REFLECTIONS: Of fur and fish

The harrowing true tale of a battle between dog and the sea

I have to admit something.

I lied.

Well, not really.

I just assumed something, and that something turned out to be just the opposite.

See, in a column a short while ago, I said that our new Leonberger pup, which turns a year old on Monday, was NOT going to be a retriever. Nor, I proclaimed, would she EVER go swimming in our pool at home. She didn’t like either.

I was convinced of it.

A couple of weeks ago, I became unconvinced.

We were walking along the shoreline south of First Street Beach in Manistee.

There were just the three of us: Wife Susan, Pup Elsa and myself.

Elsa was looking out over the horizon and suddenly turned and plunged into in the waves and frantically struck out dead west – rapidly churning water in her wake.

(Elsa is a VERY strong swimmer. She has web feet and is considered a water rescue mountain dog in Germany.)

She was definitely on a mission!

25 yards.

50 yards.

75 yards.

Heading towards 100 yards.

She was nearing the length of a football field – and we were starting to get just a bit concerned.

Naw, we weren’t just a little bit concerned; we were heading into a full blown panic mode!

We had NO idea what was going on!

Sometimes Elsa will head out for a seagull that’s landed WAYYY out there and when the critter finally flies off, she’ll turn back to shore in exasperation.

This time, though, we could see no seagulls or any other diving garbage hunters gracing the skies.

It was difficult to see with the wave action, but we saw Elsa suddenly take a lunge and turn back towards shore.

We were relieved, but still scratching our heads in bewilderment: just what was she doing?

As she approached shallower water, we could see she was carrying something in her jaws.

She got closer and closer. Finally we make it out– and broke out into laughter!

The pictures should be self explanatory.

(I only wish I had my telephoto lens with me!)

Apparently Elsa had looked across the horizon and saw a nearly exhausted salmon struggling along the top of the waves in the last throws of its life.

And off she went! She knew she had to save it…and went into fulltime rescue mode!

What a hoot!

Two minutes later, we had a 15-17 lb much-more-dead-than-alive salmon dropped at our feet.

And Elsa stood there, panting and proudly shaking her head … and then, just wandered off.

The salmon? It took one more weak gasp and expired.

We stood there with our mouths hanging open. We were dumbfounded.

A number of vacationers sunbathing on the beach, witnessing the whole episode, came over and asked us if this was a particular breed of dog known for catching fish.

I sputtered some sort of unintelligent answer and muttered no – this was the first time we had ever seen ANY dog do this!

Needless to say, Elsa ruled the rest of the day.

And for the residual of the beach walk, she retrieved sticks and any other beach flotsam and jetsam we could scavenge. Sooo, I apologize. I was wrong. She IS a retriever!

Hmmm, and as I was walking and throwing sticks, a quirky question entered my mind. I wonder how Elsa would do with ducks?

Ok, so now I got a four legged fishing partner – as well as a pretty good retriever.

At least I’m still safe on the pool issue, thought I.

See, there is NOTHING more stinky late at night than a dog with matted down fur who is insistent it spends the first moment or two before bedtime slathering you with good night kisses while standing on the bed and pinning you to the mattress so you can’t move – or before you can beat a hasty retreat under the covers.

(And sometimes the pup’s close to dripping wet! Well, not quite dripping, but a far cry from dry anyway!)

Not only does it make you want to gargle afterwards and go outside and shake, but it’s just not that easy to get rid of that musky funky stinky wet fur smell that adheres to you, your jammies, your blankets and anything else that might get caught up in an unsuspected sneak attack!

Sooo, having lived through that ordeal with our previous dog Brutus, we were rather elated Elsa was NOT enticed by our backyard pool – and she managed to go to our upstairs bedroom each night nice and clean and fresh smelling. (Well, at least she was fresh smelling MOST nights!)

We didn’t realize we were living a dream – that reality would eventually overtake – or should I say capsize – our little fantasy and turn it into a full-fledged paws-down route!

Neighbor Lynn Thompson stopped by on Labor Day weekend to see daughter Suzi and husband Jackson who were camping in our house with their two dogs.

Their two dogs, a pug and a shepherd lab mix, were not fond of the pool unless they were physically taken into it. Not so with Lynn’s dog Katie, who immediately plunged in the water.

To our chagrin, following shortly behind, was none other than our 110 pound Elsa.

Once again, we were caught totally unaware!

The thought of any future nights of bliss with pup at the side of the bed evaporated like a puff.

Elsa hit the pool a dozen more times that day.

The pool is now a regular for her … as are the dastardly slobbering nighttime wet kisses we are the proud recipients of each night.

That’s just the frosting on the cake if you’re truly a dog lover.

A good slobbery sloppy drooling mashing of the lips … what more could one wish for?

Besides, between you and me, I’m still thinking about those ducks.

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. Email him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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Posted by Jack Batdorff

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. E-mail him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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