Dog Gone

September 2012

Buddy and I were recently interviewed on a local public access television program called “For The Animals” hosted by Sue Skaskiw of the Vermont Volunteer Services for Animals. Sue made us feel right at home, even under the bright lights. The conversation moved around my column in the Times Argus, and book in the making. We talked about what it means to love and be loved by animals and even chuckled about my bumper sticker that reads “My dog is a human”. But then she asked me about the other sticker on my truck. It’s a large paw print that asks “Who rescued who?”. I paused briefly but explained that while I initially “rescued” Buddy fifteen years ago from a dog shelter, I felt that he in return has saved me through countless obstacles and events in my life during our time together. At least he certainly made them

bearable. But it wasn’t until my drive home that day that I realized, Buddy shouldn’t get all the credit.

Vivid flashbacks play like a movie in my mind of at least one time that I truly, in deed, rescued Buddy. Late summer, a few years ago, Buddy and I ventured out for a Sunday afternoon on Lake Champlain. We unclipped our twenty-five foot sailboat, “Second Wind” from it’s mooring and raised sails on a perfect southern reach toward Diamond Island. Hours later we tacked northward rounding Thompson’s Point and headed towards Essex where the lake is much wider. As the wind  shifted from the northwest, we picked up speed and held a perfect course for The Four Brothers islands. “Second Wind” was healing over nicely as the bow cut and splashed through whitecaps of three feet or more. I decided to clip on Buddy’s bright yellow life vest even though he was stretched out in the cockpit napping like a Kennedy. We hadn’t a care in the world as I tended my lines and trimmed my sails. It was a perfect day.

Any sailor will tell you, sailing is a sport that requires constant thought, planning and anticipation. Your attention has to be on all things always; from wind speed and direction to weather and navigation. It even has to be on your lazy dog basking in the sun, which is where I failed miserably. When I noticed Buddy was gone, a hot flash tingled through my bloodstream. I did as any poor sailor would do; ignored my craft. I dropped my lines, left the helm and bolted down into the galley and
v-berth looking for Buddy. Despite my denial, he was not on board. As I regained control of the boat, I hardly noticed the small gash on my leg and blood on the floor of the cockpit but didn’t feel any pain. I threw the boat on an opposite tack, started my engine and glanced the horizon with my binoculars. I saw nothing but water. As funny as it may seem, I struggled to recall if I had even heard a splash. The next few minutes were heart-wrenching as I continued my search for that needle in the haystack – a forty pound black dog somewhere across a stretch of about eight miles of open water kicked up with whitecaps.

The odds were stacked up high against me. Fifteen minutes seemed like fifteen hours. But just then I noticed a bright yellow pin dot bobbing in and out of my view through my binoculars. I pulled my sails tighter with a few extra turns on the winch and bee-lined straight for that yellow dot to the east. With full sails out and the engine giving all she had, I was at maximum hull speed when I approached Buddy.  His eyes were locked on mine. I dropped my sails, circled once and  killed my engine. In seconds, I secured a one-hundred foot lifeline to my vest and jumped in. Buddy clawed up my neck and shoulders pretty good that day but he was in my arms and back on board in no time, soaked and shaking but also wagging his tail. I planted a kiss on his cold and wet mouth as we sailed off.  Minutes later I heard a deep drone and glanced over my shoulder. Passing right over the spot where I just rescued Buddy was the Essex Ferry. Yep, it’s true – timing in life is everything. If you’re a parent who has lost your kid in the grocery store for a few minutes, you already know this. I lost mine in the middle of Lake Champlain 



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