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Seaman's Doggy Days
Although I must admit I was not forced along, I was not looking forward to going so far away from home. But a dog’s duty is with his master, and I would prefer starving to death and my paws freezing off than to stay at home without Master Lewis. Then again, that’s pretty much what I was going through. Starving and freezing my paws off. And on the rare occasions I wasn’t, we experienced the joy of walking two thirds of the day and swimming the other third. And, of course, sleeping the rest of the time so we had enough strength to do it all over again tomorrow.
I’d heard whispers of hope running throughout the men, whispers saying that we were approaching our destination. I wondered what we were looking for. Paradise maybe? A land of abundant food and good water? We had plenty of that before we left- we’d also stopped at large number of pleasurable stops before reaching this cold and wet land.
There was an abundance of several open plains before we’d even crossed the snowy peaks. True, here we had fish and deer, but the latter was far preferable. There were buffaloes back there, thousands of them. The people were good, and fed us jerky. It sounded like paradise to me. But still Master Lewis and his friend led us on. I wasn’t complaining too much- for one thing, I couldn’t speak their tongue. That was about all that was keeping me from being argumentative though.
Rain pounded my back, soaking my coat and weighing me down a few good pounds. The men were already wet and were carrying a decent amount of stuff too, so I figured they wouldn’t mind if they got any wetter. They would understand. I stopped in the midst of them and shook, immediately feeling ten pounds lighter. I grinned as they cried out, dropping their packages to shield their faces.
Master’s friend Clark looked back at me with a weary “Bad dog” and a warning glare before turning around again. How pathetic. In the beginning of the trip, he had actually gone so far as to actually put me on a leash. Is this what it had come down to? I wondered. If the men themselves were too tired to even get mad, they were close to giving up. Giving up meant going home.
I perked up a little, and trotted to catch up with Master, licking his hand with a doggy grin. He patted my head weakly, but otherwise ignored me. I drooped my tail and fell back. If a dog couldn’t even get a good scratch behind the ear, what was the point? I sulked for a while and kept walking like a good little zombie dog- not dead, but sure as hell getting there.
The rain pounded on, and the wind kept blowing. We stopped to trade words and beads with a couple of weirdly dressed humans. I didn’t understand what the point was of a bead was if you couldn’t eat it, but I couldn’t say anything. One of the new humans gestured at me, saying something I couldn’t understand. Master Lewis rubbed his temple and gestured to one of the boats behind the weird two-leggers, saying something that was lost in the wind.
The first man laughed and shook his head, instead reaching back into the canoe for a pile of dried fish. I whimpered a little in longing as the smell cut through even the rain, like adrenaline had been triggered by the sight. I had had naught much more than table scraps in weeks. Clark shook his head and started to walk forward again. I paused, confused. Why not take the fish? It’d only take a few beads, after all. Was a bead worth more than a fish?
I had no choice but to walk on too, though my stomach rumbled and my paws hurt. If it wasn’t a storm now, I hated to see a real one. The wind stung my eyes, rendering my eyes almost blind. It wouldn’t have made a difference if I could have seen anyway- everything was murky, and nothing stayed in one place for long. The water moved, the leaves moved, even the ground seemed like it was moving. I hoped that Master would decide to stop, and decide to stop soon.
My prayer was answered at the most inopportune of situations. We walked along the beach, wary of the water on our right and wary of the rock wall on our left. So this is what it had all come down to. Get crushed to death by wayward logs, or get crushed to death by wayward rocks. Take your pick. I wondered faintly if my master was suicidal, but of course, I couldn’t voice my opinions.
Water rolled in behind us, making me conscious of the rising tide. We rushed to find a dryer place to rest, but were unsuccessful. I heard Clark swear in front of me, and he scowled as he began barking out orders to turn back. The seawater had claimed the area in front of us as well. I couldn’t see any other place to stay really- there was a little cove, but that was it. Master’s brow furrowed, but he helped the men settle. I stared on, mystified. He really didn’t mean for us to stay here, did he?
“Seaman! Here! Now!” Master barked, and whistled. Damn. I guess he did. Would this trip never end?
The men were trying to set up a shelter so I sulked back, my tail between my legs to try to get warm. An impossible task, may I add. The rain felt like chips of rock hurling down on our backs, and the wind attempted several times to rip apart our shelters, occasionally succeeding. Clark sat down beneath one of the more relatively stable shelters and pulled one of his journals from his pack. I sighed, and collapsed on the ground beside him with a slight “oomph.”
I didn’t see why Clark was scratching away while the rest of his men were scrambling around trying to help, but who was I to judge? I saw one of the gruffer men shoot a glare at Clark, so I knew I wasn’t the only one. We stayed there for a few days, trying to retreat or move forward, but to no avail. On the second day, one of the men spied a canoe coming through the storm to us. The foreigners had come to trade as we gawked at their swift canoes, which were capable of passing through ten foot waves. They privately laughed at our dinky tub of a boat, and left just as easily as they came.
I couldn’t help but fear for my safety. Here were two dozen starving men craving meat and I was a portable lunch on legs. I’d seen them trade for dogs to eat before- I’d even acquainted myself with a few of them, believing them to be our new comrades. After a few days of their company, we’d suddenly had enough meat to dry and feast on. It’d taken me a while to figure out, and even longer before I would so much as sniff the new meat.
Now here we were, trapped between a rock ‘n a cold bath with close to no food- except me of course. On the fourth day, a few of the men were eyeing me hungrily, so I slunk closer to Master Lewis and tried unsuccessfully to ignore them. Later that day I heard them arguing with Master, but bless his heart, he just told them to get back to trying to find a way out.
I thought I’d done my share of work here already, as I’d given my all. I just wasn’t ready to give my meat yet. I’d guarded their camps against grizzlies, saved drowning men, and caught squirrels for our troop. I couldn’t believe now they just wanted to eat me. I hoped they fell asleep and got left behind- It’d serve them right.
We prayed what seemed like hourly for the storm to pass, though we never got our chance until on the sixth day. It was only a brief opening, but we took it without a second thought. We were packed and moving within 30 minutes, our record time yet. I can’t deny that I was practically the one leading, even going so far as to push Master Lewis to the side. A dog’s courtesy and loyalty only lasts as long as his life does.
My run-ins with various episodes of near death experiences left me wary. Who wouldn’t be? Until this is over, I fear to sleep if not with Master by my side. He says we are approaching our destination, and as a dog, I must believe him out of trust and loyalty. I can only hope this ends well, and ends quickly. If I’m to die, I want to die curled up and warm, sleeping in front of Master’s hearth.
I can only pray we all live to tell this tale. On a dog's honor, I know we will. At least, that's what master says.