Dwayne L.Folsom

November 26, 1993|By Rick Pollack, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Dwane Folsom wasn't trying to impress anyone when he taught his best friend how to scuba dive. "I just wanted a diving buddy," he said. But now Folsom and his diving partner are getting a lot of attention, especially because his best friend is a 3-year-old Labrador retriever mix, who has about 30 dives to her credit. Folsom calls her Shadow the Scuba Dog. "She looks forward to doing it," said Folsom, who has been diving with Shadow for about eight months. "She wants to do it."Wearing a plastic globe over her head and connected by hose to Folsom's air tank, Shadow has been able to go underwater for as long as 20 minutes. Once there, Shadow walks on her hind legs while paddling with her front legs. "She has no fear of it," said Folsom, who adopted Shadow from the county's animal shelter about two years ago. She has dived in the Cayman Islands with stingrays as well as in the back-yard swimming pool at Folsom's Boynton Beach home. She is becoming sort of an underwater celebrity. The dog already has a video, and Folsom said several people have asked about getting breathing devices similar to Shadow's for their dogs. Folsom said he got the idea to take Shadow diving with him by watching her on a dive boat."Whenever I was diving, she always wanted to follow me, but she couldn't," he said. Often, Folsom said, Shadow would jump out of the boat, watch him go underwater and chase after his bubbles."I knew she wanted to be with me everywhere I went," he said. "I take her everywhere I can." Folsom, who has been diving for more than 20 years, figured there had to be a way to take the dog underwater. "This was just kind of a challenge," he said. "I've been a mechanic all my life." Another challenge was training Shadow to abandon her natural fear and getting her to trust him enough to go underwater. "She had the hard part," Folsom said. "She had to tolerate the whole concept." Folsom said he used positive reinforcement-treats-to encourage Shadow. "She's a very dedicated dog," Folsom said. And there may be more adventure ahead for this fearless canine. Folsom said Shadow already has learned to ride on his motorcycle with him. And she now is learning to water-ski. Folsom said he had some qualms about taking Shadow diving at first because he didn't want to force the dog to do something she didn't want to do. But Folsom said he decided to go ahead with his plan after careful consideration. "The dog, of her own free will, wants to do it," he said. That, said Dr. Jim Grubb, president of the Palm Beach County Veterinary Society, is not surprising. Grubb said Labrador retrievers naturally love the water, and there is nothing wrong with taking the dog diving as long as the dog wants to. "If he was forcing the dog to do something she didn't want to, that would be cruel," Grubb said. Once Folsom decided to go ahead with the project, he had to design and test a system that would enable Shadow to breath underwater. "There were a few times when I had to grab her out of the pool," he said. Folsom said he is working on redesigning Shadow's fifth breathing device. Although she is unusual, Shadow is not the only scuba-diving dog in the country. Folsom said that while he was training Shadow, he learned of a California dog that also dives. But, he said, there is a difference between the two dogs. "That's a Hollywood dog," Folsom said.


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