Zen & Tennis Balls
Excerpted from Tales of Al By Lynn Cox | Illustrations By John Battalgazi
A hot breeze swept across Lake Idroscalo, ruffling the aqua-blue water and making it sparkle like diamonds. It was a beautiful place to spend the day with people and dogs and have fun. Ferruccio and I walked twenty-five meters along the soft white sandy beach to an area where about a dozen intermediate dogs were training with their owners.
Ferruccio said they were working on conditioning. The dogs and their owners had to be strong and in good shape to be able to save people, they needed to have the endurance and strength to swim and pull a person into shore or to a boat, and they needed to be quick so they could swim through a current. The dogs and their owners were wearing swim vests to help them float and keep them safe. They were swimming with their heads up for about twenty-five meters to deep water, turning, and then swimming back to shore. There was something captivating and almost hypnotic about watching them swim in and out in oval patterns.
Swimming with dogs is different—far more intense than swimming solo or with friends. Dogs can’t stop paddling when they are in the water or they will sink. Body type makes as much difference with dogs as it does with people. Leaner dogs with proportionally longer legs like Vizslas and Weimaraners have to move their legs faster than other dogs to stay afloat, while golden retrievers and Labradors can swim slower. But in any case, dogs are fully absorbed by the action of swimming. They are alert, attentive, and fixated on a goal.