Another Dog Story

So I go for a walk with my dog, Jake, down to a little pond in the woods where last summer I got the crap scared out of me from a beaver smacking its tail against the water. I saw the beaver last week sliding down a muddy embankment, splashing into the pond through a small hole in the ice. I’m thinking I’ll take another look to see what I can see.

When I get down to the pond, the first thing Jake does is run out onto the thin ice. If I go after him, I’ll fall through in about two seconds. So I just stand there in silence at the edge of the pond waiting for him to take the plunge into doggy heaven. He’s a big heavy dog. Falling through would not be a problem, especially the way he’s bolting out there in leaps and bounds. If he stops moving, his weight will settle and the ice will break and he’ll sink to the bottom; I can see it now. So I decide not to call him back. Let him run and hopefully he won’t stop until he gets to the other side.

But right in the middle of the pond, realizing that I’m not following him, he spins around and plops his ass down right there on the ice. Just sits there looking at me with one hind leg tucked under the other, not moving a muscle except for his tongue hanging out dripping with drool. One ear chocked up. The other one flopped down.

I’m looking at him. He’s looking at me. I think about it for a couple minutes and then decide I better call him back; if he hasn’t fallen through already, it should be safe if he comes back over the same ice he went out on. So I say, “Come on, Jake! Lessgo!”

He’s been waiting for the word. At the sound of my voice he bolts up out of his sitting position and flies into the air like a horse jumping over a fence. He lands on the ice with such force that water jets out through small holes in the surrounding ice. But I can see he’s on his way, ready to go running up the hillside like some wild beast, and I don’t hear the ice cracking. So I turn around to start heading back.

This somehow gives Jake the idea that I’m playing with him, that I’m about to go running after him across that ice. So, naturally, he tries to stop and turn around to getting ready for the chase. But in doing so, he ends up sliding ass-end-first on the ice in a direction about 45 degrees off from his original course, which was towards me — but now he’s sliding towards the little patch of open water where a stream goes into the pond. Oh, good.

The laws of physics being what they are, he slides right off the ice and into the water; completely under the water. SPLOOP! He sinks like a boulder. Half a second later when he breaks the surface, instead of turning around and swimming to the shore, he swims forward and tries to climb back on the ice. Great.

The edge of the ice continually breaks for about five feet before he finally gets a grip with his front claws. But he can’t get up on the ice. No way in a hundred dog years is he getting up on that ice. His hind legs are kicking into the water with nothing to grab hold of, just stirring up the muck on the bottom. I’ve been yelling to him to come to me since he hit the water, but he’s just not with it. I keep yelling his name, desperately, because I have no intentions of going out on that ice. But he has no intentions of turning around and swimming towards the shore. So I start cursing him up and down, telling him he better not make me go out there (like that’s going to do any good).

Then he starts whining and yelping and I know he’s getting scared now. After five minutes of him crying for his life and me cursing and yelling at him to come to me, and him not listening to a single thing I’m trying to tell him, there’s only one thing left for me to do. If I don’t go out and get him now, he’ll freeze to death. He’s already begun to shiver. So I take off my boots and my coat and I take the plunge, the whole time cursing, “You stupid damn dog” (that’s the PG version), and shivering from the deep-freezing water.

I decide not to crawl out on the ice, which would probably break under my weight anyway. I just walk through the open water, my sock feet sinking into about six inches of muck with every step. And man is it cold. By the time I get to Jake, I’m nearly up to my armpits in water and broken ice. A few more feet and I would have to swim out to get him.

Under the circumstances, and nearly under the ice, my brain isn’t thinking of gentleness. I give him a headlock, but with my arm under his front legs instead of his neck. I yank him off the bit of ice he’s clinging to and pull him through the water with one arm just like that — and I don’t give a damn. I’m using my other arm as a counterbalance. Then Jake starts kicking and wiggling, trying to get out of my grip, which is a wonderful — “Give it up!” He doesn’t move another wink; just sort of goes limp. “Good.” I trudge my way through the muck and ice. My skin is purple. My hair is hanging heavy with mud icicles. There is no pain at this stage of hypothermia.

When the water becomes knee deep, Jake decides to make a struggle for it, and in doing so, he goes one way and I go the other. As in: He goes running up the slope and I fall backwards into the water.

“Fuck!” Along with being slimed from the waist down with that rotten black stinking muck from the bottom of the pond, I am soaked and cold and frozen solid from head to toe. It takes about 30 seconds before all my clothes turn into one solid crunching chunk of frozen mud as I try to move.

I pick up my coat and boots and slowly make my way up the beautifully forested hillside in my soaked and frozen, muddy, socked feet, slipping and sliding onto my ass the whole way, trying not to fall and crack my head on a stump. I walk home with Jake about hundred yards ahead of me, jumping and skirting around the woods like he always does, a big wet playful dog.

I didn’t see the beaver, and I doubt I ever will. What’s the big deal about beavers, anyway?

Another slow day, slow week, slow month, at Steel White Table. So another non-story about me walking my dog. This one happened years ago. If there are any typos, I’ll fix them later. The last real slow day we had, I wrote this dog story.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at mudsongs.org.

4 Replies to “Another Dog Story”

  1. Good story Phillip! We just recently put our dog to sleep. She was 13 years old and had a good life and we miss her greatly. However, this tale brought back the reality of dog ownership. It isn’t all sloppy “dog” kisses and playing fetch. They make you work and sacrifice your comfort at the most inopportune times. Still, the unconditional love is worth it!!

    as far as beavers go…if you seen one, you have seen them all…some are just better then others…that’s what I have heard anyway. Peace

  2. That reminds me I need to take my horse (or should I say 120 pounds of German Shepherd) out for a walk tonight. Nice story.

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