The golden retriever, easily 100 pounds, bolted up from the stream directly at Wolfie who turned and ran as if possessed, his howl a continuous rending call I was aware of all the time I chased them roaring “No, no, no, no.” Behind me I could hear someone shouting “Rusty no, Rusty, no.” The retriever was fat and older. That saved Wolfie. I once saw our neighbor’s big red male retriever snap a groundhog’s spine with a terrific shake of its head.
Wolfie doubled back with a snap turn, gained a yard or two, and then plunged through brush into the creek where he stood and waited. I came up on the retriever ready to do mayhem, cursing myself for being foolish. He was caught in brush part way down the bank, his big bottom shaking as he barked. When I reached for his collar, he turned, finally aware of his mistresses’ voice, and ran away. Wolfie climbed up the bank and sat between my legs, now safe, watchful and suddenly calm.
He had turned a corner and come up on a woman and two small children. The retriever leaped to protect. All of us then raced to correct the errors we had made to set up the situation — Wolfie, off-leash, combined with my lack of awareness of children in the area; the woman, not reading that her dog was serious in his intent to do harm.
In a few minutes Wolfie and I moved upstream and then down to the water and into its flow; Wolfie, walking on his long legs as if on four stilts, at ease, water dripping from his lapping jaws. We sat on gravel flat. The heat of the sun disappeared in the deep shade of the trees. A breeze moved along the water. We could hear a truck, then a plane and then only birds.
Wolfie moved unhurriedly in and out of the stream. Standing belly-deep he mouthed a leaf, watched me, and turned his head toward sounds in the brush. My adrenaline had receded. I had my hat off and just watched him, more aware now but letting go and settling into the movement all around me.