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Friday, June 8, 2012

A day of firsts

May 18

Another chance to expose FLD Scout to the kids in our adopted 2nd grade class. We're taking a field trip to the high school pool! No, Scout won't get a chance to swim, but it turns out it's a day of firsts for my little growing Future Leader Dog.


Scout, sit, I say at the bottom of the steep steps of the school bus. The students are all aboard. FLD Scout sits and looks up at the bus driver, who is leaning over from his seat in a welcoming stance. With no hesitation, she tiptoes up the three steps and stretches to greet the driver. Scout, leave it, I say and coax her down the aisle to an empty seat. She settles in a lump at my feet, her nose immediately busy in hard-to-reach corners.

FLD Scout, comfy on the school bus.

After a 15-minute bouncing bus ride, we arrive at the high school. Scout waves an interested nose into the aisle as the group from the back of the bus funnel past, but she stays seated until it's our turn to go. She strains to greet the driver again, and it takes a finger poke to reel her in. She sits, then takes the steps down one at a time like a pro.

The kids from the back of the bus.


Just being in the natatorium offers unique challenges for FLD Scout--the wet and slippery tile floor, chlorine puddles, humidity, and the echo-y quality of the cavernous room. Her demeanor is calm, but curious. She seems as bored as the kids are during the pool-rules lecture; she spreads herself out on the cool tile like a wet towel.

The pool-rule lecture.

FLD Scout, being a towel.

The swim coach breaks the students into three groups. They'll have time to "free swim" after learning safety tips at stations around the pool. FLD Scout and I are just a few feet from the "Throw, Don't Go" station, next to some parents who've come to assist. Coach has a pile of stuff you might have at a beach picnic--coolers, water-jugs, noodles, kickboards. What floats, what doesn't, and why?

A boy picks out a lunch cooler and underhands it toward a high school girl who is staged in the water as a drowning victim. FLD Scout leaps up, a limp towel no longer. She strains a little against the leash, stretching toward the pool.

"Does she want to rescue her?" one parent asks. I laugh, but insist that Scout not pull. Scout, sit. She sits, intent on the swimmer floating with her chin on the cooler.

Now a girl chooses a neon green noodle. She swings it and as the noodle launches, Scout charges forward with a booming bark. Good thing I'm ready, or we'd both be getting wet.

Hey Scout! I say with a high-pitched voice. Name recognition. What are you doing? Blah, blah, blah I go on, drawing her attention away from the action. One by one, each kid tosses one of the items to the now-shivering girl in the pool. Each time, Scout settles a bit more, until she calmly lies back down to watch.


At one station the kids learn about the proper fit and use of life jackets. One little boy, Jason, is eager to strap one on. When it comes time to enter the water, though, the most he will do is sit on the edge and dangle his feet. He gets braver as he moves from station to station. Soon he lowers himself at the ladder, but his feet stay planted on the steps.

"Come on, Jason," says Coach. "You can do it." Coach is encouraging, but Jason wants to do this on his own terms. I cringe when Coach reaches down to pry Jason's hands from the side of the pool. Jason cries out in alarm.

Scout, heel, I say. Jason is a special kid and he and Scout have really warmed up to each other. Maybe we can run interference.

"Scouty!" Jason cries as we approach. He wrenches free of Coach and grabs the ladder to reach her. Scout cautiously nears the edge of the pool and sniffs. I don't mind when Jason pets her. Show Scout how you can go in the water, I say. He lowers himself. Suddenly his feet float off the steps and he's buoyed in the water up to his neck. His hands still clutch the lip, and his toes quickly feel for the wall, but he's in!

FLD Scout and I run interference for Jason at pool's edge. Coach hangs his head in frustration.

Yay! Way to go Jason! I move FLD Scout a step or so further to our left. Jason slides himself along the edge to get closer. "Hi Scouty!" We do this several more times before Jason realizes he's 10 feet or so away from the ladder. He scurries back and climbs out, dripping water all over the deck when he comes to give Scout another pet. I don't interfere.


Not long after, Jason lowers himself at the ladder on the other side of the pool. A few of his classmates notice; someone yells, "Go Jason, go! Go, Jason, go!" The others start clapping and take up the cheer. Soon the chant is ricocheting around the room.

I'd like to report that at the last minute, Jason lets go of the wall and floats freely, but that will have to happen another day.

For this day, the water-shy boy proudly says to his teacher (after Coach eventually gets Jason's hands in his and holds him away from the wall), "Did you see me, Mrs. Matthews? I did it!" He turns to us, "Scouty, I did it!"

Nice job,  Scout.



  1. What a busy day. I bet Scout was tired for a good hour after all that. Ha ha. It's nice he can be a "therapy dog" while he's a guide dog in training.

    1. Busy, yes! I have more "firsts" to come from the afternoon of that same day. Scout was tuckered out all evening! And yes, it was very special to see her work as a "therapy dog" for Jason. Amazing.

  2. Gotta love "puppy power"! I have gone to the pool a few times now and have not had a free arm to take Hero with me... Maybe we will just go next week for some fun! Congrats on Scout! She is doing great!

    1. Thanks, Brad! Yes, the pool would be a good experience for FLD Hero. Thanks for reading!

  3. Oh, that was beautiful! Well done, Scout! In a matter of seconds you empowered a boy - without hesitation or frustration of an adult you just believed and loved. That is absolutely beautiful!

    1. Thanks, Lydia! I was so proud of Scout. And I was very impressed with how Jason's classmates encouraged him with cheers, and not one of them jeered. I wonder if this is typical of all 2nd-graders, or just another example of how special Mrs. Matthews' class is? I will miss them now that school is out!