Almost Gone.

I see him disappear as he drops off the cut bank and into the river, purely intending to cool off. By “river” I’m referring to the South Fork of the Snake, currently running at 12,000 cubic feet per second.

The uninterrupted force of the river is cranking along the undercut bank where he went in. There is a tangled strainer of logs and debris just downstream, reaching out like a wicked, gnarled hand dragging long fingernails across the galloping surface of the torrent.

I sprint. He’s clawing at the bank without purchase, and then I see him starting to get sucked under and swept. His eyes go wide as dinner plates as the reality of his predicament dawns on him. Somehow sinks through that knuckle-headed pointer cranium of his. It’s a look I’ve never seen on his face, and my own probably didn’t look much different.

I dive to the edge of the bank, grab a fistful of collar and pluck him from the current with little time to spare. Fall on my ass.

I think about what would have happened if I hadn’t been right there, and able to respond so quickly. What if I was still back in the cottonwoods, looking for morels, as I had been just minutes before? He’d be gone. Pinned below the undercut, or swept into the strainer. I’d have lost my bird dog.

On terra firma again, he shakes the water off and tears off back into the forest, following the onslaught of spoor that rules his better judgement. Living as he always does – entirely in the moment. I give up on the morels and decide to call it a day. Too dry anyway.

13 thoughts on “Almost Gone.”

  1. Way too close, Bruce.

    Remind me to tell you the story of my uncle’s Lab going after a winged duck in the Niagara River.

      1. Above the falls, off Grand Island. Thought the duck was dead, but as the dog closed in it came to life and swam/flapped its good wing into the heavy current. Tried to call him back, but he was completely focused on a moving target and wasn’t about to let it get away. We pulled anchor and started after him, certain that the dog was a goner. Many anxious minutes later there’s this big yellow Lab making his way back up along the Canadian side. With the duck.

  2. Smithhammer, I always assumed you lived in Southeast Utah from your photos but it sounds like you live near Idaho Falls from this post about the south fork of the snake. I am in Alaska now, send me a PM if you can.

  3. I had a moment like that when my Lab went over a cliff after grabbing a grouse. Luckily it wasn’t too far of a fall but for a moment I thought I lost a dog.

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