Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flashback: Mom and Skeeter

While Duncan took a few tentative steps in the small creek that runs through Lilley Gulch this morning––his first since his spectacular swim on Easter afternoon––I remembered my childhood dog, Skeeter, a large, hairy and tenacious Cocker Spaniel who may have been part Wookiee. Skeet was the first dog in Idaho to survive Parvo, had been shot in the back, ate an entire triple layer chocolate birthday cake, jumped out of the back of a moving truck and was under one when my former step-dad ran over him, crushing his hip. But he hung on for twelve years and was a good dog––albeit not the best-smelling one––up until the end.

While Duncan waded and licked the cool stream, I remembered the time my family, including the step-siblings, went camping at the Blackfoot Reservoir in southeast Idaho. We'd set up camp not far from one of the docks but far enough way that we were protected from the the smell of the thick, green water. That summer, a particularly warm one, the top of the entire lake was covered in an algae so thick and foul-smelling it prevented us from swimming and left a heavy coat of green fur on anything that came into contact with it.

The seven of us were standing on the edge of the dock waiting to climb into the boat for an afternoon of fishing when Skeeter took a running jump and did an enormous belly-flop into the water. He'd never swam before and we were all a bit anxious to see what he'd do. Dogs are natural swimmers, right? Surely he'd know what to do. He didn't swim, that's for sure. There was a moment he seemed to sit on the surface, perhaps by the sheer thickness of the algae, and then slowly, very slowly began to sink, slipping under the surface until all that remained was a floating mass of formerly blond, now quite green hair. It hung for a moment, drifting lazily under the sun before it was finally pulled down into the muck. We stood frozen and silent, waiting for him to surface, but after several long seconds of silence the dock erupted into a frenzy with the kids darting back and forth, screaming and crying in a panic. Dan just sort of sat in the boat watching and waiting. It was my mother who finally took control. She pulled off her enormous sunglasses, handed them to me, along with her soda and Marlboro 100's then kicked off her shoes.

"Hold these," she said.

"Why? What are you doing?" I stammered, glancing from her to the wretched and foul boat-landing water.

"I'm going in," she told me.

"In there?" I gasped. Apparently the water was foul enough that I'd rather have risked my dog's life than put myself into it.

"What if he came up under the dock?" Mom said. "I've got to get to him!" She bent at the hips, kept her back straight, leaned forward but just as she prepared to dive Skeeter surfaced, fifteen or so feet away. We jumped up and shouted encouragement at him and he turned, his long blond hair now green and matted around his face. He paddled furiously toward us and when he reached the dock Mom and Dan leaned over and heaved him up, where he immediately shook himself silly.

No one would have much to do with poor Pete-Pete––as we sometimes called him––for the rest of the trip. But I do remember being locked in the camper with him on the unending drive home, the windows open and five little faces pressed against the screens trying to catch some clean, fresh air.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Thanks for being a hero to dogs! Skeeter certainly appreciated it, and I know you'd do the same for Duncan today. Or maybe instead of handing me your things you'd simply offer to take mine. I love you.

4 comments:

Charlie said...

What a survivor dog. And a great mom!
- Charlie

Lori said...

Of course she'd go in! That's what we dog-people do. Poor Skeeter... he must've been scared! Did he ever go swimming again???

Duncan's Internet Friend said...

Awww! Reminds me of a comic I have hanging in my office...I have to explain it to the young ones but by peers and the older kids get it and crack up...A guy is handing his golf clubs to a guy on the dock pleading with him to hold them as he has to go back for his wife! (Get it? Saves his clubs first and then goes back for his wife!?!!!) Too funny.
Glad your story turned out just fine.
Curt and Duncan Rock!

Cheryl said...

Good old Skeet. He disliked looking handsomely groomed and did his best to search out and roll in any garbage he was able to knock out of the neighborhood trash cans. His "ordure parfum' was quite over-powering at times.
Good old Skeet.