason, she ventured out. Farther and farther each time. She swam out to our tubes. She swam for the ball. With each paddle she gained confidence. The next day she went out for more.

Last weekend, our four-legged land-lubber officially found her sea-legs.

Sirus swims

A not-young dog, learning new tricks

She spent hours fetching a green rubber ball. Jet ski wake didn’t faze her. She swam out to Michael as he paddled a canoe. She swam to me as I turned a kayak. When we stopped throwing her ball, she swam to the float marking the anchor for another family’s motorboat, and tried desperately to pull the white stick to shore.

She even inspired others.

Michael adopted Sirus when she was 18 months, after a puppy-hood in Arizona and Idaho — far from water, I assumed. I didn’t think we’d ever teach her to make the plunge. But now, at about 49 in dog years, she’s not only taught herself a new skill, she’s come to find that something she was kind of scared of, she actually really loves.

That’s a lesson for us all.