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A Walk With Waterdog

            She stops so suddenly I stumble. “What the hell, Dup?”

            “Shhhh! There’s a bunny up ahead.” She’s crouched down into a stalking position, her head low and ears perked forward.

            I roll my eyes and put my balled-up fists on my hips. “Dup, it’s cold out here. Let’s just keep walking.”

            She lets out a low growl.

            “Too late, babe. It heard you.” I smirk as the rabbit scampers into the underbrush.

            “Damn. I really wanted to eat that one.”

            We continue to walk at a brisk pace along the Coastal Trail. It’s not dry, but it’s not exactly wet, either. It’s fogging, and the minute droplets stick to my glasses and obscure my vision worse than actual rain would.

            Off in the distance, a horse whinnies, and Dup stops abruptly again. She lifts her nose to the wind and inhales deeply, her eyes partially closed and her ears back against her head. It’s as though she’s seeing the world through her sense of smell. No need for ears or eyes, just the nose, only the power of the nose.

            “That horse is upset,” she finally says.

            “How come?” I ask, always amazed by how much she can discern from scents on the wind.

            “She’s in heat.” She looks at me over her shoulder and grins before she resumes her dainty trot along the trail.

            The problem with summer days on the Coastside is that even when it’s wet and drippy, people still see it as a vacation spot. When we get to Sweetwood, there are campers there despite the thick fog, and they’re playing in our field where we usually go to run and watch the crows.

            “We could go climb the tree,” she suggests with hope in her eyes.

            “I dunno. It’s pretty wet out. Maybe a walk in the woods instead?”

            They’re not really woods. It’s more like a mini-forest composed of non-native species, specifically eucalyptus. Still, more non-native species live within the trees. Years ago, some idiot decided it would be a good idea to release “all the birds of Shakespeare’s writings.” The little songbirds are pretty and pleasant, but they’ve done horrors to the native bird populations.

            But there are also more bunnies in the woods, and that’s really the most important part of walking through them. And, occasionally, we’ll spot a bobcat, though not tonight.

            We hear a horse whinny again.

            “Is that the same one?” I ask Dup.

            She cocks her head to the side and listens as she sniffs at the air. “Yeah. She’s still upset.”

            “That’s too bad.”

            Dup squats to pee and gives me a look that says, “Don’t look.”

            “Sorry,” I say and physically turn away from her.

            We continue our walk through the woods in silence, though every so often the tags on her collar jingle as she stops to sniff at the ground and bushes. She looks up at me every so often and smiles, and I smile back.

            Off in the distance, the ocean crashes upon the shore, and I can tell she’s drawn to the sound. She gazes longingly at the horizon, because she is, after all, a waterdog.

            She wasn’t always a swimmer, though. She had been scared as a puppy, and it finally took a big, male lab to teach her to wade out into the Russian River and playfully dive in. She liked swimming when she realized she could do it, and eventually she graduated to the ocean.

            At one point, she’d been traumatized by the salty Pacific, and she wouldn’t go back in for months. In an attempt to get her comfortable in the water again, a friend and I took her to the beach one day when it was relatively calm and still. She’d get her feet wet, but that was all. Finally, I raced out into the water along the sandbar, not knowing when it would drop off. And then I fell, and I was swept out farther than I’d intended. And as I treaded water and fought the current, I wondered how I would make it back to land. I had my doubts when a wave came crashing over my head and tossed me under, but when I came back up, Dup was there by my side. She’d come out to rescue me in spite of her fear.

            “Dup,” I say and smile.

            “Yeah, Girl?” She glances over her shoulder at me.

            “Next time it’s sunny and we have some free time, I promise we’ll come out and swim together.”

            “Thanks, Girl. I’d like that very much.”

            Her tail wags wildly the rest of the way home.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    When I think of Duppy, in her fear of oceans and big waves, seeing you bobbing under and being sucked out into over the brink, putting fear aside, running into the surf, and swimming out way over her head until she reached you, thinking one thought, “Must rescue Girl!”, I get weepy.

    Thanks for the nice tale.

  2. August 11, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    That should read “sucked out over the brink” 😉

  3. August 12, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I love the deep connection that you and Duppy share. It brings happy tears to my eyes. You are the best family that she could ever have hoped to share her life with, and we are all so lucky to have her in our lives because you rescued her from the pound. 🙂

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