Getting Taro out of the river

Today I took the dogs to the river. Taro and Bertie. Yes, somewhere back there over the last two or three months, we acquired a new dog by the name of Taro Nusa. She’s a white Labrador, eleven years old and desperately in love with water. She’s addicted to it. I lifted the hatch at the back of the dark green Subaru Outback and they jumped in. Off we went, to their favourite place in all the world. I love the way they burst from the car into the landscape and immediately start engaging with it with all their senses, leaving donations of bodily wastes. Off down the dirt track. The mudpond on the track is now very thick, like pea soup. It’s been drying out. The first time Taro got involved, it was water, the second time thin mud and this time, thick mud. But to her, it was still a form of water. She dove in and immediately had brown mud socks and a brown mud nose. I had to haul her out by her thick red leather collar. Once she was out of the mud, she remembered the even more spectacular body of water that lay before her. The Macquarie River! Off she went, running down the slope, splash, she’s in without a backward glance. I threw a stick for Bertie, worrying about Taro. She won’t get out of the water and it’s quite possible that one day she’ll take off down the Macquarie river, out of sight, and sink somewhere without trace. She’s an old, plump, slightly arthritic dog and she completely forgets this when she’s in the water. I threw Bertie’s sticks mechanically and he went and retrieved them. Eventually, worried that Taro would overdo it and drown or disappear, I took my sneakers and socks off and my jeans and threw them on the ground next to the calico bag with Girrawaa printed on it (a craft project of the prisoners of the local jail) and went in after Taro. I was in my knickers, blue Kathmandu t-shirt, now old and shapeless, given to me by Lisa years ago and bare feet. The pebbles were smooth under my feet but very hard and slightly slimy. Hard to walk. But not deep enough to swim. I went in to waist height, coming round the bend in the river, looking ahead, no sign of Taro. Bertie followed me, prancing around and having fun, aware, I’m sure, that we were looking for Taro. The soles of my feet were sore, the water cold. There she was in the distance, just a head out of the water, a long way down the river. I called in my high-pitched calling-Taro shriek and she turned and swam back. Good girl. I watched her swim back. She came right up to me. I dragged her out of the water by her red leather collar. She was woofing and struggling a little bit – obsessed by the water, wanting to stay in forever – but I marshalled all my strength and dragged her 31 sodden kilos out of the water. Probably 35 kilos with all the water in her thick fur. I kept a grip on her collar as I picked my way over the rocks and gravel to my clothes. My feet aren’t very hardy. I was making a list of how to do this properly next time: wear bathers under my clothes so I can fetch Taro properly attired; take leash so I can clip her on and drag her easily; and take my pink plastic thongs for underwater rock-walking, to save my feet.

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