Swim with Sharks – Good for the Dog; Good for You

I like sharks.

Probably because I’ve carefully avoided seeing Jaws, Sharknado, and anything on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

But is it smart to swim with them?

Honey the golden retriever puppy wonders if there are sharks outside the cage.

You call it puppy kindergarten. But why am I in this cage? Are there sharks outside?


A Shark at the Dog Park

When we take Honey to the dog park, I’m a very hands-on person. We don’t enter if we see dogs belonging to out-of-control people. I call Honey to me to keep up a physical connection even when she’s excited by the other dogs. And I don’t let Honey rush up to every dog without my checking out the situation first.

One day I saw a man and his Doberman enter the dog park from a rear entrance.

The Doberman ran to the highest point in the park and surveyed her surrounding. The dog’s energy was so intense that I grabbed Honey by the collar to keep her from rushing up to the Doberman until I could observe the situation.

In moments I decided the Doberman was no threat to Honey. She took a strong, watchful posture. But she was not tense or worried. She was just surveying her environment, like a shark observing the sea life all around her.

I had the feeling the Doberman would not be very interested in my bouncy golden retriever. But I left Honey to find out on her own if the Doberman wanted to be her friend.

Honey ran up but slowed down to approach respectfully from the side. The two sniffed each other briefly. Then the Doberman ran off to play ball with her person.

I never saw the Doberman play with anyone but her person. But she had a strong presence in the dog park.

And I was glad Honey peacefully coexisted with the beautiful, calm, and self-assured dog that couldn’t care less about the other dogs in the park.

Two golden retrievers wrestling in the dog park with shark like teeth.

Are you sure you’re not a dog shark? Those are some awfully nice choppers you got there.


Sharks on the School Bus

Through my first two years in high school, I was extremely shy and awkward. (Yes, I can hear the snorts now from blogville friends who have met me live. I’m the last person anyone would call shy today.)

I felt terrified of drawing attention to myself.

In high school, I felt like a lonely shrimp surrounded by swimming sharks.

One day, with my hood over my head and sinking as low as I could into my bus seat, I had an amazing thought. “None of these people cares if I live or die.” I suddenly felt light coming in through the cracks. No one cared about me one way or the other. Woo hoo!

To a healthy and happy person that must sound awfully dark. But in my gloomy self-consciousness, it was earth-shattering good news.

Because if no one cared if I was there or not, I could just get on with my life and stop worrying that the sharks swimming around me would notice me and turn me into dinner.

After that, my whole life changed. It’s not that I never feel self-conscious or awkward. Or that no one picked on me in school.

But it felt so temporary and unimportant. Because everyone else was dealing with their own stuff. And I didn’t rise to anyone’s notice most of the time.

That revelation led me to do all kinds of weird things in public without worrying what people thought of me. In my life, I have:

  • worked as a clown
  • told ridiculous jokes and stories about America’s founding fathers as a tour guide in a historic church
  • cavorted down city streets in my underwear to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • gotten laughs teaching hundreds of students about credit reports, mortgages, and homeowner’s insurance
  • choreographed and performed in a routine of dancing wheelbarrows


Girl in Clown Costume

Actually this outfit doesn’t look too much worse than other things I wore in the 1980s.

I feel like a shark myself. Just minding my own business and doing what I gotta do.
Caribbean reef sharks

Sharks in Panama

When I go snorkeling for the first time next month, I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of a shark.

Many people consider the 365 islands of the Kuna Yala, where we’ll be sailing, a paradise—except for the sharks. And crocodiles.

But I’m not afraid. I suspect that sharks are like self-assured Dobermans and high school cheerleaders. Just taking care of business and not terribly interested in me.

Your Turn: Who are the sharks in your life? And have you swam with them yet?
photo credit (sharks): Thespis377 via photopin cc. Click on image to learn more about the photographer.

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  1. Awesome post! Although I haven’t been down but once since I became a hound-mom, I am a diver. I’ve had the pleasure of encountering sharks in the wild, and it’s fascinating. I do, however, prefer the schools of barracuda for some bizarre reason. My chief barracuda has always been my mother, sadly. Only in the last 4 years or so have I finally gotten to the point where I just swim and let swim. I have stopped worrying about what she’s doing and if she’s going to come after me and eat me alive. I just let her drift over there at the back of the dive boat with the rest of my ‘cudas, watching. I watch them, shimmering in the moonlight, thinking, “How pretty they all are over there, schooled together like cords of wood.” Then I dive back down into the beautiful ocean that I love, unworried about whether or not she’s following me around, nipping at my fins. They’re just plastic, after all.

    • Wow, very cool that you have diving experience. You’re certainly in one of the most beautiful countries in the world for underwater adventures.

      I’m glad you’ve gotten some perspective on your shark, er, barracuda. You’re right that we can’t change those around us. But we can change our attitude in dealing with them.

  2. Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says:

    Great post! I, myself, have never been shy that I can remember. As a toddler, I played quietly with my toys during the day, but was always friendly with people — at least according to what my mother always told me. Mom also said that she sent me to Nursery School because I almost never spoke unless spoken to. “You haven’t shut up since your first day.” She used to tell me. Right around the time I started 2nd or 3rd Grade, Mattel came out with the “Chatty Cathy” doll. Mom refused to buy me one — “I don’t need two chatterboxes in the house, thank you very much!” By the time she relented, I wasn’t all that interested any more. But as for sharks? For me they were some of the bosses at my various jobs. I not only swam among them, but I also refused to let any of them “have me for dinner”. I did my job from 9-5 or 8-5, and went home. I was not going to kiss ANYONE’S butt. And I didn’t give a hoot whether they liked it or not. In fact, I called one boss’s bluff on almost a monthly basis. The idiot threatened to fire me several times, but I stood my ground. “Go ahead. I dare you. I’ll go straight to the big boss and we.’ll see who gets fired first.” Butthole knew that I had better connections to the top guy than he did. Then, after I switched jobs within the company, he tried to get my new boss to fire me because I wouldn’t do his job of breaking in my replacement. The new boss pretty much told him where to go. Then he told me to let him know if butthole ever bothered me again.

  3. Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says:

    PS. When I first started reading your post, I figured you were talking about one of Honey’s toys. 🙂

  4. Vlad & Barkly's Dee says:

    Vets. I had to learn to speak up for my dogs and reject traditional medicine for them on several fronts. I found it a lot easier with skinkids & their doctors for some reason. I have to channel that inner-mommy-seeing a physician for skinkids before going to the veterinarian’s office. I have to stand my ground when “_____ is what I believe, and I’ve done lengthy research on all of the newest findings along with all of the older information, and you’re not going to change my mind. THESE are the options that I’m choosing when it comes to their health. I’m willing to talk about what I’ve found; what I believe; and why I’m choosing this route, but I’m not willing to change my mind after long thought on the subject.”

    Yes, I actually talk to myself in the mirror when I’m getting dressed to leave, because I find it as hard to do as getting up in front of a large school assembly or other function. The only reason I can think of for this reaction to vets is that I had a lifetime of just doing what we were told and not thinking about it.

    • First of all, I love the term “skin kids.” I wonder what *your* skin kids think of you using it. 🙂

      And good for you in learning to advocate for the health of your animals. I also don’t believe traditional medicine has all the answers. I’ve worked with conventional (allopathic) and naturalpathic vets.

      My current vet is conventional but well informed. She has happily consulted with other vets who take different approaches to vet care. I’m very thankful my current vet is more of a helpful dolphin than shark. 🙂

  5. I’ve been excruciatingly shy my entire life. I used to send my little sister into the children’s room at the library to find the books I wanted because I was so terrified that the librarians would… talk to me! While I learned coping strategies as I entered adulthood, I’m still super shy. Unfortunately, when I’m quiet, some people assume I’m being rude, which brought out some shark-like behavior at a previous office. A group of coworkers determined that I was being “aloof” and decided to tear me down. Luckily, the situation resolved itself when the queen bee left the company, so I never had to swim with them. With the dogs, though, if there are any sharks that swim near them (like anti-pit bull people) I’ve always been able to “swim” with those sharks!

    • There have been some interesting books and articles published by introverts lately. I wonder if they will break into the culture enough so that people appreciate the gifts that introverts or just plain shy people bring.

      But I’m not surprised one little bit that your dogs bring out your inner courage. I’d expect no less. 🙂

  6. My sister went swimming with real sharks, so I think that you’ll be fine!

    The real sharks in my life right now are new administration and a substitute teacher who is out of touch with reality. If I make it to the end of September, I will count it as some kind of miracle. I’m beyond exhausted just carrying everything all day every day right now. I feel bad that I can’t keep up with so many other things, too. So, I guess there’s also the pressure that I put on myself, too.

    • Sorry to hear you’re feeling like shark bait right now. You have seemed very tired lately.

      Good thing you have a house full of stress-relievers at home (at least when they’re not doing their own part to increase your stress). Good luck in finding a way to cope or a new direction to turn.

  7. It may surprise you to know that I really am very shy…and sensitive as well. Sometimes everyone seem like sharks to me. My biggest problem is caring what others think of me. I wish I had that mindset of who gives a sh*t but I don’t.

    Somehow I think you’ll do fine with the sharks Pamela, are you bringing your underwater clicker? 😀

  8. You have much more courage than me. I still have times where I want to shrink into that seat and disappear when I’m in crowds and gatherings. 🙂