It was a typical New England summer morning. The world was overcast with morning fog, and all was damp from hours of dew. The ocean licked gently at the granite rock beach, and the day was about to begin with quite a different breath.
I seldom walked down to the beach this early, and really couldn’t say why I did this day, but as I sat on my favorite boulder at the top of the rocky beach, I sucked in the magic essences of my best lady friend, the Ocean. My whole life was related to the Ocean in one way or another, and I had loved and respected her as far back as I could remember. She was my friend, my advisor, my toy, and probably my personal contact with God. I knew her strength and respected her perfection. She had no weaknesses. I don’t think I ever approached her without wishing her a ‘good morning’, or simply saying ‘hello’. She was alive, had a soul, and was the source of all life. I know that she tossed me ashore countless times when I should have drowned, and she held my sailboat tall and safe in storms and wailing seas, all in appreciation of my lifelong respect for her. She and I always talked to each other somehow. At best, we knew each other existed.
As a little boy, growing up on the oceanfront, it was always a place to play, to swim, to search for things that had washed ashore from other places. I loved to walk the beach with an old pillowcase over my shoulder, and scour the sand and rock crevasses for things not common to the waterfront. My Mom called me a beachcomber and my Dad called me a scavenger, but every day, after spreading out my pickings on the porch deck, they would browse over the little pieces of someone else’s life. It was fun. It was magical. At times, it was even a bit profitable.
This morning, as I sat on my rock and reminisced over the seventy years of my love affair with the Ocean, my eyes ever on automatic, still searching the beach for that out-of-place object, something flashed from across the bay. To this day, I’m not sure what it was, but I blinked and turned my head away from the blinding light. Then, in that new direction, I saw it. Something was bobbing back and forth in the shallow lip of the water. It looked like an old rug or sheepskin, something that should not be in the water. My scavenger eyes blinked again and tried to focus on the object, but my age was suggesting a closer squint. Up, I groaned from my stone chaise, and down closer to the beach I crawled. I still could not make out what it was, and finally stumbled down to the rock beach itself. My heart dropped when I recognized what I had found. It was an animal, partially floating in the shallow water. I stepped closer and bent down to pull off the seaweed and other flotsam. It was a dog. Oh God! I cried to myself. Why?
I stepped into the water and lifted her onto the beach. She had been tied with wire to some thin wood slats, perhaps snow fencing, and the wire wound about her neck and jaw. I knew she was dead, but still, I gently unwound the tangled wire, and carried her up to the lawn. I pushed on her chest a few times, after noticing water gurgling from her mouth. I held her up by her hind legs and squeezed her body between my knees. I had to try. She looked like she’d been dead for quite a while, but to me, I had to try. I covered her nose with my mouth and blew some air into her lungs, hoping for the impossible. It was then that I noticed another piece of wire, jammed between her teeth and around her gums. Good God! What happened to this poor soul?
Knowing sadly that it was in vain; I worked on the little animal for a while, then, let her lie in the warm sun to dry her dead body. Leaving her on the grass, I walked up to the garage for a pair of cutting pliers to remove the remaining wire.
John, the gentleman who lived with his wife in the apartment over the garage and was more a house sitter than a houseman, came back to the beach with me. We both held her head, and cut loose the wire in the dead animal’s teeth. Then, we lay her on the grass. Examining the wire, we each commented that it had been wound around the dog by the hand of man. It was our consensus that she’d been tied with the wire and tossed overboard, or even used as shark bait by some rogue fisherman. Damn! What person would wire a dog to drown? What a horrible way to die, and what a horrible person must have done it.
John had come down with a bottle of spring water he had been drinking. I took it and trickled some of it into the dead dog’s mouth, letting her rid herself of any sand and salt water and to taste sweet water for the last time. “My God! Her tongue moved.” I yelled.
John disagreed. It must’ve been a muscle or nerve that jumped, he thought. I worked her chest a few more times and blew again into her nose and mouth. A gush of water shot out of her and a flutter of air behind it. Seconds, perhaps minutes passed, then, as if God Himself blew air into her lungs, she sucked in, coughed, and started to breathe in short unsteady breaths. John and I looked at each other in disbelief. She’s alive. The drowned dog is alive. We cannot remember now which of us picked her up, but two old men ran her up to the house and to a bathroom shower. I stood in the shower and held her under the warm water, heating up the cold flesh of the poor animal. We wrapped her in one blanket, and over that, an electric blanket to keep her warm, while dropping oil in her eyes, and honey water on her tongue. She was breathing, but had not yet come to.
I called the local vet and was told to keep her warm for a while before bringing her to his clinic. I can see her now, wrapped up in the huge comforter that was on my bed. She was beautiful. At first I thought she was an Irish setter, but she was too blond for that. She was mostly golden retriever we thought, or perhaps, a little of each. She was breathing more steadily now, and in full complete breaths with no gurgling. Now, if she would just awaken . . . but she could be brain dead or badly injured. She may die at any time. Nevertheless, at least, this little animal would not die alone, cold, wet and afraid. Right now, she was the major attraction in a king-sized bed in the master bedroom of a great home on the shores of New England, and surrounded by concerned friends. This little girl was in kinder hands now. I ran my hand under the covers to feel her body. She was warming, and I could feel her heartbeat. If her brain hadn’t been damaged, she was going to live.
Suddenly, the screeching calls of gulls shook me. I turned to close the sliders and shut out the noise, when I realized . . . a huge and beautiful white gull stood brazenly on my porch railing. I stepped out on the deck to shoo him away, but he moved not a feather. I looked at the gull and he at me. Then, I turned to my friend the Ocean and smiled. The blinding flash at the beach . . . a signal, to get my attention? Now, I knew the gull was there for a reason, so I whispered to it. “She’s breathing. I think she’s going to be okay.” The gull set its wings, letting the wind lift and carry it back toward the Ocean. The same Ocean that had swept the little dog to my feet was now impatiently waiting to hear . . . if she lived. I never thought of how my friend the Ocean ever heard me, or saw me, however, I had told the gull . . .?
Faintly at first, I heard the harbor bells, the gongs, and whistles, clanging and hooting rapidly and loudly as if in a storm, or jostled by a passing ship . . . or was it the Ocean celebrating her joy in saving this little dogs life. I think she was showing her joy.
The doorbell rang, and much to our surprise we found the Vet complete with one of his nurses. They had a small bottle of oxygen and all sorts of equipment.
“We thought it better that the dog not be moved, so we brought the Mountain to Mohammed.”
My vet was an old friend and had taken care of several of my pets throughout their lives. People said that he was part animal himself.
Ralph examined the dog from head to tail. Checked out her heart and lungs, took a blood sample to check her chemistry, swabbed her gums with antiseptic and gave her a couple of shots. He had other medications he left for me to administer. He tested her reflexes by pinching her paws with tweezers, and she seemed to respond, however weakly. When all that was tended to, Ralph attached a small nasal jet to feed her some oxygen, and an intravenous drip for some liquids. He didn’t know if she’d ever awaken. He couldn’t be certain, but he thought she had a good chance. She was reflex swallowing drops of liquid easily, and the nutriment mixed with the honey water was refueling her system. She was being fed.
John turned on some music and put an earpiece near her. He had read somewhere that sound is extremely important in awakening a brain. Well, she is unbroken, warm, being fed, breathing is good, now we just wait. I looked at my bed, and the lump of golden life bundled in the center, and thought . . . in the whole wide world, what man or animal has an Ocean for a friend? This little girl does.
And so, the hours ticked by, and the little group became a larger one, with the addition of my wife and John’s wife and the return of Ralph, the vet. It was suggested that we give her another 12 hours, and then take her to the animal hospital for some EEG tests. If she were to live as a vegetable, it wouldn’t be right, and I thought, at least she would die warm and clean, and not alone. We all took turns sitting with her, and massaging her paws and legs and stroking her sleeping face. It was heartwarming to see how John reacted. He would hold her in his arms, singing to her, stroking her head, as tears ran down his cragged face. It was John and I, who were there at the beach and had witnessed the cruelty this poor animal had suffered, and I guess he and I had suffered along with her.
Her heart was steadier and her breathing was good, but she slept such a deep sleep, it bothered Ralph. When I swapped duty with John, I stretched out on the bed and held the animal in my arms as we all did. Something wasn’t right. This animal feels normal. She is warm; her breath is warm and steady. She is going to be fine, I thought. There would be no reason for God, nature, fate, or whatever, to have put an animal through all this pain, offer her a second chance, and then take it away. No. She is fine and she is going to awaken. Somebody up there is still working on her. I knew that. Someone up there is rewiring her system. My romantic soul was reaching out with all sorts of mental Band-Aids. That night, my wife slept in a guestroom, and I stayed in our room with my adopted charge. I stretched her out and held her back against my own body, holding her as I would a child. She felt so normal. I drifted off, thinking that I’d give God a rest from all my prayers and bother.
The sound was weird. I hadn’t heard a song like that since Shannon, my old Irish Setter, sang in her sleep. It wasn’t a snore. It was a song. But, here it was again, yet my setter died many years ago. I reached out for what I dreamed was my old dog, then realized. I awoke abruptly. My eyes snapped wide open and I was up on my elbow. That song. It was here. I had not dreamed it. After the little world of confusion cleared the room, I listened again. The song was coming from her. The nearly dead animal next to me was singing on each exhaled breath. I patted her and looked at her face. Her eyes were partially opened. I reached for the baby bottle of honey water and dribbled some into the side of her mouth. She consciously drank and swallowed. She was coming to. I wanted to yell and awaken the whole house, but I thought it would frighten the poor thing. I would wait a bit longer, and see if she moved anything on her own.
I didn't think she was seeing anything yet, although, her eyes were opened a bit. I would give her time. She deserved it. I looked into her eyes, barely visible through the oily medication, and softy spoke to her. I couldn’t help thinking of how scared she must have been, and what those eyes must have seen. I didn’t want her to be scared now, but to know she was safe, and to rest. Gently, I scooped her up and put her head on my chest, so our breathing would be together. I heard somewhere that a baby animal, or a wounded animal, would heal faster simply by feeling the regular breathing and heartbeat of it’s mother or of another animal. She could use my rhythm now . . . she already had my heart.
It was early in the morning and the sun was just rising over the driveway and spilling into the bedroom through the partially closed drapes. I wondered if sunlight would help. No. I would wait for her. She is still healing. I took the earpieces that were still emitting music, and put them closer to her. I wasn’t sure she heard anything, but I hoped she did. I lay on my side and watched her face. She licked her mouth and her lips as I gave her more honey water. Her eyes were glazed and only partially opened, but I thought she was trying to see me. She would close her eyes fully and start to sing again. I would stroke her and keep a gentle hand touching her. She would sleep a bit more and then open her eyes again. Each time was an improvement. Each time, a little more. Within the next hour or so, I felt her legs twitch and her neck stretch a bit. It was a good morning.
Today, months later, I sit at my desk writing of my heartbreaking experience with a drowned animal and of all the attempts to save her, and of all the people who became involved. She was such a beautiful animal. How could anyone have done such evil?
But, as I type these words, I’m reminded of the present world by the pawing at my elbow. I turn and look into those beautiful brown eyes searching into my soul with such love and devotion and at the same time wanting just a bit more of my attention . . . just a bit more . . . like a lifetime. This perfectly healthy animal, a survivor from the sea, is now, the Mistress of the Manor. “Hi Missy.”
This story is based on actual happenings during my life. Precautionary assemblage was necessary and certain names, places, and dates had to be adjusted, changed or slightly altered to protect this little soul from further discomfort, and to allow her final memories to remain intact.