We know a border collie – Charlie is his name – who loves fast water.
When he was a pup, he discovered the Clark Fork in Montana. He learned to swim on the Chama, in northern New Mexico. Now he seldom misses a day on the Animas. On the coldest ones, he still goes; when he gets ice in his coat, we call him Pupsicle.
He hops in the river from the Dog Park, just below the mouth of Lightner Creek. If you throw a tennis ball or a stick – you probably could throw a book or a phone – he gauges the current and angles himself down the middle for the intercept, then the 45-degree turn with the tail flip. He continues downstream to shore above the Whitewater Park, runs back and is ready to go again just when you wonder if you should check on him.
Sometimes we also call him Motorboat. And Dauntless.
He did his usual last Saturday and had a nap before his afternoon swim at Lemon Reservoir. But on Sunday, it was not the same. The river was suddenly bigger and faster. It had surged in 24 hours and would top 4,000 cubic feet per second by Monday.
He was swimming after a ball dead-center but that river was bigger than Dauntless. As he realized he was going all the way, over the little park falls, he turned his snout upstream and went over backward; better not to see this, he must have thought.
Almost at the same time, we saw a goose, its long neck like a pencil silhouette above the foam, follow behind Charlie. And it occurred to us: That wild bird made the same mistake the dog did.
Both of them bobbed through the rapids, the dog facing downstream now, the ball still in his mouth, just above the water, and that long-necked goose, mostly out of trouble but not at all where they expected to be.
It is good to know mistakes are universal.