The dog did it

Once of the best reasons to get down to the river is stories … most of the offerings from this blog come from hanging out along its walkways and shoreline, and listening. It’s wonderful, really, to have a place in L.A. where people want to talk and share experiences. Here’s the latest, which fits into the “accident with a happy ending” category:

OK, you're right, this is not the pug that got rescued, but he sure is cute. (courtesy

I’m standing on a rock in the middle of the river, the temp hovered in the middle-80s, not bad for January. I had on wading boots and shorts. It had been relatively peaceful when all of a sudden two kids, about 6 years old, broke from their parents on the tree-lined trail above and made quick for the flowing water. They laughed and yelled, leaping their way incautiously down the riprap slope.

And … what’s a dog — in this case a black-and-brown pug — to do, but follow the kids down the incline, then overshoot the bank, bellyflopping into the water.

Most winters, isolated TV reports show the L.A.F.D. rescuing all manner of things that shouldn’t be in the river, from adults, to kids, to horses, to dogs, and, yes, I think there was a mannequin pulled from the water within these past few weeks. Luckily, the Glendale Narrows section flows only briskly along its mostly natural bottom, a far cry from the dangerous concrete sluiceways created by the Army Corps of Engineers both above and below.

“He can’t swim,” Dad’s friend cried, as he hustled down the slope. The kids thought the dog was playing around. The dog looked as if he thought otherwise, little paws unsuccessfully trying to find purchase on the bank.

Unfortunately, Dad’s friend couldn’t put the brakes on his Keds fast enough and dunked, feet first, into the same still hole as the pug, ripping the backside of his shorts in the bargain.

Happy result: pug rescued, shaking off the chilly water; Dad’s friend, feeling a bit foolish as he looked at me, but triumphant none the less, hoisted himself to the bank; and the kids, well, they got a talking to:

“Let me tell you about the water down here,” Dad said as they walked away uphill, a grim sermon about to take place. I’m sure the rest of the sentence wasn’t about river safety, but about unclean water.

If you have kids, you’d say the same thing today.

But some day, if everyone who loves the river continues to insist on change, parents won’t have to scold their children about water quality, and can get back to basic training: water safety; how to swim; how to kayak; how to fly fish.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

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