Instinct


A break in the rain. A touch of blue through the clouds. Instead of sleeping by the pellet stove, my dog Annie paces by the door. Something rouses her from her winter hibernation. I feel it, too. Must go out. Though I try to do my indoor chores, the beach across the highway beckons.

Then comes a frustrating phone call. I am still trying to find a home for Annie’s brother Chico. My last resort was the no-kill shelter an hour away from here. I had called to make an appointment to “surrender” him next week. The girl who called me back this morning said they have their quota of “bully” dogs and cannot take him right now. I can call next week to see about getting him on a waiting list. Meanwhile, I may have to bring him home. I took him to a kennel because I could not contain him. Even a six-foot fence wouldn’t hold him. Neighbors were starting to complain.

Annie and I have had a good time together, truly bonding. I have faced the truth that I can only handle one dog, and Chico has made the choice which one by his need to run away. But I love him and don’t want him to be euthanized. Apparently being a little bit pit bull is like being a little bit black in the slavery days. People don’t want you if you’re a “bully dog,” even though they are not necessarily killer dogs. In fact, they’re naturally sweet, loving and eager to please.

So Chico might be coming back to the house next week. Meanwhile, Annie and I must take advantage of our time together. We even tried sleeping together, but she has this need to be very very close and sticks her feet straight out, her nails digging into my face, my arm, my chest. It was nice, but I sent her back to her own bed.

Back to today. Instinct called us outside, led us to the beach. It’s a balmy 50-something degrees, hazy, a little drippy, but tolerable. We went to Ona Beach, a couple miles south, with a long wooded trail to the sand. We skirted big mud puddles and sloshed across soaked grass. Annie darted here and there, sniffing, pouncing, trotting, her tail wagging, her eyes bright.

Across the bridge over Beaver Creek, we reached the sand. So many smells. Seaweed. Poop. Dead murres. Crab shells. Fish slime. We walked and ran south, Annie darting up and down the wet rock cliffs, throwing herself into the sand to rub on something smelly, pulling me to where the waves shot their frilly underskirts toward our feet.

At my age and with so many past foot and ankle injuries, I’m delighted that the dogs have taught me to run again. The little girl in me sent my feet skimming across the sand behind my dog, and all my worries dropped away. When we got tired, we found a sheltered spot under some trees. It was like our private fort. Sitting on pine needles and moss, we snuggled and watched a group of teenagers go by, one girl in a Santa hat.

Rested, we trotted north around the bend, skirting the edge of the creek. Suddenly Annie ran and jumped into the creek. The backwash soaked my shoes and socks, but I was too busy laughing to care. She took a big drink, jumped out and jumped back in. She went deeper, and I saw my dog discover for the first time that she could swim. Instinct. She and Chico are half lab. The dog paddle is like running in the water. Now she wanted more and more of it.

But it was time to go home and dry off. On the short ride home, she stared out the window, smiling, and so did I.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next week. All I know is that when nature calls you out, get away from the computer and go.

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Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, and Childless by Marriage. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I teach writing workshops and offer individual editing and mentoring. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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