Since Monday afternoon, we’ve mostly been lazing around while here on vacation in the Florida Keys. We’ve rented a nice little house fronted by a thick swath of mangroves and backed by a long canal that leads to the bay side of this quirky chain of islands. It’s a perfect retreat; not least because the dogs love it, too.

Problem is … remember that canal I mentioned? It happens to be right in the back yard. Which is a pretty scary prospect for a person who has to live with the memory of a drowned dog. Things like that never really fade like the rest of our recollections do, they just kind of morph into new things. For example … this annual blog post on water safety.

Every year I like to offer you a summertime post to help remind us all how fast drowning happens. Whether we’re talking about children or pets, it usually happens in the space of a breath. And, like so many hazards when it comes to kids and pets, it’s final. The only control you’ll ever be able to exert over the outcome of a drowning accident is to prevent it.

So with those cheery thoughts in mind, I suggest we fast-forward back to my Keys trip so we can exorcise some demons in the form of happy green turtles and bright red waterside Pet-a-Porter.

This year it’s all about two water safety products: The Safety Turtle, in particular, and safety vests, in general. Both serve as two significant prongs in my five-point water safety plan during our nine-day stay on the water.

The other three points? They’re the fundamentals:

1. A reliable barrier: Ideally, you want an impermeable barrier between pets/kids. But gates happen.

2. Supervision: Would that this could be foolproof. It’s not. Which is why we need…

3. Crates: Or some other means of confinement. Because when I’m in the shower, I want to be sure I know where everyone is. Otherwise, I can’t relax, you know?

And then, this year, there’s…

4. The Safety Turtle: This is one product I’ve raved about before. Many times. But I’ve never had cause to trial it in this particular way.

What’s the Safety Turtle? It’s an alarm system that alerts when each individual pet or child falls in the water. Pets wear a little turtle-shaped sensor on their collar (light enough for even tiny dogs and cats). Should the sensor be submerged, it rings (really, really loudly) at a base station.

It’s amazing how much peace of mind this device buys. This vacation I am not counting dogs every three seconds like I’ve done in the past. This time I can put my feet up for more than a few minutes at a time knowing I’ve got more than just three fundamental lines of defense.

So why go one further and go for the life preservers? Here’s the thing: The Safety Turtle works with radio waves, which can be intermittently impeded by the ions in salt water. As I understand it, the sensor needs to stay near the surface of the water. So it is that if you’ve got salinity to contend with (and that includes some of the new "ionized" water pools), the product only works reliably if a) your dog can swim a little, and/or b) s/he’s wearing  life vest.

Which is why I’m keeping the life vest on Vincent, the one dog I absolutely know cannot swim (is there a better poster pet for drowning than a Frenchie with spinal disease?), as well as Slumdog, because his swimming ability is questionable since he’s never been asked to do it (and truth be told, because he’s not the brightest crayon in the box).

Gaston? Unfortunately, his x-small vest never arrived in time. Good thing no vest is strictly necessary. That dog can swim. Though he’s never been asked to, I guarantee that dog could cross that canal if you tempted him with a tasty morsel on the other side.

But never fear! He’ll be wearing one soon enough (once my friendly neighborhood "courier" brings it by) so we can take him kayaking. Because once that last barrier disappears, dogs who’s experience with water is limited to a bowl and bath-day should not be trusted without one when we’re talking about anything more sizable than a pool.

So how about you? What’s your water-safety-for-pets protocol?

P.S. RIP Marcel

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: 'Swimming' by marj k

 dog in water, swimming bulldog, swimming safety for dogs, dog on beach