The Dog Days of Summer

Right now, the Sklar family is on vacation at our cottage up in Ivry, a quaint Canadian village about an hour north of Montreal. (Yes, Ivry, like our dog, she was named after the town and not vice versa.) Despite the hellish ten hour drive to get here, we’ve settled in rather nicely, and the weather has been perfect. Since we’re so far up north, the air already has a faint crispness of fall to it, so it’s cool enough to do outdoorsy activities like go for a hike or bike ride but still warm enough to jump into the lake afterwards to cool off.

A couple days ago, all three small children miraculously fell asleep during nap time, so I decided to celebrate by going for a three mile run. When I got back, everyone was still asleep, so I jumped in the lake to cool off. I ‘d had a great run, the kind where you come back feeling strong and invigorated rather than queasy and wiped out. In fact, I felt so good I was contemplating swimming across the lake and back, which is about a half mile. I had just pulled my goggles on to attempt this when I felt something large and furry scrape against my back.

I turned around to see Ivry, pawing at me anxiously.

“Oh no,” I sighed. Ivry gets nervous when I go into the water by myself and insists on following me. It shouldn’t be so bad in theory—she’s a lab, and labs love to swim, and I know she can keep up—but for some reason she insists on clawing at me with her paws and swimming around me in circles so I can’t get anywhere.

I tried, really I did, but every time I attempted a stroke she was right there in front of me, doing her dog paddle and whining.

Finally I gave up and swam back . And as I did, I remembered the first time I saw Ivry swim.

It was four summers ago, when I was about seven weeks pregnant with Johanna. We hadn’t told anyone yet. I was feeling queasy, and for some reason I thought doing my traditional swim across the lake and back would cause my morning sickness to go away.

Ivry was only seven months then, and terrified of the water. We’d thrown her in once or twice, and while she instinctively transitioned into a clumsy dog paddle, she’d immediately headed back to shore and cowered on the sand, trembling.

I started to swim across the lake, but about a quarter of the way there I felt a wave of nausea so intense I wasn’t sure I would make it. I treaded water for a minute, and it passed, so I started swimming again. The nausea hit me again. Then I heard shouting.

I stopped mid stroke and looked toward shore, where I saw Jamie and my in laws all standing on the dock, pointing and yelling. And then I looked again. There was Ivry, about 50 yards away from the dock, paddling towards me with a determined look on her face.

Somehow, she had figured out something different was going on with her mommy (maybe she smelled the pregnancy hormones?), and it concerned her enough that she’d gotten over her water phobia to come check on me.

I treaded water and watched her as her pale pink snout moved through the water.

When she got to me, she pawed me and nudged me ever so gently with her nose, as if to coax me back to land.

“All right then,” I said to her, feeling somewhat relieved that I had an excuse to go back.  If I continued swimming, she was clearly going to follow me, and I had no idea if she had the stamina to make it the entire way across. The idea of swimming back with a 50 pound labrador retriever puppy on my back was not at all appealing.

Ivry’s level of protectiveness towards me stayed all the way through my pregnancy. She constantly hovered around me and when I was home never left my side.

She wasn’t like that with my other two pregnancies, so I have to wonder: was it because Johanna was my first, and it was new, and she didn’t know what was going on?

Or did she sense that there was something different about this pregnancy, that it was more fragile and that both the baby and I needed some extra TLC?

I’ll never know, and I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. But still, as Ivry and I did the dog paddle back together to shore the other day, I was glad she was around to keep an eye on me.

Everyone should have an overweight, farting Labrador retriever/guardian angel in their life.