Our dog is a curtain twitcher. He is a true ‘Dogs My Footsteps’ dog. Every time someone from the household goes out the front door, he dashes up to the upstairs window and peers out onto the street, watching to see where the person is going. If he hears the sound of a familiar voice outside, he does the same, rushing up to the window, lifting the net curtain up with his head and looking out. He goes straight into mourning the minute he sees he has only his own company to keep.

His neck is thicker than his head which means that putting a collar on him proves to be impossible. Receptive to training as he is, he is still learning to walk, not pull, when he is taken out for exercise. Strong and muscular, he looks fearsome but has the temperament of a lap dog. Sitting on someone’s foot as it hangs dangled over a knee, is a favorite pastime – queer really, especially as he weighs around 80lbs.

Because of the way he bonds with humans, it was unsurprising that he was taken out for the day in the boat. That meant he made up the 6th member of the party. Three small children, 2 adults and him. What an enjoyable day it was going to be. Lovely warm weather, a motorboat and the open expanse of the lake. A picnic packed, a few rods and tackle, summer clothing, essential hats for the children to help ward off the UV rays of the sun – we left the marina in high spirits.

It really started well. Cloudless bright blue sky, nothing to indicate that the weather would change. So then where did the wind come from half an hour later in our idyllic meanderings? At first it was little white splashes of turned over choppy waves. The next, the boat engine coughed, spluttered and died. It really could have tried a bit harder! When had the wind got stronger and the waves more violent? Was it when the engine was the focus of everyone’s attention? Why was the boat soggy on the bottom and the childrens’ faces anxious and wide-eyed. Their clothing was no longer dry and water droplets were beginning to fall from the tips of their noses. As yet, no one was crying. Only the dog was unperturbed, enjoying the wind ruffling his fur and taking the occasional lap from the water gathering in the bottom of the boat.

The worst of it all was that none of us had life jackets and the two younger children could not swim. Dogs usually can swim, but even they may get tired on a choppy surface like this one.

A battle as we tried to revive the engine began. One had to get hold of a small handle and pull hard with a strong, smooth action. That was the theory. In practice, it was never smooth. Invariably there was a jerk somewhere in the pull. This action was the force which spurred the engine into life. The continued effort required to do this soon works up a lather of perspiration; add this to a lather of concern for the children and the situation was suddenly dire.

Circumstances like these are not an uncommon occurrence in people’s everyday lives. One item misjudged or overlooked, and what appears to be innocent and straightforward is no longer.

In the case of being stranded on the water, a simple and effective safety precaution would have been for everyone to have had on a PFD – a Personal Flotation Device – or Lifejacket as they are commonly called.

They come in a variety of styles, colors and sizes. Be sure to get one that both fits comfortably and allows for the movement needed to carry out all one’s activities.

P.S. The whole family survived. Thankfully. We also know to wear PFD’s next time.