Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wet and Wild

Sailor here.

One cloudy morning, Mom bundled me into the back of her car and away we roared. We careened out the driveway and raced down the street.

“Mom, my tummy,” I complained from my crate.

“Sorry, Sailor,” Mom answered, “we’re late.”

I burped twice in a row and looked out the window.

“Mom, I’m drooling and this time it’s not because I’m nervous.”

Mom ignored me and mumbled, “Let’s see, here’s the sign for Bair Island. There’s the Movie Theater. I think we’re here. Now, where do we park?”

“I don’t see any bears or movie theaters,” I said. “I see mud and water and more mud and plants. And it smells salty and wet and swampy.”

Mom brought the car to a sliding stop and jumped out. She reached into the back of the station wagon and opened my crate. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud and turned the mud bright silver. It made me blink and made Mom reach into her pocket for her sunglasses. In the distance, I saw four dogs’ reflections in the mud.

Two people waved to Mom. Mom waved back and we hurried to catch up. I minced along, holding my feet out of the mud as much as possible. The mud made sucking noises against Mom’s boots. It squished between my toes.

“Ick,” I grumbled. “Mud.”

I smelled DOG and looked up. Here, chasing each other across the mud flats were four giant Leonbergers.

“Wow! They’re bigger than me. They’re almost as handsome as me! They are really, really BIG!” I woofed to Mom.

Each Leonberger had happy eyes, a black facemask and long furry ears. Three were brown and one was red. Their coats were fluffy, their feet were huge and their tails wagged non-stop as they dodged around each other in the mud.

When we approached, the tallest Leo broke from the pack and trotted up, grinning.

“Donner! Give me a smooch, big guy,” Mom said. She reached out to tickle him under the chin.

He held up his face and gave her a doggy kiss. Mom didn’t have to bend over to kiss him, either. He was that tall.

I felt jealous. I shouldered the Leo aside and held my face up for a kiss, too. Mom bent over and gave me a smooch right between my eyes.

“Sailor,” she said, “Meet the Leos.”

The Leos took turns sniffing me politely and romped off with their humans, splashing across the mud. Mom took off my leash. Off leash! I couldn’t believe it

"Zoe will be so jealous," I thought. “She never gets to go off leash.”

"Let's run!" the Leos called to each other. Their tails threw muddy drop of water into my face. I looked at Mom.

“Oh-oh, are we going to play dogsled in the mud?” I asked.

“Well, Sailor, Leos ARE working dogs, like Zoe,” she answered. “They sometimes pull carts, but they don’t usually run in front of sleds. Go join them; you’ll see that they play a lot differently than a husky does.”

I galloped off to join the Leonbergers, but they kept me out of their circle. They bumped each other, playing their own Leo games. They ignored him completely.

“Gosh, these Leos are BIG,” I muttered. “I don't think I really want to get body slammed into the muck.” Grapes tasted sour in my mouth.

The Leos galloped away kicking up bits of mud. They wove in and out of their humans, dodging and chasing. Their voices thundered across the Baylands and then, as one, they headed toward the water.

“Hey, come back.” I was left behind. I began to feel left out. I wanted to to join in on the fun.

Following their tracks, I caught up to the Leos and tried to slide between them. Before I could change directions, they banked to the left and left me behind again.

“Well, drat,” I thought to myself. “I’ve got to make them notice me. Maybe if I teach them to play Herd, they’ll play with me.”

So I took off running and circled them. I barked at the top of my lungs and tried to drive them into a flock. The Leos broke through my imaginary circle and ran in the opposite direction.

“Well, that didn’t work,” I mumbled to myself.

I scampered after them. The mud leaped and danced and coated the Leos but missed me completely except for the bottoms of my feet. The big dogs were muddy. I was clean.

“The Leos may not be my friends, yet,” I thought, “But I’m clean. At least the mud is on my side.”

Actually the mud was on the sides of the Leos, all over their sides, as well as their tails and legs and tummies.

“I’m really very lucky,” I tried to convince myself. “Even the fur on my ankles stayed clean.”

I stopped by a large puddle and peered in. My reflection looked like the picture Mom has in our kitchen. I looked just like an old-fashioned farm dog painted on wrinkled aluminum foil.

“I may be friendless, but I’m beautiful,” I said. “And clean.”

I followed dogs up a small hill. I saw a channel of water that wound through the slough and emptied into the Bay.

“Look, Mom!” I barked over his shoulder. “Boy, do the Leonbergers ever like water!”

The Leos had waded chest deep into the water and then pushed off from the muddy bottom, mixing brown water with gray. They began to dog paddle, swimming next to the shore. Their ears streamed behind them. They turned toward the bank and waded out and shook water from their coats.

The Leos grinned at each other, woofed, and splashed back into the slough, getting even muddier than before.

“Sailor, want to go swimming?” Mom asked, giving my back a couple of thumps.

"What," I looked up at her in astonishment. "Me? Wet? Muddy? Are you kidding?”

I trotted to the edge of the water. I was careful not to slide down the slippery bank.

“I guess I can herd the Leos from the shore,” I thought and loped along the waterline.

As I bounced across hummocks of salt grass, the Leos raised their heads and looked at me. I barked wildly and took off at a full gallop across the mud flats. Braking hard, I swept around in a circle and dashed by Mom. I headed away from the group of Leos, glancing behind to make sure they were still watching. They were. I hurtled around a tuft of grass, sweeping up a small rise toward what I thought was a parking lot.

“Oboy, now I can really show off!” I panted, daring and sassy. “I’ll show them how high I can jump off this hill!”

I made sure everyone was watching and then leaped off the embankment. In mid-flight, though, I began to have second thoughts.

"Oh-oh, this doesn't look like pavement," I gasped. “It doesn’t smell like pavement. It smells like…”


“Ack!” I cried in shock. “I’m cold. I’m salty. I’m WET!”

And I was swimming.. I snorted and huffed. I reached shore and crawled out onto the mud. Then I shook, starting at my head and working my way to my tail. Water flew in all directions.

My feet were black. My legs were black. My belly was black. My tail was dripping.

“Oh, no,” I said. “Now nobody will like me. I made a fool of myself and now I’m a muddy mess.”

I trotted over to Mom for comfort. “Maybe she can fix me,” I thought. I hung my head, hiding my face against Mom’s knee. I was so embarrassed.

And then a most wonderful thing happened. The Leos realized that although I was a collie on the inside, I smelled like a Leonberger on the outside. They splashed out of the Bay and surrounded me, play-bowing and barking.

“Let’s run, Sailor!” they barked. “Come on!”

The Leos began to chase me, pushing and crashing into me as if I were another Leo.

“I have new friends! I finally have new friends!” I woofed happily, as I was body slammed into the mud. “I wonder how that happened!” Being muddy had never been so much fun!

And the five Leonbergers, four real ones and one honorary one (me), sped off cross the Baylands. We barked and laughed and shouted to one another.

“Sailor,” Mom called finally as the sun disappeared behind the clouds for good. “Time to go, it’s getting late and I’m getting cold!”

“Donner!” “Audubon!” the other Leo Moms called them to the parking lot, too.

We Leonbergers lined up in single file and made our way down a narrow path alongside the channel toward the cars. I was careful to bring up the rear.

“You all go on first,” I called to his new friends, “I want to be sure that the parking lot is really the parking lot and not another swamp.”

The Leos burst into laughter and surrounded me, herding me toward Mom’s car.

“Come back and play with us soon,” Audubon invited, poking me in my neck.

“Maybe you can come to the ocean with us next time,” Donner added, lowering his ears and leaning down to sniff my muddy flanks. “We’ll show you how to get sandy and salty at the beach; it’s the best fun ever!”

“Oboy, that sounds great!” I called to the Leos as Mom shoved me into the back of her Volvo.

She threw a beach towel over my shoulders and told me to Sit. She began to rub my back and shoulders. In no time at all, the towel was as muddy as the salt flats.

“This is hopeless,” she mumbled, wadding the towel into a ball. She threw up her hands.

“Have I slimed the car forever?” I asked. I gazed at the muddy butt prints I left on the carpet each time I change positions.

“No, my honorary Leonberger. The car is washable and so is the dog.”

Mom rolled down the windows and drove toward town. She drove fast to escape the smell of the Baylands that surrounded me.

“Mom, slow down,” I pleaded. “You’re making my tummy feel icky.”

“Sailor,” Mom replied. “It’s the smell of the swamp water that’s making your tummy feel icky. I’ve got to hurry so I won’t get carsick, too.”

Mom made a fast turn and pulled into the parking lot of my favorite pet food store. I jumped out of the car, and Mom led me to the back of the store.

“What now?” I asked, looking around. “Where are we?”

“We’re at the Do-It-Yourself DogWash,” Mom said, “and we’re going to do it ourselves.”

I climbed the three steps into the tub.

Mom fed a metal coin into a slot on the tile wall. Soapy water came out of the hose. Muddy water rolled off my coat.

“I’d rather smell like a swamp than Mango-Tango shampoo,” I told her. Mom just snorted and picked up the sprayer.

“What a good dog you are, Sailor.” Mom said switching to the rinse cycle. “I’m not soaking wet and exhausted like when I bathe Zoe.”

“I know how to behave in the bath,” I reminded her, holding up a paw so Mom could rinse between my toes.

Despite the praise, I was disappointed to find that Mom did not have any cookies in her pocket to make this bath a little happier.

As I turned from black to red again, I looked down into the tub. I noticed that the mud in the bottom of the tub was slipping down the drain.

“Oh, no, the mud is going away!” I yipped. “We have to save it and take it back to the Baylands. The Leos will be so upset if it’s gone next time they go to swimming.”

Rinsing the tub clean, Mom smiled, “Not to worry. It will find its way back to the Bay where it belongs.”


“Plumbing. It’s all about the plumbing.”

“Will it really be there next time I decide to be a Leo?”

“Yes, Sailor, I promise. It will be waiting to leap all over you again.”

I looked at the muddy paw prints leading across the tile floor of the DogWash. I looked at my feet, white again and smelling like Mango-Tango. I thought about mud and baths. I thought about running and Leos.

“Heck,” I said to myself. “If that’s what it takes to have friends, I’ll do it again!”

On the way out of the DogWash, Mom stopped by the check stand, taking out her wallet.

“Four wash tokens, please,” she said to cashier who slipped me a cookie.

I danced with joy.

“Oboy!” I woofed out loud, accidentally spitting a cookie fragment into Mom’s hair. “This means I will get to be a Leonberger FOUR more times! I can hardly wait!”

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