On New Year’s Day we decided to take the girls to Spanish Banks for a walk on the beach. It was a very windy, rainy day and we didn’t expect to see many people or dogs, but as soon as we reached the beach, Freckle said a short, friendly hello to a Yellow Lab. The Lab’s owners were obviously there for a walk and off they headed down the beach. They had traveled a long way when Freckle, on her 30-foot training leash, decided to take off like a bullet down the beach after the Lab. The leash slipped out of Mary Doug’s hands and Freckle quickly became a brown dot on the horizon. Although we have been working on recall and Freckle is very reliable—turns on a dime when called to us—the wind was howling! Not only was it blowing toward us, it was blowing the scent of the new friend—the Yellow Lab—directly into Freckle’s nostrils. Mary Doug was ahead of me as I puffed along pulling Ceilidh on her leash. We were both frantic, screaming “Freckle” into the wind and knowing full well that our voices were carrying only about two feet before being blown back to us. The brown dot that was Freckle was not even visible as I peered into the wind. Suddenly I became aware of a gasping sound. I looked behind me and poor Ceilidh was trying to keep up with us. Ceilidh has only one lung (she had one removed when she was six) and as you know she is old, blind and very arthritic. I immediately stopped and picked her up and tried to continue with a 19 pound Pug wheezing in my arms, my feet sliding in the sand, and all the while screaming ineffectually into the wind. Mary Doug continued with the determination of a triathlete—it truly was very impressive!
It was one of those experiences where time slows down and if you could have heard our screams, they would also have been ssslllloooowwwweeed dooooowwwwwnnnnnn with a baritone, garbled quality. I remember thinking we would never get Freckle back and that we would never again be entrusted with the care of a rescue Boxer. After minutes (perhaps two) had passed and we had traveled almost 15 feet in the quicksand, we could see the Freckle dot reappear near the owners of the Lab. They were waving their arms and I think that they were trying to encourage Freckle to come back to us. In reality, they could have been gesticulating “You crazy dog!!! Get back to your crazy people right now and leave us alone!!!” Whatever they were saying, Freckle the dot began to run back toward us until she became visible as the crazy Boxer that she is. She ran toward and past Mary Doug who reached down to pick up the training leash as it flew past her. I remember thinking, “Beeeee caaaaarrrreefuuuulllll!” But it was too late. I watched as Mary Doug flew gracefully through the air… still hanging on to the leash. Freckle continued to fly toward me and Ceilidh with a look of pure joy on her face. Her beautiful Boxer lips flapped as her feet pounded into the sand. She looked just like a champion race horse at full speed. I stood holding Ceilidh and watched, knowing that very soon Freckle was going to reach the end of the 30-foot training leash and wondering what would happen to Mary Doug who was still in a pile on the sand and still hanging on to the leash. There was a sharp jerk on Freckle’s leash which thankfully was attached to her harness and not her collar. Then there was an equally sharp jerk on Mary Doug’s arm (which unfortunately was attached to her prone body). She still did not let go of the leash. Freckle turned around and looked at Mary Doug with an expression that said, “What are you doing down there?” She trotted over to her and began licking her face. Mary Doug put her arm around Freckle and slowly stood up. We were both speechless for a few minutes.
It was that day at the beach when I began to wonder exactly how old Freckle is. She is no longer a teenager, but she sure hasn’t reached that mellow middle-age period! Unfortunately, we have! It took a long time for my knees to stop shaking as we made our way down the beach with the wind at our backs. Mary Doug limped along, keeping a vice-grip on the training leash as Freckle ran more big loops with that maniacal look that Boxers get when they are running and completely “in the moment.” Ceilidh plodded along behind me with her breathing finally back to normal. After about half an hour, the rain began in earnest and we decided to call it a day. Back home, Freckle settled into her bed and slept like a baby. We sat pensively on the couch and then Mary Doug went to have a hot bath to try to appease her sore muscles. It wasn’t until the next day that we were able to see some of the humour in the incident as we thought about what the scene must have looked like to an observer. Each day we learn a bit more about Freckle, and January 1st was the day that we learned that unlike our first two Boxers, Freckle will bolt if the situation is right. Just imagine how much more we have to learn in the next 364 days of 2007!
Until the next Boxer Report … remember two things: 1) there’s nothing like living in the moment, and 2) there’s nothing like a hot bath with Epsom’s salt.