I have a river dog, actually a Royal River dog, Banjo (rescued from Georgia). He is orange with a “pedigree” tail – fluffy like a collie’s, but it curls beyond 360 degrees 99 percent of the time. It’s a happy tail.

We live by the river where the fresh water mingles with the salt water. Banjo has a few favorite spots in the river to cool off during the summer. He goes in up to his belly, no further, no swimming. Come winter he usually (note word “usually”) stays away from the river and ice.

It was the “Ides of March” (I took Latin in high school) when Banjo and I were down near the river.

At that time there was ice and open water; also, the river was higher than usual due to a lot of rain that season. I was cutting bittersweet vines down at ground level to prevent them from chocking off mature trees, and Banjo had his nose to the ground following animal scents. I realized I hadn’t heard the jingle of his dog tags, which let me know he was close by. I heard his cry that turned my blood cold (it was about to get much colder).

Thinking “Please don’t let it be – crap!” Sure enough, in the middle of the river, clinging on the edge of ice by his front paws. Good thing I am not always obsessive about clipping his nails.

The look he gave me when our eyes met. I did not hesitate, walking out on the ice until I broke through next to Banjo. My only thought was if I didn’t grab him, he could be swept down river and possibly under more ice.

I didn’t even gasp as I hit the icy water. Banjo was my focus. I grabbed him and pushed him up on the ice. He immediately ran to shore. Now my turn. Thoughts of hypothermia and how fast it happens never left my mind, tick tock. Knowing I couldn’t pull myself up without breaking the ice, I wiggled up on the ice, displacing my weight on my abdomen, tick tock.

When I knew I could stand I hurried over to Banjo frantically waiting for me. We were totally soaked and cold, tick tock. We still had a distance to go to get home, lead legs notwithstanding, tick tock.

We reached home to many towels, blankets and a woodstove. We made it. I wondered if I would ever be able to do that again. Let’s hope not.

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