Every now and then I go out with a friend of mine from my anxiety group.
We’ve been hanging out more and more lately. She lives nearby, has two pug dogs, and we both have babies, and while our anxieties manifest in totally different ways, we understand each other’s peccadilloes. She’s also a good match for my personality, because she’s as outgoing and extroverted as I am hermit-like and introverted, which means she actually gets in touch with me and badgers me to hang out, both of which are helpful to maintaining a friendship with me, since it never occurs to me to actually call people and invite them places.
She picked me up this morning and took me for a walk at a nearby slough (pronounced “sloo” and meaning “channel or river or other body of water that looks pleasantly marshy above but contains deep, quicksand-like sediment on the bottom”).
…Not that I’m foreshadowing or anything.
It was a gorgeous day. Spring has suddenly remembered that it is on duty, so suddenly the leaves are out and the days are 18 degrees and sunny. The first thing we saw when we got on the trail was a deer, which ambled down the path casually without seeming at all concerned by the sheltie, retrievers, and snorting pug dogs roaring around.
Pug Mama said she has even seen bears on this trail! I decided to leave my dog’s leash on him. Just in case.
We had a lovely walk, which ended in a little beachy area, and the dogs had a nice splash. Then we turned around and came home.
The path runs along a dyke, with water on either side. Every now and then the dogs would run down an animal trail in the brambles for a little splash, and then return to us, panting and refreshed.
We were about halfway back on our return journey when I noticed that the two pugs were rollicking along beside us, but my Beloved Dog was nowhere in sight.
I called his name.
Now, you have to understand that my dog always comes when called.
For the first few years of his life I never let him off leash without a light long-line (you can buy them at the dollar store and I do so in bulk). If I called, and he didn’t return post haste, I would catch up to the trailing end of the leash and step on it, which brought him to a very sudden stop. Therefore he is not really aware that he has a choice in the matter when I call him, and he usually wheels around the second I call, even if it’s just a casual “don’t go too far!”
So my dog was now conspicuous in his absence.
I decided that I would have to use The Word.
YOU know. The “C” word. The great, hallowed word which no dog owner should EVER utter unless:
a) they have a way of enforcing the command
b) they have treats
…unless it is a complete and utter emergency.
Then, one day, when your dog is barreling right towards a bear or Mac truck, you can speak The Word and know that your dog will reverse direction and shoot towards you like an arrow from a bow.
I had no treats, but hadn’t my friend mentioned bears?
…The silence was penetrating.
Now I was worried.
I walked back to the last deer path that he had disappeared down, and peered into the tangle of blackberry bushes.
There! A frustrated “wuff”, and then nothing.
He must be stuck, somehow. Had his trailing leash snagged on something? This wasn’t an uncommon event but Beloved Dog is usually quite vocal about letting me know when his leash has caught. But all I heard was that single “wuff”, which seemed to be less a call to me and more a muttered curse-word.
I handed Babby to Pug Mama, and set down the diaper bag. Grumbling to cover my worry, I crawled down the steep grade along the path under the thorns. A great place for Bambi, not so great for Carol.
Beloved Dog heard me coming, and whined eagerly. The path was growing slick with mud, and I squatted to lower my centre of gravity as I pried my way down.
The muddy bank dropped off abruptly a couple of feet above the water. Below, sitting neck-deep in the water and looking despondent, was Beloved Dog. When he saw me, he renewed his efforts to claw his way out of the water. But the bank was too high and he couldn’t seem to jump. It looked like he was caught on something.
I grabbed his leash and pulled on it, but there was no snag. I figured he must not be jumping high enough. I tugged on the leash to motivate him further, but he really seemed stuck. He couldn’t even get his paws high enough to reach the bank.
With a sigh, I wriggled down closer to the water while my dog continued to flap about in the water like a dying duck. Leaning off the edge of the bank, I reached down and grabbed my dog by the scruff of his sorry neck and heaved.
There was a strange sucking noise as I hauled him up, and his hind end emerged from the water in a mass of river mud and sticks. Beloved Dog booted it up the slope like a runaway beaver dam.
Sighing, I followed behind him, clawing my way back up the dyke.
I was about halfway up when my feet slipped in the slime. I scrabbled frantically at the bushes and reeds as I slid inexorably downwards, but the next thing I knew I had dropped off of the bank and was thigh-deep in water. My feet were embraced by thick, sticky mud which made a smug “squelch” noise as it took me hostage.
“…Are you ok?” called my friend, who couldn’t see any of this. My dog’s face reappeared above me with a worried expression. I sternly ordered him back up to the top of the dyke and he disappeared guiltily.
“I… I’m in the water and I…” I struggled, but my feet might as well have been glued to the bottom of the slough.
I also realized that I was sinking slowly.
Like a mammoth in a tar pit.
With two babies and three dogs to watch, there was no way that my friend could come down and pull me out. I was on my own.
After a lot of splashing and struggling and tugging on blackberry brambles, I managed to wriggle one shoe loose, which the mud released with a sickening slurp, and I braced it on the bank. I spent some time with one foot up and one foot down, grabbing thorny bushes and trying to free my other foot.
My god, I’m going to have to leave my shoe.
If I take my foot out of my shoe, I can escape. If I don’t, I’ll keep sinking and I’ll never get free…
I’m going to have to LEAVE my SHOE.
IN A SLOUGH.
One final herculean struggle freed my left shoe, and I scrabbled out of the water gratefully. A couple of minutes later I crawled out of the brambles with sodden shoes and my lower quarters layered in mud, and stinking like a swamp.
My hands were coated in filth and I was bleeding from the thorn scratches. When I got home and into the shower, I found mud in places where there should never be mud.
Soaking-wet shoes are surprisingly comfortable after a while.
The “squish squish” of each step announces your sopping presence, the water adds to the cushioning, your feet stay pleasantly cool, and the bubbles that pop up with each step sort of massage your feet with a pleasant fizzing sensation.
Someone should patent this.
This look could totally catch on.