Leo, standing in the water, looked up at me. I’m trained, and threw the tennis ball across the swimming hole toward the big, flat rock–not that far (I don’t have a mighty arm). He swam easily but had difficulty getting his mouth around the ball. Three times as he tried to chomp down, the ball sprung away. He succeeded on the fourth try and started swimming back. He was slow and low in the water. Suddenly and simultaneously in slow motion (the way I remember other horrifying events) he slipped under the Esopus.
Mark was a few feet away and scooped him up. Leo’s eyes were rolled back and his tongue was protruding from the left side of his mouth. Our 14 1/2-year-old Lab was floppy and I thought he’d had a heart attack or stroke. Mark held him up and flipped him upside down (Leo weighs 85 pounds but love fuels superhuman strength in a crisis) to drain out water and then put him down on the bank. We did CPRish. Time continued to stretch but I suppose it was maybe a minute or two until he was fine. I wasn’t, and started to wail.
We assumed that Leo had been extra tired from the weekend. Our favorite kids, Jonah and Violet, the most dogged ball throwers, had visited, and Leo and Ryder took full advantage of people willing to endlessly toss tennis balls over land and water. But we also knew that his back legs have been losing strength and unwilling to risk a repeat, bought him an XL red life preserver from Kenco. The vests were up a double-height flight of stairs which, with coaxing (verbal and crunchy), was doable for Ryder but Leo needed assistance. On the way down, we held onto the preserver’s handle to prevent Leo from stumbling and gently slid him down the stairs.
Leo, with no memory (or negative memory) of his underwater adventure, was eager to swim and retrieve. And took to his personal flotation device like a Lab to water, and didn’t ask if we thought it made him look fat.
*Thanks (and apologies) to the great Jean Renoir from whom I cribbed my title.