Editor's Note

Water Dog

Swimming lessons from a four-legged friend

Edited by Ted Katauskas June 13, 2022 Published in the Summer/Fall 2022 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

Halo, in his element

Image: Ted Katauskas

Ten summers ago, not long after I had moved to Vail, my breeder texted me a video of the puppy that would be my dog. Just a few weeks out of the womb, Halo was a scrawny little guy, frolicking around in his litter’s giant water bowl, which he had repurposed as a wading pool. He’d slap at the water with his forepaws, snarl and bite at the splashes he made, barking nonstop. That clip’s still on my phone, one of my favorite GIFs.

A wirehaired bird dog from strong hunting lines, Halo was bred and born to retrieve ducks. With webbed feet, he’s a powerful swimmer. Only, here’s the thing: to Halo’s everlasting dismay,  I don’t hunt. So whenever we’re around a river or a lake—at our favorite swimming hole at a bend on the Eagle River during our morning run on the east end of the Miller Ranch Open Space, or off the recpath on the southeast shore of Lake Dillon after my Saturday-morning row—if Halo is in the water, and no ducks are dropping into it, eventually he gets bored. At our swimming hole in Edwards, the water circulates in an eddy around the bend like a giant Whirlpool washing machine, and Halo will ride around in it for a few minutes, paddling at one with the current, then inevitably he’ll stop swimming and start splashing with his forepaws, biting and barking at the water, going around and around like he’s stuck and circling a drain. If you don’t know my dog, it looks exactly like he’s drowning. Just before dawn one morning in the open space, a runner came crashing through the thicket, ready to plunge into the river to save my dog, when she saw me just standing there, serenely watching Halo, and stopped. “He’s OK,” I explained. “That’s just how he swims.”

Same off the southeast shore of Lake Dillon in Frisco Bay: Halo runs onto the beach and charges into the water; then, after three porpoise-like leaps, he swims far out into the reservoir, almost halfway to the marina. After a few minutes of swimming in circles like he does in his eddy on the Eagle, he’ll realize there’s no current pulling him around. And no birds are falling from the sky. So he starts slapping at the water with his front feet, biting at the splashes and barking furiously. On the recpath above the beach, bikers, runners, walkers, and roller-skiers will stop whatever they’re doing to watch and wonder. Instead of “Bark-bark-bark!” they hear “Help-help-help!” They’ll stand there, pointing out at Halo, then down at me, with a leash draped over my shoulders, casually scrolling through text messages on my cell phone and occasionally looking up and blithely dismissing  the urgency of my drowning dog. As more bystanders gather and gawk, I’ll yell, “He’s just playing!” To the dubious, I’ll point out that he’s also wearing a Ruffwear Float Coat. Sometimes I need to wave off paddleboarders and kayakers from attempting a save. 

It was Halo’s peculiar love of water that inspired this issue’s cover story. From contributing editor Devon O’Neil’s opening story in Village Talk, about Front Range cities thirsting for more output from Red Cliff’s Homestake Reservoir, to his reported feature about climate-spawned wildfires and mudslides threatening the future of Glenwood Canyon’s primary arterial, to his summertime guide to the multitude of things to do in and around the valley’s playground of rivers, pools, and streams—water, if you will, courses through the entirety of this edition of Vail-Beaver Creek. Even this issue’s architecture feature by Sarah Chase Shaw, about the renovation and restoration of the Hotel Colorado—which in its heyday wooed and wowed travelers from afar to Glenwood Springs with an indoor cascade and trout pond and an outdoor fountain dwarfing the one at Vegas’s Bellagio—celebrates water.

Enjoy this read. Then get out there and float, paddle, or swim as if nobody (or everybody) were watching. Whatever your passion, seize and savor the wild and wonderful world of water that is summertime in the Vail Valley. But do it with abandon, Halo-style. 

Ted Katauskas



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