Oct 21, 2015

Have You Ever Felt Like You Were Drowning? – Black Dog Journey

Have you ever felt like you were drowning?  Most will feel the overwhelming complexities of emotion at some point in life, but I’m asking if you’ve ever felt like you were physically drowning.  With the Black Dog recently turning nine, I couldn’t help but reminisce of the time that he nearly drowned me.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

The Black Dog and I have traveled an adventurous path over the years, some stops may simply sound  unbelievable for the more sensible folk, but this particular unheroic event strikes me as one of the more noteworthy.   I share my story as a word of caution for others…you may take whatever you like  from it.  Shortly after embarking  upon an eight year journey with my four legged friend, we had the opportunity to run through an obstacle course in Canada’s capital (Ottawa).IMG_1795

I was more youthful, in addition to feeling invincible,  and my furry companion was barely 18 months old.  I was thrilled with the thought of running through an obstacle course that involved agility, climbing, crawling, balancing, carrying my partner, a running apprehension, and shooting; however, I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the water feature.  I was a little apprehensive when assured that the water feature, at the start of the course, was only a few feet deep.

A Leap of Faith

After watching a few handlers and their dogs cross the ten foot wide water feature, fed by a recently melted creek, I was convinced this was much deeper than a few feet.   I prepared myself and came up with a plan .  I would simply run into the water and walk across quickly, but the best made plans are sometimes laid to waste.  I recognize that my plan was poorly conceived but I hadn’t seen anyone drown yet.

As I sprinted to the water, with the Black Dog sporting his leather harness and 30 foot leash, a furry black anchor quickly prevented me from crossing this obstacle    Sometimes beast is more sensible than man, and my furry beast surpassed me in common sense that day.  I could have listened to him…read your dog as I aways say.  My arrogance surpassed my common sense.  Nox threw on the brakes so quickly that every fibre of his being told him not to do it…he’d never been exposed to water features until that point.  After all, we live on the prairies with wheat, canola fields, hills, gas wells, and the occasional river, but we don’t track across rivers.IMG_1379

In my infinite wisdom I reached behind, grabbed Nox by his harness, and  launched him into the pond before me.  Since he’d never experienced a water feature, the two of us were in for a rude awakening.  First, the Black Dog appeared to be a pitiful cat exaggerating his movements with paws high stepping for the surface, his eyes bulged, and ears back.  The prairie connection had never really necessitated environmental training in this area.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t treaded water in uniform since years earlier in the military.  While my first few steps were merely three feet deep, I was shocked to find that with my final step I was in over my head.

The sensation I felt in that fresh water pond, fed by a creek,  was akin to jumping into an ice filled bath…it was blooding cold.  If anyone is familiar with the Seinfeld Episode in which pool shrinkage occurred, this was definitely the case, but I found the painful chest compression from the profound inability to breath caused an ever-increasing concern in what  I was attempting to accomplish.

As Nox circled me with his thirty foot line, constricting the movement of my arms, I began to sink like a rock.  With a thirty foot line compressing my arms to my chest, I was unable to reach for the surface.  It was as though Nox had prepared me for a watering grave.   Only a few feet from the surface, yet out of reach, I asked myself, “I am really going to die toady?”  The surface was so close, and with a gulp of water I sank even further to the bottom.  “How deep was this pond, will I really drown here,” I thought.IMG_0488

As I continued to sink to the bottom, I Harry Houdiened out of my restraint to reach for the surface.  With every fibre of my being, I kicked myself upwards  My ultimate will to survive was a determining factor in my drive to reach the surface.   I fought so hard to reach for the surface. and gasp for air.    Seeing the blue shimmer of hope skimming the surface above me, I struggled to  outstretch my hand to a friendlier oxygen rich environment.

As the line fell away from me, I was able to kick and reach with all my might.  It seemed like such an eternity before surfacing to gasp an essential breath of air.  “Could this really be the end,” I thought.  Gulping more water, as I briefly  popped through the surface before sinking back down,  I stunningly grasped onto a metal line that ran along the top of the water feature.  My life line had saved me…literally.

Life Lesson

I prefer to end my stories with a life lesson and this is no different.  In my warm house, on a chilly October evening, it’s easy for me to sit by the fireplace and remark upon my minute long adventure.  Often critiques are delivered in similar environments, far away from the actual event that occurred.

My lesson is simple.  “You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” – Edwin Louse Cole.  Sometimes we land in situations that we’d prefer not to be in…through perseverance we learn to overcome and thrive.

In Blog


  1. stefan Says: October 25, 2015 10:49 am

    Hi Shawn!

    Great post! with the richness in your narrative, I felt like I was there with you but couldn’t help you out. I have never felt like drowning, but I imagine it must be terrifying!

    You took a inspiring lesson from your experience and one that I will always remember! If you find yourself in a bad situation, that is not the end! Whatever the situation, we need to fight to get out of the and never give up!

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    Best wishes

    • Shawn Says: October 26, 2015 6:10 am

      Hi Stefan,

      Thanks for the reply…that’s exactly the message I implied. It’s strange how life if full of tiny lessons on a daily basis.

      Take care,


  2. bioelectrobot Says: January 21, 2016 11:28 pm

    I have actually almost drowned, and it is a horrible feeling. I was treading water in a very deep pool when someone pressed down quite hard on my head. I’d been treading water for some time, so I was very weary. I sunk all the way to the bottom of the twelve foot deep pool. It was very frightening. I didn’t think I was going to make it back to the surface. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I think I must have used all my strength to get back to the surface.
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad that you are OK. Excellent quote.

  3. Ian Says: April 12, 2016 9:06 pm

    Hi Shawn,
    Wow, that’s quite an ordeal. Glad you made it out of that one in one piece. I definitely agree with your message about persevering and not giving up and even learning to thrive amid difficult situations. This is one life lesson that I can contemplate in my life since I’m going through some tough times right now.

    • Shawn Says: April 14, 2016 3:06 am

      Hi Ian,

      Thanks for the visit. It’s amazing how life can stop and turn on a dime. A mere second can change everything. The tough times do get better. I’ve been through a fair share myself.



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