Parker is one of those Newfs who KNOWS! When you are close to a body of water.  He loves swimming, and his enthusiasm is contagious.  Since we live in between about four major lakes, we take them out occasionally for fun.  One of the lakes has clear water and a gravel beach, which is really nice for Newf swims.

Parker is approaching 9 years, and arthritic changes have begun taking their toll.  He was exuberant and fearless as a youngster, and during his daredevil years, he was difficult to protect from himself.  As fearless as he was about the outcome, consequences are unavoidable.  Still, his youthful nature continues.

Greg and I decided to take the dogs for a swim this weekend.  Most weekends for the next two months are tied up, so it may have been their last opportunity until spring.  Since he may have only another year or two of swimming left, we couldn’t let the weekend pass.  As we approached the long bridge, I said “Remember when we were about a block or two from the ocean, and Parker began whining, crying and pacing before he could even see the water?  He’s grown up a lot since then, hmm?”  This was tongue-in-cheek; Parker has never been in a hurry to grow up, and we like him that way.  He has settled in some ways, and he hasn’t been quite so wild about seeing water in the ways that we encountered when he was younger.  Like when we tried to take a Christmas photo in the bottomland with the river behind us.  Or when he spotted the river about 50-100’ below the bluff on a walk down an old road.  Those were heart-racing moments, with a bad outcome narrowly averted.  As soon as the lake was in sight, just as we reached the bridge, the high-pitched tones of excitement began, with pacing and then full-fledged barking.  Whenever I worry about him growing older, he usually finds a way to remind me not to rush the process.  <g>

Both dogs swam with strength and enthusiasm.  The bumpers weren’t in the van, so we had to use sticks as retrieve objects.  Conveniently, there were three nice sticks already in the river near the bank.  (There had been a major storm last week.)  Jade retrieved her own stick instead of competing for the same one that Parker had.  Time was limited that day, but they got to spend about 40 minutes swimming, with very little time waiting for the next throw.  All in all, it was a wonderful day for my bud and my little angel whose halo still slips now and then.

What is especially nice about swimming is the extended benefits.  I walk the dogs daily to keep them in moderate condition.  Walking strengthens their backs and supports their joints, especially with the hills in our area.  Swimming, however, does something more.  No matter how many Newfs I have had, or how much it makes sense on an intuitive or rational basis, and no matter that it is such a successful therapy that veterinarians invest thousands in the equipment for treatment, it still surprises me.  For the next several days after swimming, there are visible benefits.  Parker’s movement is much more fluent again.  I think there is more to it than can be explained by the non-impact exercise.  The joy, the thrill, the successes, and the feeling of buoyancy – all of the positive experience adds more to their overall health than the mechanical and cardiovascular benefits of exercise.

Doing something that makes them feel this good is almost like having Christmas a little more often.

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