My soon-to-be 11-year-old dog has reached a point where she must retire from adventure sports –everything, save for walks around the neighborhood. Time has caught up with my pup.
Last Thursday was hot. Like Africa hot.
So I decided to take the dogs for a little stroll to the Sacramento River for a dip.
That dip turned into a major rescue operation.
Which has now led to Scully’s retirement from action/adventure pursuits.
The Sacramento River runs through my neighborhood at about 51 degrees. Last Thursday, the flow was 14,750 cubic feet per second. High, but not raging, like it is during winter (I’ve seen it as high as 65,000 cfs, which means flooding).
We get to the river near a neighborhood park, and there’s kids drinking beer at our favorite place to get wet. It’s called the channels, where river diverts from its main stem through a bunch of alder- and willow-covered islands.
Since the kids were taking up the best spot, the girls and I wandered downstream about 10 yards.
Trinity jumped in and started paddling.
Scully likes to ease into the water, but with the higher flows, the bank where we got in was thigh deep on me. She went in with a sploosh.
And started to head out into the current.
No, I’m just watching this. It is like watching a car wreck unfold.
“Scully, paddle over here,” I said. We’re standing in an eddy that’s 10 feet wide, protected by willow bushes at the tailout and a cottonwood tree at the beginning.
Scully’s now in the current, flailing hopelessly, facing me as the current has now caught her.
“SCULLY, PADDLE OVER HERE.”
She’s got this look on her face like, “Shit.”
And she’s gone.
I run up the trail to past the willow and she’s now doing the drowning bobblehead. Head under water, head above water.
And I jump in.
Trinity, thinking we’re in fun mode, jumps in behind me.
A few steps in hip-deep water and I’m sucked under. I can no longer touch – and I can now barely breath in the frigid water.
I don’t often close the buckle on my sandals. One comes off. I have the leather leashes in my right hand. I go under.
Scully is now in real trouble, 20 feet from me. Trinity is paddling toward Scully. I’m yelling for both to paddle toward me.
And I’m thinking now that I’m not going to make it. I grab the floating sandal, toss it and the leashes onto a logjam and kick toward Scully.
I get her by the collar and start swimming to shore, out of the current. She’s terrified. I look back, and Trinity is now in a mess of willows, her head going under.
Trin uses her tail for major propulsion/steering. Her tail is caught in some blackberry brambles and is useless. She can’t seem to figure out why she keeps going under.
I toss Scully in some brambles on the river’s edge (where she can touch) and go swimming upstream to rescue Trin.
I get her untangled, head her in the direction of Scully, where she jumps up on shore.
“STAY RIGHT THERE,” I yell and swim the 20 yards against the current to get the leashes and my shoe.
Surprisingly, Trin did as she was told. Scully couldn’t go anywhere, since she was shaking and stuck in the brambles.
I unstuck her, lift her to shore and start brushing away five feet of cobwebs and sticker-filled brambles so I can get out.
I put the sandal down, get into it and start picking a trail through the brambles and grass.
We get back to the trail, and I’m a sticker-covered, muddy mess. There’s cobwebs and dirt and brambles hanging off my very wet shirt and shorts. Cobwebs cover my hat. My shins are a quilt of cuts and scrapes. The dogs are muddy.
Scully walked very slow, still shaking.
Trinity was waiting for the command for us to go swim again.
We turn instead for the sidewalk. And walk home, wet, muddy and dejected.
“Hey, babe, what are you doing?” my wife called and asked.
“Oh, sitting here, recovering from my rescue operation.”
“Scully’s retired, that’s what happened.”
I told her the story from the comfort of a chair in my front yard. The dogs were seated very close to me.
“It’s a good thing you’re such a strong swimmer,” she said.
She still doesn’t know how close I was to becoming an ex-swimmer.
On Friday, I was sitting in my chair when Scully came up and put her dopey head in my lap. I scratched her head and she gave me a look and started to do her happy pant.
The look said, “I’m OK with this retirement thing.”
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