Watson is one lucky dog. He is the much loved Laboxerweiler of the Nichols family of Miami Shores, Florida, and he was on vacation recently on a remote island in Stony Lake, Ontario, Canada, when I met him. He was such an amusing and dominating force in his family's life, and such an enthusiastic participant in every vacation activity, that I wanted to share his story with you.
I was lucky enough to be invited to visit, with fellow photographer/friend and Norwalk resident Kathy Sweet, her family's wonderful old summer camp, built in the early 1920s, which she shares with her brother and his family, sister and uncle. Like many of the dozens of camps scattered on islands in this lake, it has been handed down through the generations of Kathy's family. It is perched up very high on a promontory with a wonderful view of the lake, approached only from water level by climbing a very rough and steep path carved into the rock face of the cliff.
Winston, being a Florida dog, had a lot to learn when he first came to the island as a puppy with the family last summer, including how to jump on and off a boat and how to swim in the deep water off the dock. By this summer, though, he was master of that and much more, as my pictures accompanying the article will show.
It must be the Lab part of him that loves the water so much. He owns any boat he is in, and he hates to be left behind on any boat ride. If he suspects a boat ride is in the future, he'll be the first in the boat, and on more than one occasion, he leapt last into the boat as an uninvited rider, only to be commanded very sternly back onto the dock. He loves to be the figurehead of any boat when it is moving fast, his ears tucked back. If the wind bothers his eyes or gets him drooling a bit, as large dogs will, he quickly jumps down from the bow to wipe his eyes or mouth on any nearby legs or clothing, and then it's right back to the bow. Human hankies are always handy for Watson, and he uses them often.
When the boat is docked, he parks himself on the stern so that he can rule the waterfront. He defends the waterfront vigorously. His favorite activity, however, is the family swim. Swimming off this dock means, by definition, swimming with Watson, and everyone quickly learns to avoid him because he dive bombs all swimmers, as you can see in the photo when he is jumping in the lake. And he then tries to swim right up and onto them, his claws potentially scratching anyone he gets close to. Needless to say, swimming with Watson is a sport in itself where defensive moves and deft dodges are essential to preventing real injuries.
When he's not in the water, Watson has become the master of the vacation nap and snooze. As you can see in other pictures, he has mastered the chaise lounge, sprawling over it with limbs hanging off in all directions, a two-seater couch with wide arms for his head, and most amazing, the swinging hammock. Although he had help climbing into the hammock to pose for this picture, whenever any family member is enjoying the hammock, Watson hops in all by himself to snuggle in for a snooze.
When he wants to join someone in a chair or lounge, he will simple climb on top of them and sit down. Somewhere in his head, he must imagine that he's a little lapdog, because the size of the space available and the places he wedges himself into rarely match. He's trained his family, however, not to complain when he parks himself on top of them, so everyone ends up happy. That's the great thing about a dog/family relationship -- the accommodations they make for each other seem to work for everyone.
Finally, besides playing with sticks and a giant, heavy tube he found somewhere, Watson amused himself on his summer vacation by ripping up any available plastic bags into tiny pieces, crashing through the woods chasing chipmunks, and trying new hair styles, as you can see in the last picture. His fourteen year old "sister" generously shared her beautiful long locks with him, but I don't think he particularly liked this look.
Such a good-natured dog, such a buoyant personality, such a joy to have on a family summer vacation -- and no one enjoyed it more than Watson! I hope he'll be happy back in Miami Shores where he doesn't know yet that his 18-year-old "brother" is going off to college -- but perhaps the three family cats will take up some of the slack and keep him busy.
Lee Paine of Riverside is a professional freelance writer and photographer. She teaches, lectures and judges in the photographic field. You can visit her website at www.leepainefinephotography.com.