Touched by the Unexpected

My last post, oh so long ago on the 27th of October, shares the vagaries that ordinary life plays on us from time to time, or maybe moment to moment. And that theme has continued since.

Later that same day, I join my two partners for monitoring the salmon stream. I turn off the engine of my car and as my foot hits the ground, a very large, very galumphing German shepherd dog drops a rock on it.

What the…?

One of the women yells, “ Isn’t she, or he, something? He’s been bringing us rocks and wants us to throw them…Don’t know where he, or she, came from. Seems friendly enough, though.”

The dog is large, gangly, comedic, and boisterous.

We determine it’s a she, but there is no collar, so we have no name. She follows us down the trail to the stream. Uh oh, this could be trouble…

and

it

is.

We reach the stream and she’s ankle deep immediately, shoving her nose under the water, stirring up the gravel and mud, rooting up to her eyeballs as she searches for three inch cobbles to place on the bank by our feet. If there were any salmon they’d be gone in a gulp.

Betsy heaves stone after stone into the thorny tangle of bushes lining the banks hoping the dog will get lost as she hunts for the cobble. But no, she’s back in a few bounds.

Eleanor and I do the monitoring work while Betsy occupies the dog as well as she can, but it really is wasted effort. The dog is too quick and too rambunctious with no compunctions or civility. She would have pleased a clear cutter as she does her best to tear the saplings down which border the stream. Leaping high up their trunks, she grabs trees in her huge mouth and wrestles them to the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This dog is a home wrecker. Water is her toy, a sparkling, moving thing which she can pounce on, slurp up and slosh through. Doesn’t occur to her that it’s home for eggs, fish, frogs, salmanders and skatebugs. But it occurs to all three of us and we do our best to shoo her away, but she’s having too much fun.

She helps us cross the stream at one point where we sort of have to jump. She shreds the foam that has gathered after the recent rain storm. She makes sure no other varmints are around, not realizing she’s a varmint to us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, after we detect no salmon and are heading back, the dog suddenly discovers the perfect “log” that she has to extricate from the vines and rocks and woody litter trapping it beside the trail. Hoisting and heaving, she emerges victorious.

And in the midst of this frolicking frustration, I am suddenly in touch with the loneliness of salmon. I’m reading a book called First Fish, First People edited by Judith Roche and Meg McHutchison. One of the statistics staggers me.” In 1995, having only 12,000 salmon passing the Bonneville Dam shocked Northwest communities, a drastic reduction from 2.5 million in 1993.” Relating those dwindling numbers to this tiny stream I know how very lucky we will be if we see one mating pair. I think about the vulnerability of those lonely fish traveling without clan. I think how this gamboling, innocent dog could easily snuff out hundreds of future salmon by grabbing that one fish mother. And I feel…I feel grief.

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About Deborah

Deborah Jane Milton, Ph.D. is an artist, mentor, and eco-psychologist, mother of four and grandmother of eight.
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2 Responses to Touched by the Unexpected

  1. James Lawer says:

    Yes, Deborah, the statistics of loss are correct. Someone who said he knew told me a year or two ago that of the five salmon that had frequented our waters here, one species is gone. Last year we had lost 80 percent of the salmon altogether. Of the various causes, one is on its way to being resolved–the tearing down of dams nearby. There is much more to be undone or redone. I am reminded of the story of the man who fishes for winter stores for him and his family. After catching all he and his family actually need, he goes back for more and more and more. Finally, on his last catch, he discovers that all of his catch have turned to sticks and leaves and his baskets are weirs are broken. He and his family starve that winter. The story has many tellings and is not to be lost on the hearers.

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  2. I love this dog. But it’s worth thinking about the implications…

    Like

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