The Adventures of a Wet Retriever

Boxer soaking wet

It should come as no surprise that Boxer, my part-time Golden Retriever, loves the water. After all, it’s in his DNA. His obsession with retrieving sticks is, too.

So what do you get when you combine a golden retriever, a fast-flowing creek and  a stick?

A perpetual stick launcher.

After a brutal winter, it took a while before the creek’s water level subsided enough that Boxer could wade in. And I’m having a devil of a time getting him out.

A few times a day, as we venture along the Etobicoke Creek Trail a stone’s throw from my building, Boxer won’t budge past the first bench. It’s bright blue and shadowed by an ancient Weeping Willow that hides our special spot. We duck behind the tree, where there’s a slope down to the rushing water that makes a noisy business of meeting the rocks. There are piles of branches and sticks hurdled upon its banks we can use as ammunition, and a large, flat stone I cop a squat on with my book.


I only need to toss the stick once to keep him retrieving.

I aim for the creek’s deepest spot. Boxer captures it lustfully, and once he’s gotten in a good chew or two, he’ll pretend to look the other way, or roll over to ensure he’s evenly soaked.

Then he’ll look up suddenly and oh no! there it goes! Bobbing down the stream is his runaway stick!

He chases after it merrily, recapturing his prey with a thundering splash. Sometimes he’ll lay there in the water, a look of zen on his face, waiting and watching for ducks. He’s got the stick pinned between his paws, and will duck his head under occasionally to give it a disciplinary nip.

Finally, streaming water, Boxer will splash back upstream to his spot, where he’ll settle down with his stick and pretend to look the other way again until… Oh no! There it goes!

He’ll repeat as necessary until I beg him to come in.


Some days he won’t.

Delaying the inevitable, he’ll let the stick keep running away. Oops! I mean, he has to chase it, we can’t go home without it.

His next (mandated) stop is the lush grass in the park, where he puts his prey through the adoption process — he rolls on it —  just like The Happy Birthday Stick. Then we’ll play fetch until he decides he wants to finish it off, and will settle in the clover and chew it to bits.

But our forays into the deep have pitfalls.

For one thing, he stinks. Since he’s been going into the creek, Boxer has developed a robust aroma. I’m not sure if it’s the oil coming out of his coat, or the algae growing on the creek bed’s rocks, but something is making this puppy stinky. We’ve tried bathing him, but there’s still a cloud of odor around us.

He lost a stick to the rapids one day and it took me forever to convince him it was gone for good. Then there was the time we arrived upon a family of ducks cached along the bank. He made chase until he was utterly exhausted by reality — Boxer can’t swim as fast as a duck, and they like to tease.

We’ve also brought home a slimy souvenir. A retriever’s thick coat is the mother of high maintenance, and during a post-swim groom, I picked something black off his tail. I didn’t know what it was until I dropped it in the toilet — and it began to swim. A leech. So we steer clear of standing water now.

Some nights I’ll take him for a bonus swim before bed. When it’s hot and humid here I take pity on wearing fur. I try to keep these dips short, but ooops! there goes my stick again! and we’re there for a while.

And of course, there are times I can’t let him go in. It’s the end of the world. If the water level is too high, Boxer will act like the most neglected dog on earth. Sadder than sad, his big dopey brown eyes will fix upon me with a guilt-inducing gaze.

He’ll stop in front of the bench and refuse his walk. With planted feet and an ample 81 pounds, Boxer strains towards the call of the sea. He looks at me as if to say, “How can you deprive me of my destiny?”


It’s summer, and he’s been bred to swim and retrieve.

And he stinks.


 If you enjoyed this blog, you’ll love The Happy Birthday Stick:

and The Most Phobic Dog in the World

About The Patron Saint of Dogs
Writing The Patron Saint of Dogs is my way of helping to save abused and abandoned dogs and cats in the real world. A portion of every sale will be donated to animal rescue organizations in Canada and around the world. My name is Colleen MacDougall and I was a dog walker and pet sitter for 11 years. Many of the furry characters in this book are reincarnations of wonderful animals I was able to know, love and help, especially Jules, who is Grace's partner-in-crime now, but was my furbaby and the very first person I hope to see in that great off-leash park in dog heaven.

6 Responses to The Adventures of a Wet Retriever

  1. That stink is dead algae! I have the same problem when Millie and Pearl go in the river near us. The dogs – and the whole house – end up stinking of bad eggs.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Our animals train us well, don’t they. But we love them, so we let them.

  3. Looks as though Boxer has you trained and likely thinks you fully appreciate his aroma after those good workouts.

If you like The Patron Saint of Dogs, please share it. All feedback is welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: