Rettung auf dem Rhein
Rescue on the Rhein

(Sun, 25 Mar 2001)

Buster is a butthead. I love him, but he's a butthead. He doesn't think before he does stuff. He just reacts. Not all dogs are this way, but he is.

I have been letting Buster off leash occasionally when we walk in the park behind my apartment complex, to let him run around like the maniac dog that he is. Then, when I pick his leash back up, he's more manageable, like he got it all out of his system. It also means that he discovers dogs before Wiley does, and it makes it easier to avoid them when Buster is distracting them.

A couple of times when I've let him off leash, he's gotten way too close to the edge of the park "cliff" (more like a really steep side of a long ravine) for my comfort. Once, he decided to take a dump just past the edge -- just a few inches more and down his little butt would have gone down onto the bike path far, far below. Wham. Not something I like to think about.

Well, as I've said, now the Rhein is flooding BIG TIME. The bike path is now PART of the Rhein, far down below many feet of rushing water.

So, this morning, my TOTAL BUTTHEAD DOG goes running all over the place, and then hears ducks, so he takes off down the side of one the ravines, which is very easy to go down but almost impossible to get back up. It is very, very steep, particularly at the bottom.

At the bottom of the ravine is a lagoon where the Rhein is flooding, but there IS current, which means, if he goes in to the water, he's gone.

I'm yelling STOP STAY BUSTER NO NO NO NO NO and I guess he somehow realized at the last minute that the duck was not the best option. He turned around, awkwardly, looked at me, and started trying to come back up. And couldn't. It was much too steep and slippery. And he started to panic. And I knew he was going to panic himself right into the water.

I go sliding down the side of the cliff on my back (it's that steep), WITH Wiley -- because for some reason I thought it was better to keep him with me than let him stay up at the top, for fear he'd come down anyway. So we both go sliding down to the bottom, and I'm picturing us all going into the Rhein. I'm wondering how deep it is, and I'm already thinking -- be sure to land upright, so your feet will hit bottom. Otherwise, the current will sweep you away.

We get to where Buster is, and I realize he's barely hanging on. I lay on my back and pulled both dogs over the top of my body, because there was just no where for them to pull themselves up. I got behind them, on my stomach, and pushed them back up the side of the ravine.

We get to the top, I'm COVERED in mud and leaves and dog foot prints. I was not only grateful that I had saved Buster, but I was so very, very glad no one else had been around. Which is rare here. I held them both, tried not to cry, kept myself from beating the hell out of Buster, and then we all kinda limped home.

Later, I showed a friend the edge of the ravine and told him about my little rescue operation earlier. He laughed, shook his head and said I sounded like a Marine commercial: "You did all this before breakfast!"

My friend and I walked our dogs, sans Wiley (who has to stay in the apartment so he doesn't try to eat my friend's dog) over to another larger park across the street and let the boys off leash. Buster thinks it's his job to greet each and every dog in the park. Maybe it is. Maybe there's a secret dog society that decides these things, and Buster is now some kind of Doggie U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

We walked back the other way and I showed my friend where miniature ponies and other exotic animals are kept near the castle-like house and church next to my apartment complex. He agrees that the church is some kind of ecumenical community of faith; he reads a little German and said that, according to their bulletin board outside, they feature a lot of multi-cultural secular music. All of the animals were all on the high ground near the fence, because their land is almost all flooded. But they are obviously well-cared for, and it was cool to see rams so up close.

Walking back to the apartment, this very old woman stopped to talk to the dogs. She petted them and fussed over them in German -- she obviously just adored them. When she realized we spoke English, she started talking in very broken English. She said that she had had to put her own dog down a few weeks before Pentecost, that she'd "always, always had dogs", that she loved dogs, that if she lived in her former house, she'd still have dogs, and how sad she is that she can't have a dog now. I thought she was going to cry. I almost did. In this woman, I saw myself in 40 years. I hope I see her again.

Buster totally knows he messed up and has been sweet as pie for two days.

More later . . .

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