April 06, 2022

I was lying in bed this morning when I received a text from Melissa asking me to come watch the dog.  Melissa was on a zoom call for work and Zena was frolicking on the deck around the pool.  Even though we have a tarp covering the pool, the recent rains have sagged the tarp about two and a half feet (3/4 meter) and there is about six inches (15cm) of water standing in various places on top of the tarp.  I have seen Zena frolic around the pool every time I have taken her out on the deck.  She bounces around like any puppy and gets too close to the edge.  I have also seen her fall into the pool, but the cover and the step where she has fallen have given her enough traction to allow her to climb out before I could get to her to help.  I went outside to appease Melissa’s fear of, “just in case.” 

When I looked online, I found around 3,500 to 4,000 people drown every year, or an average of 10 fatal drownings per day.  Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1-4 and is among the top 5 causes of unintentional injury-related death from birth to 5 years old.  Twenty-three percent of child drownings happen during a family gathering near a pool.  It is estimated another 5 to 10 people receive hospital-related care for nonfatal drowning injuries for every fatal drowning victim.  Eighty-seven percent of drowning fatalities happen in home pools or hot tubs for children younger than 5 years, and most take place in pools owned by family or friends.  Children and puppies can easily panic when they fall in a pool.

I knew one of the reasons Melissa was worried was because of what happened to Bella, her last puppy.  Bella liked to bounce around the pool getting way to close to the edge as well.  One day as she sped around the corner, she cut it too close and fell in.  The pool did not have a cover and she went directly into the water.  Melissa was watching her and jumped into the pool to pull Bella out.  From that time on, Bella was terrified of the pool.  She would still run around the deck but kept her distance from the edge of the pool.  By the time I arrived Bella was no longer a puppy.  She still liked to careen around the pool but would stay a good distance from the edge.  At times I even saw her approach the side of the pool, and then bark at the water.  I do not know if that was supposed to scare the water, but it seemed to make Bella feel better.

THOUGHTS:  Melissa’s uneasiness about Zena was warranted.  When I had been with her previously, she had fallen into the shallow end of the pool, and the steps gave her traction to climb out.  I was not outside more than five minutes before Zena fell into the opposite end of the pool.  She was able to get her front feet and body above the side, but her back feet could not find the traction to hoist herself out.  Since I was watching, I was able to pull her out.  While lakes and ponds can be as deadly for children, adults tend to pay more attention in these situations.  At home we feel safe and let our guard down.  Puppies and children are curious, and test, taste, and get into everything.  The ultimate cause of most (tragic) accidents is not watching.  Being aware of others and looking for their welfare is good advice for adults as well.  Whether we admit it or not, we are a Tribe.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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