The Swim About

A girl and her dog

As I’ve mentioned before, Norah is new to us. We bought her from a breeder. She was four years old and had just finished having a litter of sweet, tiny, golden puppies. She’s slightly neurotic and dumb as a pile of rocks, but nice enough company. She’s good with kids and small so she can fit into tight spaces. She’s the Honda Accord of dogs – very practical.

One day, Josie, my mother, Norah and I go for a walk on the beach. We head left and Norah takes off to the right. She’s gone, around the point. We play around for a minute, calling her and waiting for her to come back. Nothing. Josie works on her beach relocation project – she carries rock after rock down to the water’s edge and throws it. Finally after calling and calling, I walk around the point and look down the beach. No Norah. She’s vanished. Fortunately, we’re in a small community where we know almost everyone and I know she’ll make her way home eventually.

I start walking down the beach while my mother and Josie throw rocks. It’s a clear warm-ish afternoon. There’s a layer of high clouds and a little blue sky. The sun is nearing the horizon and marking a patch of orange over a neighboring island. The water is completely still. There’s not even a bird or otter around to break the surface. I turn back to tell Josie that I’ve found the perfect rock for her to throw when I see something in the water coming around the point.

A kayak? It’s an animal but it’s moving so fast. Polar bear? No, pretty sure there aren’t polar bears in the Puget Sound, even in the winter. Beaver?

I remember seeing a beaver swim in Lake Washington. It was a dark almost unidentifiable form that was mostly under water. Only its nostrils stuck out. It was like a ripple – a single wave, moving through a clear surface. It was like you didn’t see the animal, only the water it displaced.

But this animal isn’t a beaver, of course, it’s Norah. But she doesn’t look like any other dog I’ve seen in the water. Most dogs I know snort and huff and paw at the surface. As she round the point about 15’ offshore, I call her but she doesn’t hear me, doesn’t look at me, just keeps going right on past us.

As Paul says, she’s made for speed, streamlined, even her head is shaped kind of like an arrow – “not much room for brains but she sure is fast.”

I worry she isn’t smart enough to come back to the beach before she runs out of energy. Assuming she started swimming right away, and that is why I couldn’t find her on the beach, she’s been swimming for about 15 minutes. But it looks like swimming is as easy as walking for her. I call her name again just as she’s swimming around the far point and out of sight. Finally she veers toward the beach but then back out again. Each time I call, she veers toward me then away. I call her name over and over and over and gradually – like Josie to a packet of string cheese – she’s pulled in. When she finally washes up on shore, I’m nearly hoarse.   

Norah has a good shake and when I give her a good pat on the head, I notice that her fur is completely dry from the top of her head down through her shoulder blades. She looks up at me like, what’s the big deal lady? I was just checking things out.

OK, maybe she’s not the Accord of dogs. Maybe she’s something a little sportier. Maybe she’s a Civic. Maybe she’s an Impreza. Maybe she’s an Impreza with a spoiler… and a hood vent.

2 thoughts on “The Swim About

  1. Barb

    Stories about dogs and children are always appreciated, but I gotta say the thing that made me obsolutely envious was the description of the sun on the still water. Sounds like a very lovely afternoon, and I’m envious of that kind of stillness and quiet with water to the horizon.

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