Leonbergers are double-coated, and they have webbed paws, so they’re natural swimmers. Bronco was no exception: he loved to swim and chase waterfowl at our go-to destination, White Rock Lake. If he saw ducks or egrets in the water, he would swim after them. They would fly off before he could get to them, though, so he never caught any. That was okay—he still had fun, and he had no egrets (pun intended).
Claudia started taking Bronco to White Rock with Baylor and Baby when he was an adolescent. At first, he was hesitant to get into the water. Then a nice man came along (we don’t know who he was) and threw a stick a little way out into the lake. He asked Bronco to get it, and he did. Then he threw the stick a little bit farther so that Bronco had to swim to get it. Little by little and step by step, the man encouraged Bronco to swim. And once he got started, there was no looking back. Swimming in the lake became one of his favorite pastimes.
After a while, getting Bronco into the water was easy. Unleash him, and he would walk right in. Getting Bronco out—that was another story.
It wasn’t that he disobeyed. He came out of the water when we asked him to. The problem was what happened after he came out. He shook himself dry, like all wet dogs do, but a large dog with a coat like his has a lot of water to share. If you’ve ever been to a show at SeaWorld, you know that you get very wet if you sit in the first row. It was the same with Bronco: if you stood close enough to hold the leash, you were bound to get soaked when he shook himself. Our choices were to walk away, hide behind a tree, or take the involuntary bucket challenge. Towels certainly came in handy.
One morning, Claudia was taking Bronco for a walk around the lake with two of her sisters, Dora and Marianne. Suddenly Bronco jumped in the lake. But there were steep banks on either side of him, and he couldn’t get back out. So Claudia got in the water with him and pushed his butt while Dora and Marianne encouraged him to move toward a less steep part of the bank. They got him out, but this scary incident didn’t decrease Bronco’s love of swimming.