Learning to Swim in Coeur d’Alene

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On day 38, we found where the sun had been hiding: Idaho. Fitting, that after five weeks of rain, the sun would finally come out when our trip was winding down and we were slowly making our way back to California. Also fitting: June is typically one of San Francisco’s coldest months, and while we were in parkas in Montana, the Bay Area was hit by a “heat wave” (for the area…hardly what I’d call hot still) of 85 degrees.

When we set out on our six-week, 12-state road trip, we had no real plans or expectations. We wanted to do a lot of hiking in national parks (didn’t happen…much); we wanted to pull over whenever the urge hit and take a dip in a watering hole (didn’t happen…until Idaho). For reasons I won’t go into, we wound up spending four unexpected days in Coeur d’Alene. It was lovely—Idaho’s answer to a Lake Tahoe. We started out our first day circumnavigating the lake, beginning at Beauty Bay with a short little hike to a lookout.

This little sprite was all smiles when the sun came out and she learned that we would—FINALLY—be spending all day, every day, in the Great Outdoors.

That is, until she found out what exactly that entailed.

Back story: Prior to this trip, Ella hadn’t spent a whole lot of time outside, mainly due to our hectic lives and the Bay Area weather. We live on the border of the Presidio, so on the odd, sunny day, we’d take her for walks in the park or on Ocean Beach, but she’s only been in water that wasn’t our bath tub exactly once. On the way to my in-laws’ house this spring, we pulled over near Vacaville at a rest stop, a rest stop where there happened to be a little pond. SVV was running Ella around in the grass when a bird startled her and she LEAPT into the pond, like a flying squirrel, in pursuit of the bird. The look on her face was sheer terror when she realized what she’d done (and how cold the water was), but that’s when we both decided we’d make a swimming dog out of our pint-sized sidekick.

So we bought her a lifejacket somewhere along the way and were finally able to tear off the tag in Idaho, the 11th of our 12 states. Let’s just say she liked the lifejacket about as much as she likes her harness (which is NOT. AT. ALL.). Still, it made for cute photos.

In our attempt to counteract the pallor creeping into our skin, SVV and I decided to pull over at the first public dock we spotted while driving around the lake and catch some rays. Ella did not want to go near the edge of the dock; she stayed hugging one of us the entire time we laid out.

Or sat on top of us. After all, the higher up, the less likely you are to get wet. Clearly. This dog ain’t dumb.

And even though the Ironman race was the day after we left, it was advised that you don’t swim in the lake without a wetsuit. Sure, it was the end of June and in the 80s, but the water was still so cold from all the flooding that took place throughout the spring and early summer (and the nearby glacier melt, I can only assume). Which meant, of course, that my idiot of a husband just had to jump in.

Ella watched with intrigue and was either contemplating joining him or silently judging his stupidity.

So SVV decided it was the ideal time to take her into the shallow water and get her paws wet.

He started with her snout and mullet, and while she wasn’t a fan, she still kept that goofy smile plastered on her face.

So he moved on to deeper water.

Uh, Dad, I’m not so sure about this bright idea.

He held her in chest-deep while she frantically doggie-paddled about. The water was so cold, he didn’t want to traumatize her, so after a few seconds, they came back out. She didn’t seem too put off by the whole ordeal, as she continued to wade knee deep in the shallow lake.

And while she didn’t go in again, for the rest of the afternoon, Ella put on a brave face, positioned herself at the edge of the dock this time and peered into the lake with awe. We’ve made a camping dog of her, we’ve made a traveling dog out of her—we’ll make a swimmer out of her yet!

The following days were spent lazily wandering the waterfront, braving the crowds at Lake Hayden and hiking up Tubbs Hill. It was a great way to start the last week of our road trip on a relaxing note—especially with all the chaos we would be returning to (you don’t even know the half of it—yet—just you wait…). And I was just happy that, for once, Mother Nature did not even attempt to muddy up our plans.

How about you: Does your dog (if you have one) swim? Are you surprised we’ve made our yappy “lap dog” into such a trouper? Who says small dogs aren’t tough?!

*****

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COMMENTS
  • July 21, 2011

    Our dog is an avid swimmer. She’s go to water therapy twice a week and its definitely a highlight for her. Who knew? I’ll be that water is cold…

  • July 21, 2011
    SVV

    Who’s the pasty white dude? Wait.

    • July 21, 2011
      Kristin

      The guy who needs to spend his 10 days in Tennessee working on his tan.

  • July 21, 2011

    I have heard that Couer d’Alene is absolutely gorgeous! Your pics confirm that. 🙂 I’m so glad you got a few days of sun and summer in your rain-besotted road trip!!

    xox

    • July 21, 2011
      Kristin

      THANK GOD, right?

  • July 21, 2011

    Cutest.post.EVER!!!!!!!!!!

  • July 21, 2011
    A Little Coffee

    Oh, you know that I have a little lap-dog named Sierra, right? And she’s a shihtzu, i.e. Not A Water Dog. Except, when we first got her, she IDOLIZED my parents’ golden retriever, Jasper, who loved to swim. She would follow him around everywhere much to his deep irritation, and one day on a walk she followed him directly into freezing cold water without thinking. The look on her face when the cold and wet feeling registered was hilarious. She came straight out of the water like a shot, but then watched Jasper playing in it and you could see the wheels turning in her head… “well, it doesn’t SEEM like it should be fun, but Jasper seems to like it, and he knows everything so maybe I should try it again….”

    After a few tentative steps back into the water again, she’s been a water dog ever since. So weird.

    • July 21, 2011
      Kristin

      I love that story! I also love when little dogs think they’re big dogs. Too cute! I hope you have a video of this.

  • July 21, 2011

    I LOVE Coeur d’Alene Lake! So glad the sun was shining for you! Last year on my “self-discovery trip” I spent the first night there and the next morning before I left I drove part way around the lake (in the rain). I would love to go back sometime and spend a few days (in the sun). Gorgeous!

  • July 21, 2011
    Briel K.

    VACAVILLE! I’m from Vacaville. 🙂 Practically my whole family lives in either Vacaville or Fairfield. I’ll actually be going home in a couple weekends. 🙂

    What a beautiful lake!

  • July 21, 2011
    Abby

    Our bulldog Sadie loves the water, but only the outer edges. She doesn’t like to actually SWIM in the water but she loves to play around by the shore. This weekend we took her up to Guerneville, to the Russian River, and she dived into the water by accident. The look on her face was priceless. Turns out she is afraid of water, she panicked the whole time. Luckily we were close to shore (and of course, she had her life jacket on). I want her to be comfortable in the water at some point, so I’ll introduce going out further and further until her paws don’t touch the bottom.

  • July 21, 2011

    Ella is a Very strong young lady and obviously considers new adventures as a challenge. Yet she’s also smart enough to look before she leaps. Besides she has to be an adventurous gypsy to keep up with you two.

    My Carson Loved to swim but always wanted to walk into the water not dive or leap and didn’t care for the crashing waves at the ocean.

    Coeur d’Alene is gorgeous. Sure glad you finally got good weather.

    I’ll bet you got a lot of good writing mileage out of this trip. But it’s never easy to come “home” to deal with all the pileup since you’ve been gone.

    • July 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Awww, sounds like Your Carson and My Ella would have made quite the pair!

      The pileup was even crazier than we could have anticipated, given that our eight weeks traveling was succeeded by two weeks back in SF before we head out on the road again for five months! So things are busy, busy here as we prepare to leave for the first leg of our Semester at Sea journey in just, *gulp*, nine days!

      • July 21, 2011

        And is Ella going along?

        • July 21, 2011
          Kristin

          NO =( We are heartbroken. But she’ll drive across country with us and then stay with my parents for four of those months, and I know she’ll be happy as a clam as she’ll have an actual yard and a lot of space to run around and–oh yeah–FIVE other Malteses to play with.

          • July 21, 2011

            Oh that lucky girl. No wonder you took her on a vacation.

  • July 21, 2011

    I have no idea if our furry kids will swim or not. One of them was abused as a pup and is scared of his own shadow, so I doubt he would. The other one is crazy, and I think she’d give it a go.

    Go Ella!

  • July 21, 2011

    Oh my gosh, soaked little Ella is too cute. Lola LOVES the water and swims every chance she gets. River currents are no problem, and we have to pay attention and make her come out at regular intervals because she’ll be trembling with cold yet want to keep playing in snow melt. The one thing she doesn’t do is the ocean if there are waves because those scare her – she’ll just stand up the beach and bark at the surf.

  • July 21, 2011

    The pictures of your dog are so incredibly CUTE! We were really considering traveling with our dog (and maybe one day in the future) but it definitely puts a damper on where you can stay (and we even thought about the RV thing).

    Our dog can swim and he chases after tennis balls and sticks, even at the beach. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion. We go hiking a lot in Austin so he definitely is “that” dog. 🙂

    • July 21, 2011
      Kristin

      Even in California, it’s SUPER hard to find pet-friendly hotels. That shocks me in 2011. But when we just go on quick weekend getaways within the state for my Frommer’s job, we always have to find a friend or family member to take her…traveling by RV was SO much easier in that respect. And maybe for once we should have taken the weather as a blessing, as it was never even the slightest bit hot until the last week, so if we went inside somewhere (grocery shopping, to see a movie, etc.), we’d leave her sleeping in the truck cab and not think a thing of it!

  • July 21, 2011

    aww Frank has the same life jacket. except, you know, a lot larger!

    • July 21, 2011
      Kristin

      I remember seeing that on your blog! They would make the cutest Mutt and Jeff canine duo in their neon life jackets!

  • July 22, 2011

    Keep the Ella posts coming please, I LOVE them. She is so stinking cute!

    Papito loves to run into the water if I run in first. However, she doesn’t really seek it out unless I go in with her. I think she’s indifferent.

  • July 22, 2011

    Looks like bliss laying out with that gorgeous view! Our eight pounder starts doggie paddling if we even hold her over water, and, when she’s out of the water, spends the next ten minutes trying to rub all the water off.

  • July 22, 2011

    My husband and I really want to get our yorkie Barney into the water. He’ll be 2 this fall and the most water he’s experienced is a bath. I like the little dog life jacket. I’m sure it would be a necessity for Barney! Unfortunately, the only water around here is the ocean, and the beaches don’t really allow dogs. Maybe one day!

  • July 22, 2011
    JeJe

    Need to find a lake for my 5 dogs.
    .
    . should be interesting! Great post!

    • July 25, 2011
      Kristin

      Hmm…I think I know a lake you can visit and even a boat you can borrow…. =)

  • July 22, 2011

    Bravo Ella, I love that you had a life jacket for her, I did not even know those exist! Don’t have a dog now, but growing up I did and one of the times we lived off base we rented a house with a pool and our dog loved it! When I was married to my first husband we had a lab and a boat and that dog loved the water, but labs are supposed to, so nothing special about that!

    • July 22, 2011
      Kristin

      We’re keeping my sister-in-law’s lab right now, and truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her get in the water! Then again, we don’t really have a lake next to our San Francisco apartment (or beside their house in Oakland) so maybe I just wouldn’t know =)

      And yes, you can find ANYTHING for dogs at PetSmart, PetCo, etc. I have to refrain from buying out the entire clothing section every time I’m there–ha!

  • July 22, 2011
    RebeccaD.

    You are bringing back memories! I went to high school in North Idaho and we spent many summer days hiking Tubbs Hill and jumping off of rocks into the lake! There are also some hazy camping around the lake memories, I love that lake!

    • July 25, 2011
      Kristin

      What a lucky girl you are to grown up in a place with so much outdoor splendor! I hope to get to spend more time in Idaho in the future.

  • July 23, 2011

    There is something undeniably adorable about a dog in a lifejacket! Next step scuba? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtoTm62rx3Y

    • July 25, 2011
      Kristin

      You have NO IDEA how much we want to take her diving after seeing this video. Hrmmm…how to make that happen…

      • July 26, 2011

        Not sure the technical details, but I feel a pun involving the acronym PAWDI coming on…

  • July 25, 2011

    I love these pictures of Ella! My grandma was in Coeur d’ Alene once and she told me it was the most beautiful place she’d ever been. I haven’t been there myself yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

    • July 25, 2011
      Kristin

      Your pooches will LOVE it. Beautiful place, much more relaxed than other lake resort towns I’ve visited.

  • July 25, 2011

    Attention:

    Your dog is too fucking cute. I’m pretty sure something that adorable is illegal, at least in the state of Texas. If you could kindly do something to make her look less squeezable (shave her?) so I can quit going “Aaawwww!” and flapping my hands, I would greatly appreciate it.

    Best regards,

    Stephanie

    • July 25, 2011
      Kristin

      We DID actually shave her–Brazilian, butt, body and all. She kept her fluffy legs and mullet/beard, of course, but the torso is down to the skin. She was so matted after our adventures, there was no way around it. Scott thinks she looks even cuter; I think she looks like one of those hairless cats with a lion’s mane.

  • July 26, 2011

    That ‘smiling’ picture of your dog is SO funny!

  • July 28, 2011

    Our guys have the same life jacket! It’s an ongoing effort to make them swimmers, but Jack went willingly into the water at the dog beach last weekend by himself, so I’m hopeful. Overall though, they are pretty “meh” about swimming. Must be a small dog thing? She’s too cute, no matter what her adventure. 🙂

  • April 24, 2016
    Kroby

    Dock at Turner Bay? My parents live like 5 miles from there in Carlin Bay.

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