Duck-Induced Deafness

cali and ducksI’m a whole lot less interesting than three mallards. I’m trying not to take it personally.
I took the girls swimming the other day at the Russian River. We were having a nice time splashing around, and Cali was happily swimming after a ball. Jana was searching for rocks. Russian RIver April 2015She likes to find heart-shaped rocks, as I have described in an earlier post. She added this one (right) to our collection on this particular river excursion. In short, all was well.
Until those darn ducks swam by. There were about 10 ducks, enjoying a sunny day. Jana noticed them first. She’d swim in their general direction, and they’d fly up a few feet into the air, and she’d lose interest.

Then Cali got in on the game. She just followed them around, never getting too close. She was no threat. She was holding a tennis ball in her mouth the whole time, and she never got closer than about 10 feet. Three of the ducks decided to play a little game with her. They did not fly away. They stayed just far enough in front of her that they (apparently) felt safe but close enough that she stayed interested. And they swam around in big circles. They swam across the river, around a big island, back to our side. Upriver. Downriver. Big circles.

Cali paddled doggedly after them.

At first, it was funny. She never let go of her tennis ball. She’s a strong swimmer, but after a few minutes, I started worrying that she’d get tired. My friend and I waded farther into the river, determined to head them off if they headed downriver. They didn’t.

We called Cali and waved. But she was suffering a bout of duck-induced deafness and never heard a thing. Jana had long since given up on following the ducks and was nosing around for sticks on the beach. The other golden in our group had gone back to tennis balls. But not Cali. Back and forth, around and around. Finally, my friend couldn’t stand it any longer. She crossed the river and grabbed Cali, getting soaked in the process. Cali still had her tennis ball. She was not even winded.

Jana used to do the same thing. She once followed a leaping fish pretty far out into the Gulf at a Florida dog beach. But Jana has more sense than Cali. After a while, she looked back, saw how far she was, got a very worried look on her face — and turned and paddled for shore as quickly as she could. I don’t worry about Jana disappearing into the wild. She never wants to lose sight of me.

But Cali is more impulsive and less aware of her surroundings. Was Cali even a tiny bit aware that she had worried us? Nothing doing. Within minutes, she was bugging us to throw the ball some more.

Does this mean that Cali has a poor recall? Not necessarily; even the best-trained dog is likely to go temporarily deaf when confronted with a really interesting distraction. It does teach me to keep a closer eye (and shorter leash) on Cali when I see ducks on future water adventures, though. And it’s a good reminder that I need to practice recalls with Cali in more places with lots of interesting things going on. I may never be able to cure duck-induced deafness, but I can probably relieve some of the symptoms.

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