Water Dog at Poulaphouca

When I was young in the 1950’s we lived in Dublin but every
summer we decamped for two months to a caravan near Blessington, in a
field beside Poulaphouca Lake. There I had the freedom to roam with my
dog Pickles. He was a very special dog. His mother was a pure bred Scotty
and his father was, well who knows! His arrival was a family scandal. My
two maiden aunts owned a pedigree Scottish Terrier called Judy. Every
year the “girls” as they were called (even into their eighties) spent two
weeks in Menton or Biarritz. Judy of course had to stay in kennels in Dublin.
One year the girls realized, to their dismay, a few weeks after returning
home that Judy was in an interesting condition. The aunts found homes for
all the puppies from the resulting litter except for the runt. The runt was
mine if I wanted him. I certainly did want him and called him Pickles as he
was in a pickle and looked like a mixture of many breeds.
While staying in the caravan in Poulaphouca he and I often went
across to the island with the ruined castle on it and played around on the
sandy beach. I threw stones into the lake for Pickles to fetch. He swam into
the water and then dived down at the exact spot where my stone had
broken the surface. He sometimes took several minutes to find the stone. I
would worry and panic and wonder what I could tell my parents if I returned
to the caravan dog-less. Then just as I despaired of ever seeing Pickles
alive again, up would pop his shiny black head, looking for all the world like
a sleek seal, and he would doggy paddle frantically back to the shore and
drop the stone at my feet. He never brought me a different stone. It was
always the exact one I had thrown for him.
Some days my father would decide he needed me to row the boat
into the middle of the lake while he fished for trout. Pickles always came
with us. While we were concentrating on the job in hand, Pickles sat calmly
in the bottom of the boat that smelt of dead fish and bits of water weed. It
was a very heavy old wooden boat and hard to row. On one such occasion,
just as I was beginning to relax and get into the rhythm of rowing, Pickles
suddenly spotted a seagull soaring overhead. He leapt up to try and catch
the bird but of course the seagull just flew away and Pickles flew after it
landing with a splash in the lake. There he paddled desperately trying to
keep his head above water. Although he was adept at fetching stones from
the bottom of the lake in the shallows near the shore, he was not a
marathon swimmer so he had to be rescued pronto. This was no easy task
as we ran the risk of capsizing the boat if we both leaned over the side to
pull him in. So my father, always a quick thinker in a crisis, grabbed the
landing net and used it to fish out a dipping, shivering and cross Scotty
cross. We had nothing to dry him with so had to return to base with our
sodden bundle. After this traumatic experience Pickles, was never quite so
enthusiastic about taking to the water in Poulaphouca Lake again. He must
have decided that his doggy-paddling days were over.