His head erupted from the water. His front paws flailed in the air like he was trying to climb a ladder. Was he standing on his back feet? Maybe. He was five feet tall when he stood on his back feet and reached for something in the kitchen. She could look him right in the eye when she told him to get down and leave the dinner leftovers alone. But she’d never seen him in the water before, didn’t know if he could stand or if he could swim, but all dogs could swim, she thought, it’s reflex. Or instinct. Whatever it is will kick in.
She ran down the beach. “GRADY! GRADY!”
The stones and the sand made running hard and slow. Her sneakered feet sank and slid, like running in mud, and soon, her breathing turned sharp and painful, like when she was a kid playing tag in the neighborhood and her sides would ache like they’d been hammered with a mallet.
“GRADY! WAIT!” She yelled this and knew it was foolish. The wave was taking him. He was already ten, maybe fifteen feet from the shore. His head bobbed – under the water, then atop the wave, like a surfer who’d lost his board and was at the mercy of the sea and his own ability to swim. But there is no swimming against a riptide and that’s what she knew this was. Nothing else could suck a 70-pound dog right off the shore.
“GRADY! GRADY!” She yelled so loud and so hard that her throat felt split open. Grady was going to drown. She stretched out her arms and screamed again. “GRADY!” His head popped up and then quickly disappeared. He was weakening. She could feel his weakening and now he was further out, maybe thirty feet. He was going to be gone, gone to her.
THIS WAY! THIS WAY! She remembered THIS WAY! She needed to show him the way to go. She remembered from the news that someone caught in a riptide should swim sideways, parallel to the shore. A person couldn’t fight a riptide, the only way to survive was to leave its clutches. But how to tell him? Grady wasn’t looking at the shore anymore, just bobbing up and down, trancelike. Would he even be able to hear her?
She tried to find the edge, the seam between the wild lake water and the killer water. She remembered to watch how the waves broke and stepped just to the side. It was hard to see, so risky but there was no choice now. She would wade out and call Grady from the side, call THIS WAY! and hope he could hear and swim toward her.
Even though it was August and the sun had been hotter every day for a week, the lake was frigid. In seconds, her ankles ached from the cold. The waves hit harder the deeper she went. Smacked her thighs and then her belly as she walked further and further away from the shore. Soon the waves were hitting her chest but she was still too far away from Grady to get his attention. She started swimming. She swam breaststroke, putting her head down into the waves, and coming up afterward out of breath and panicked. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Grady, just the top of his head now. He was getting weaker.
Read Part 1 of Grady and Irene here.