It rarely happens but our dogs, Swirl and Punchy, got away from us on the beach this morning.They generally go on ahead when they are loose but then stop every fifty feet or so to turn and look at us. If we are walking toward them, they continue, keeping one ear cocked. We call them back to fuss over them and pet them, thinking that this will keep them from taking off, that reminder that we are their people.
But sometimes, their running joy cannot be tempered by anyone’s callback. They fall in love with the run all over again. And then they are gone.
That’s what happened this morning. Turning back from our long walk east on the beach to return home, they lit out further west. We could see their tails wagging above the ridges of small dunes, between the big logs that can be seen even from 500 feet away. So we walked faster to catch up with them and get them in our “you belong with us” snare. But Swirl headed away from the beach toward the road and Punchy followed. Of course, he did. He is both Swirl’s follower and protector.
Finally, after screaming Punchy’s name for long minutes, he emerged from a deep valley between dunes. I grabbed his collar and sat down in the sand, exhausted from the chase. My husband kept up the search for Swirl and I could hear him calling Swirl’s name from many yards away. We were close to the road by then and, of course, I worried that Swirl’s deep naivete would doom him. He is too unaware of cars, too friendly with strangers.
But then from where I was sitting I could see the very tip of a white tail and a man wearing a Packers stocking cap. They were moving as if both had broken legs, in unison but halting, so much so that I dreaded when they would appear in my sight. Someone would be hurt.
Finally, they both appeared and the story was thus: My husband found Swirl laying down and unable to move in a giant patch of brambles, bushes with thorns like rosebushes. Swirl was smiling and wagging his tail but stuck in a nest of vines and branches. So, of course, my husband went into chest deep brambles to get our dog because there was no choice. At first, he tried to carry him and then he pulled him by the collar over and through the brambles. And they both emerged, hale and hearty but chastened by the brambles. We walked home, then, back along the beach with Lake Superior lapping its gentler waves and all of us stepping carefully on the rocks tossed up by yesterday’s gale.