JD Allinder

The River Wild

In Posts on July 27, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Today I learned where skunks go in the middle of the day. Jane showed me. Getting sprayed in the face didn’t seem to faze her at all. Much to Jane’s chagrin, we cut our outing short to come home and take a bath. Now she smells like skunk and shampoo. It’s always something.

I’d say Jane and I had our first real adventure over the weekend. Friday and Saturday were miserable. We got about six inches of rain (which we needed), but it was complicated by tornado warnings, heat warnings, flash floods, power outages, and downed trees. The heat was insanely intense, too. It was in the 90s even in the evenings, and the air was thick and heavy and difficult to breathe. Fortunately the sun didn’t come out for a couple of days, so the house stayed relatively cool and I didn’t have to close the blinds and feel like a shut-in. Jane and I managed to creep around town, and both of us seemed to be getting used to this exceptionally uncomfortable summer. We’ve worked our way back up to three full hours of exercise each day, and we’ve lately had some really great workouts, arriving home and falling on the floor like limp dish rags.

The rain was replaced by blinding sun on Sunday. After taking a dip in the Huron at Frog Island, Jane was sufficiently cooled to make the unshaded mile-long hike down to Highland Cemetery. Once there, we walked the half mile or so Native American footpath down through the thick woods and back to the river. At the foot of the trail, there’s a five-foot-wide opening in the brush where Jane can scoot down a steep, six-foot incline and into the river for a swim (or a stand – she loves standing, which always makes me think of bathing in the Ganges for some reason). Off leash, of course, Jane reflexively sprinted down the ledge to test the water. She was instantly sucked into it, though, as if it were some living, heaving beast. In a flash, she was being violently dragged away. I was stunned. (I’m pretty sure Jane was, too.) I called “come” several times, and, though she was paddling upstream with all her might, she was no match for the flood-driven current. My first thought was to run along the bank calling to her and following until she was able to get herself closer to shore. The bank along this particular stretch of the river is virtually impenetrable, though. (Georgia and I carved out a trail years ago, but it’s since been reclaimed by Mother Nature.) When Jane disappeared from view, I walked into the river. Fully clothed. From the time she got swept up until I entered the river was no more than 20 seconds, but Jane was already 1/8 of a mile downstream. She was facing me, paddling away, but still being swiftly carried down river. I walked along the river bottom, the water rising to my neck. Finally, the current picked me up and dragged me under. I’m a good swimmer, so I wasn’t worried about myself, but I was calmly panicked about my girl. I called to her the entire time I made my way down the river to her, and I found the best thing to do was give up and let the current carry me. When I reached Jane, I grabbed her collar (relief!) thinking I’d swim her to shore in the human lifesaving position. But as I reached for her, her whole body sort of floated to the surface of the water and gave itself up to me. All four of her paws were pressed up against my chest as my arms enveloped her like a baby. It all unfolded in slow motion, as stressful events sometimes do, and it was strangely, weirdly, beautiful. Something about her trust and giving up her body to me really moved me. It was the closest I’ve ever felt to her.

Of course I wasn’t really processing any of this until we arrived safely on the shore. We both shook off and stared at each other for a couple of minutes. It was then that I realized we’d had a real adventure, a bonding experience we’ll reminisce about when we’re old. We crawled our way through the quarter mile or so of thick brush back to the point of entry, Jane remaining at my (squishing) heels the entire time. And, despite being filthy, I was actually invigorated by the swim. So we hiked another hour.

  1. Holy Moly, John! What an adventure. And it made me cry.

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