I’m not a powerful swimmer, and since I was snorkeling, I wasn’t wearing a life jacket. I had gotten out farther than I planned, lured by a school of bluegills and a trout. The memorizing underwater plants resembling an emerald forest and the fascinating bass nests, lined with colorful rocks, pulled me farther from shore than I intended.
My husband and I were at Imp Lake, a clear lake in northern Michigan. We were the only ones at the picnic area, until a group of four with two big labs joined us. I caught sight of a dog’s yellow flank swimming toward me at the same time I heard muffled yells.
“Gracie!” The dog frantically pawed at my arm.
I surfaced. The owner stood calling. The large lab obeyed. “Sorry about that,” she called. “She thinks she needs to save you. She did the same thing to my nephew when he was out swimming the other day.” The owner scooted back as the lab shook, sending water flying.
“She thought I was drowning?” I sputtered, my eyes widening.
The dog owner nodded.
Once back home, I called a dog-loving friend and asked if she knew of a time a dog saved a life. She hesitated. “I’m not sure I should tell you this story,” she began. Details soon had me shuddering.
When my tomboy friend was in 6th grade, she and a cousin joined other young people on a steep icy hill. Even though several kids had gotten injured in the past and her parents had told her not to attempt sliding down on her boots, she did. She ended up falling, cracking her head on ice, and suffering a severe skull fracture. The headaches, nausea, and severe pain kept her out of school, prevented her from the sports she loved, and made her depressed.
When she was in 8th grade, she decided to end her life. She would position herself in the middle of a train trestle and wait for the train.
Her faithful black cocker walked with her to the railroad track. He followed her to the trestle’s bridge. He kept following her until she was in the middle of the trestle.
Even though she kept commanding the usually obedient dog to leave, he stayed by her side. Realizing he wouldn’t leave and wanting to save his life, she ran toward safety. The girl and her dog reached the end of the
trestle and jumped off onto the side of the tracks only seconds before the train thundered past.
The memory of her dog’s devotion helped cheer my friend. It’s hard to say what was going through the dog’s mind, but his bravery, trust and loyalty are commendable.
Years ago my small cockapoo showed similar traits. Josie has never liked swimming in water over her head. She sat on the end of the dock while I positioned myself in the lake preparing to ski. When I was ready, my husband hit the throttle. I sailed off skiing with my son, Jon, acting as spotter. I’d skied around the small lake once and was approaching our dock again when Jon yelled something I couldn’t hear.
My husband cut the motor. It puzzled me when the boat headed toward the middle of the lake. Jon picked something up out of the water. I finally clued in when the boat picked me up and my dripping dog sprang toward me and jumped in my lap.
“See,” my son said to Josie, “she’s okay.”
“She jumped in soon after you took off,” my husband said. “I think she was trying to save you.”
With no regard to her own safety, she had swum out to rescue me.
Even though we can’t talk to our dogs and know their thoughts, the devotion and love we can share with our furry friends speaks volumes. It can even be lifesaving.