New Dobie Puppy Falls off Cliff into Water

The day after we brought our new puppy, Raksha, home we took a long walk through the forest and meadows.  He had never been in such a wild place with so many smells and his hackles were up for the whole 3 miles.  I had to carry him across a stream, but he stayed with me and our other dog, Ruger.  I did have to carry him across a small, brisk stream, but he did seem alert and happy.

The next day we were unable to go on the same walk because it was Saturday and there were at least a dozen cars at our trail head due to hunting season.  So I decided to walk along Riffe lake.  It was a flat walk along a road that formerly led to the town of Riffe.  Riffe is now under water because of a dam, but the road makes a nice walk leading to the lake.  When we reached the lake I decided to follow Rainey Creek for a while before taking the road back to the car.

Due to recent rainfall, Rainey Creek was running quite high, and there were places where the stream bends and floodwater carves out cliffs.  I happened to notice that the drop off one of such cliffs was about 10 feet and made a conscious decision to walk away from the creek due to the danger that a dog could fall.  Right when I made that decision I heard a splash and then a couple of seconds later a plop-plop-plop sound that sounded like a dog trying to swim.  I looked down over the cliff, and sure enough, there was little Raksha swimming and trying to keep his nose out of the water.

It was late November and the wind was blowing quite hard.  I had a long, retractable leash that I made into a noose, but was unable to get it over his head because the wind kept blowing it against the cliff.  The nearest place where I could conceivably approach the water was only 15′ away, but even there it was extremely steep.  So the choice was to jump into the water (in November) to rescue him, or try to get him to swim towards the less steep place.

I recalled a story that my neighbor told me about two teenage brothers who went swimming in Riffe Lake after spending the afternoon bucking hay for her.  The first brother’s muscles seized up and he started to drown.  The other brother jumped in to save him and also drowned.  I wouldn’t be jumping in on a hot day after heavy exertion, but I have had painful muscle cramps (mostly cured with apple cider vinegar) and I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks.

The steep bank was made up of rounded glacier rock held together with sand.  The only way for me to get enough traction to be able to reach Raksha was to have maximum contact with the slope.  I was able to carefully get to where my boots were within a foot of the water and reach down to where Raksha had swam to me.  I grabbed his collar and he was out, scampering up the bank.

I was on my back and when I turned my body to be able to crawl up the slope, suddenly I found myself completely submerged in the water.  I was wearing a sari, boots and a heavy jacket.  My feet didn’t touch the bottom.  I had to swim about 20′ to reach a place where I could get out and did it easily.  Amazingly the water wasn’t particularly cold and when I got out there was Raksha acting like he was worried for me.  Ruger never knew what happened.

Raksha was cold and shivering but he was small enough that I could carry him under my coat for part of the mile hike back to the car.  But he was fine.

The next day when we came to the brisk brook, Raksha bravely crossed the water and I was proud of him.

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