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Lincoln goes boating

By Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

It’s a dog-person thing. Every time I visit a captivating place, I think about my dog. Then I find a way to include him. Regatta Point Community Sailing, of Lake Ave, Worcester, is no exception. If you’ve never been to the camp, here’s a debrief. Think laughter, freedom, boating, ice cream, and swimming. Got it? Then think war, politics, violence, and road rage. And think the opposite.

I’m an artist. I live on the edge of the next vision. Trends suffocate me, as do too many rules. I thrive in happy circles. I’d rather dance in the rain than complain about the clouds. “Be yourself! Everyone else is taken!” I holler out to my Zumba members, never knowing how such words (though well-intentioned) would prove to haunt. Dogs are attuned to our energy. They become anxious when we worry, sad when we cry, and calm when we’re chill. They are happy when we’re happy. As Lincoln’s mother (and Dog Whisperer) I’m afraid I’m to blame for an inflated sense of empowerment. Read on.    

The Arrival.

We arrived at the parking lot with the chaos of a dog who understands. The lake!!! There it is! Kids and water and boats and kids on boats! Lincoln mimed Dr. Seuss.

His first impression of the Regatta Point Community Sailing grounds was as colorful as one might expect. His gaze swept over the beach, the boats, the campers and the lake (did I mention the lake?) in two overstimulated seconds. Executive Director Casey Duva, a dog person, greeted him with patience, along with a few standard rules. Lincoln would need a life jacket. I would need to sign a waiver form. Both tasks seemed reasonable, easy enough. And yet.

A clever Golden, Lincoln feigned immediate interest in the large box of lifejackets located at the far end of the boating room, beside the main office. Casey rummaged through the box while Lincoln watched (and plotted). Then, unexpectedly, he took a 180 degree turn and a made a mad dash out to the docks!

The Escape.

We jogged outside after him. A curious crowd of spectators watched the unleashed Golden pace the dock’s edge like a toddler on a sugar high. Then. KAPLOSH.  He indulged completely; swimming madly and selfishly before making a split (bizarre) decision to clutch the rope of an anchored buoy in his mouth. His hold caused a peculiar irony. Lincoln was buoyed to the rope which was also anchored to the ground.  Consequently, mouth-anchored, he was forced to paddle in one place like a caged guinea pig. 

Doing the math.

Lincoln had created a scene. A conscientious camper stepped up. “Don’t worry! I’ll go in after him.” Another camper fretted. “You think he’ll let go?”

I shook my head, knowing what the honorable Regatta team did not know—the fittest of fitness fanatics would fail to break the dog’s hold on the buoy. Executive Director Casey Duva, a math mind, came forth with a solution, a neon tennis ball. Lincoln caught wind of the ball and hesitated. Buoy? Ball?

He let go.

The Sail.

Jacket on, dog in boat, two campers, and one sweaty journalist made for an interesting sail out to sea. John and Brett, two of Regatta’s finest tour guides, were polite and conscientious. They pointed out Hobo’s Island (said to contain the lurid, dead bones of animals) asked of my hobbies and paddled smoothly beneath the arc of Route 9’s grand, blue bridge. I listened with intrigue and wet shorts. I desperately wanted to learn more about Lake Quinsigamond, but holding Lincoln down proved a more herculean feat. The water was close enough for him to lick, the temptation to swim far too great. I tugged at his thick, waterlogged leash. I scolded. I overexerted my back.

Dog overboard.

Lincoln jumped ship. “Don’t worry guys. He has his lifejacket on,” I said, my calm tone of voice betraying the screams in my head. Lincoln swam triumphantly at the boat’s wake. It didn’t take him long to realize, however, that no one else joined him. Our clan was seated safely in the moving boat. He was not. The epiphany struck him suddenly, and he paddled toward the boat like an Olympian seal. He barked, alerted us, “Wait! Don’t leave me here!”

A small part of me wanted to teach Lincoln a lesson. His plight was self-inflicted, a natural consequence for lacking self-control, for breaking the rules. “Head back to shore. He’ll need to follow us back,” I said.

A larger part of me melted at the sight of his desperate, soaked head, and wanting brown eyes. Lincoln felt sorry for himself, abandoned at sea.

Dog back on board.

Brett and John, vigilant drivers, placed the boat in neutral. Lincoln scrambled to my outstretched arms at the rear. Brett and I grabbed hold of the thick lifejacket loops and hauled the whale back in. Lincoln, dry, weighs 97 pounds. Soaking wet, he’s an estimated one-thirty. We approached the shoreline. Spent, I let go of the leash to give my empowered dog the option to swim back to shore, one now easily visible, the obvious choice home.

He could have paddled to the shallow end of the lake and walked offshore. Simple. Instead: a kind man stood at the edge of one of the docks, where the water was deep below. Lincoln paddled frantically to the man’s side, as though in need of yet another rescue. His flapped his paws over the dock’s edge like a wounded seal, an unsubtle suggestion to take pity on him. The kind man acquiesced.  

I shook my head to the scene one more time, and ate my words. Lincoln was just being Lincoln.

Everyone else is taken.   

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