It’s no secret that Tui loves the water (as long as she’s getting into it voluntarily – she acts as though she’s being tortured on the rare occasion that we try to bathe her). Back when she was a puppy, her main water-based activity was flopping in muddy puddles:
That water wasn’t radioactive, by the way – the green shade is a reflection of a nearby tree in the water.
When she was two, we bought her a paddling pool in which to frolic:
And she loved fetching sticks out of a murky pond, even in the coldest weather:
Actually, we’d often encourage her to plunge in, even during cold weather, to remove the stench of fox poo – possibly the most toxic substance known to man (or dog), and something that she insisted in rolling in whenever she encountered it.
Once we moved to New Zealand, she became a keen sea swimmer and renowned marine tennis ball rescuer:
She still found time to chill out in the shallows, though:
During her aquatic career I’d often wondered what would happen if we went swimming with her. My guess was that it would blow her tiny mind, and it appears that I might be right. The weather has been nice and warm recently, prompting me to plunge into the briny depths during our morning walks. And Tui can’t handle it.
The first time – just before Christmas – she hovered on the shore, watching me anxiously. She also went and sat by my towel, making it clear that she was willing to step up and take responsibility for my belongings in my absence. She bound up to me with great delight when I returned to terra firma and we went home in good spirits.
The next couple of times, I tied her up and left her next to my stuff. She lay in the classic Sphinx position and didn’t take her eyes off me (I only swam in her line of vision, to make this easier).
The fourth time, though, Tristan came too. Being a ‘no rules’ kind of guy, he said that we shouldn’t tie Tui up. So she started off on the beach, watching us, and when we were floating in the water she swam out to see us. She reached us, seemingly to check that we were OK, and then swam back to shore. After no longer than thirty seconds she saw that we were still floating and returned to the surf, swimming out to see us again. She wasn’t interested in any kind of interaction with us; she just wanted to check in. This went on until we gave up and got out of the water.
Since then I’ve had several more swims and the pattern of behaviour has become clear: Tui can leave me to my own devices if I’m standing in the water, but as soon as I float she decides that I might be drowning. This flicks on her ‘marine tennis ball rescue’ switch and she has to come out and see me. The thing is, she never seems to accept that I’m OK, which means that every swim is cut short because I get worried that she’ll exhaust herself and sink like a stone.
It’s actually very cute to see her furry little body paddling out to see me, although I’ve learned not to let her actually reach me – her claws have already scratched me so many times that I look like I’ve been wrestling a tiger. She swims out to me, I say hello, she circles across the face the beach, and I give her a gentle push to send her on her way. The sight of her body-surfing a wave is absolutely brilliant.
Today I was floating in the morning sunshine and reflecting on the fact that, owing to the high saline content, I didn’t even have to move my hands and feet to stay perfectly bouyant, making it seem like I was in the world’s largest flotation tank, when I realised that Tui had nearly reached me. I turned, patted her, and sent her on her way… but when I reclined to float once again I realised that she’s double-bluffed me and was just about to land on top of me. I nearly sank like a stone myself to avoid her sharp finger and toe nails.
Anyway, it’s good to know that Tui’s got my back when I’m splashing in the surf. Next week I’ll be at the beach with my sister, her partner and her two kids, which will give poor Tui even more people to keep an eye on.