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Friday, July 23, 2004

Sea-Worthy Sheepdog 

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through channels when I spotted the tail end of Son of Lassie on TCM. The last time I had watched it was when my mother was plunking us in front of the television after grade school everyday so she could nap. (What had she been doing while we were out?)

As a kid, I watched everything Lassie. My grandfather was a professional collie and sheltie breeder through the '50s. (He decided, as a small business owner, to move into poodles during the '60s.) When I was sent off to spend summers with him (I was a "difficult child", after all), I worked with him in the kennels, the infirmary, and his training classes. Even as a child, I thought about the training behind the scenes in Lassie movies and tv shows. Watching Son of Lassie, I'd been especially intrigued by the scenes of Joe and Laddie escaping enemy-held territory in a rowboat.

Yesterday, Sophie and I re-created our own twisted version of the tableau which has been frozen for decades in my head. Imagine the stolen rowboat morphed into a rented recreational kayak, Laddie shrunk down to a 15" shoulder height, and Joe and Laddie both in drag.

I wasn't sure how Sophie would take to water or a kayak, but she's remarkably trusting of her ungainly bipedal companion. During the first part of our 4-mile trip down Sugar Creek near Turkey Run, she hugged up against me. But by the end of the trip, she was out on the very tip of the bow, standing like an intrepid, um, hood ornament.

At one point, she looked back at me and barked. Dimwitted human that I am, I asked, "What? What do you want?" She barked again, with a slight Are-You-Listening?! tone added in. I suddenly recognized it as the same bark she uses when she needs to go out. I nosed up on the bank and waited. She jumped off, took her required break, grabbed a stick that caught her eye, and hopped back aboard looking just a bit pleased with herself.


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