Mike was fixing to take Belle to the shore of Great Sale Cay where we had anchored overnight when Mikayla volunteered for the task. She readied the dinghy, and Belle jumped in of her own accord as she had done the night before for Mike. That in itself was a milestone. On previous occasions we had to grab Belle by the handle on the back of her PFD and more or less shove her into the dinghy.
Mikayla and Belle motored to the rocky shore for 20 minutes of rest and relaxation. Mike tested the handheld VHF in Mikayla’s possession by calling her up on Channel 16 and switching to Channel 68. All was loud and clear.
Mike called Mikayla again when he noticed that she couldn’t start the dink’s engine. He offered a couple of suggestions that didn’t prove successful. After assuring her dad that she was a strong girl, Mikayla began rowing back. I admired her strength and determination. She had gone ashore about half a mile away and had a good distance to cover before climbing aboard Happy Times once more. This is the same girl that I had pictured in my arms as a newborn only this morning in my dreams.
Mikayla was about three-quarters of the way home when Belle began dancing a jig in the dinghy. She climbed onto one of the pontoons near the engine and looked longingly in our direction. She teetered back and forth on the gray siding and seemed to measure the distance. Then she spotted Mike sitting on the scoop steps and nothing could hold her back. She plunged in the water and never looked back.
The three of us marveled at Belle’s boldness. After all, our 11-year-old Vizsla doesn’t like to even dampen her paws. She’s the prissy one who skirts puddles and turns tail during a rainstorm.
Once Belle got in the water, she kept on going. She kept her head up, let the PFD support her body, wagged her tail and dug in for 75 yards. She swam as though she could pass the boat and continue on to the opposite shore covered in mangroves.
Mike yelled, “That’s a good girl, Belle. You can do it!” as Mikayla again picked up her oars and rowed slowly back to the boat.
“Way to go, girl!” I yelled as Belle shortened the distance between herself and Happy Times.
As Belle neared the scoop, Mike pulled her aboard by the handle on her PFD, and she happily hopped up the steps. When she reached the top, Mike removed her PFD and Belle gave herself a good shake from the tip of her nose to the end of her tail. Then she jumped up to give Mike’s face a good lick.
Belle finally became a boat dog when she was ready for it. She only needed to see her master from afar and let her instincts carry her back to his arms.