By Joanna Bastian
I was a vision of loveliness. White shirt, broad-brimmed taupe hat, blue swim trunks. Paddling across a cold alpine lake, trees along the shoreline turning their leaves in the autumn sun. Black Pine Lake is lovely any time of year, but autumn is particularly magical.
The water is crystal clear, and the edges of the lake hold as much life and color just under the water’s surface, as along the shorelines.
My sweet dog, Loki, sat in the bow of the kayak, her paws and head resting on the fully inflated side. Suddenly she whirled around and frantically licked my face — her way of saying that she needs to go, immediately.
I tried to paddle quickly to the closest shore, all the while dodging her lashing tongue. The paddle bonked her on the head with every stroke. But she did not care. She had to drop a brick. Right now.
As we approached the shoreline, she jumped out and swam to land … only to get mired chest deep in black mud. After a short struggle, she worked her way free and bounded uphill. A look of happy relief spread across her face as she “dropped anchor,” “balanced the budget,” and “communed with nature.”
I paddled over to a large boulder where she could jump from dry land to boulder to kayak and avoid the deep muck on her return trip.
On her way downhill to the boulder she stopped in pleasant surprise. A cow had left a large fresh steamy pile … just for her. She flipped on her back and gleefully slid downhill through the stinky mess. As she slid headfirst downhill, she wiggled her back and shoulders to get the goods ground into her fur. Her muck-blackened legs happily pawed the air.
Loki leaped onto the boulder. A thick glob of mud slid down her side and landed with a loud “kerplop” on the rock. The look on her dung-covered face was pure joy.
I tried to kick off from the rock, hoping she would opt to swim alongside the kayak, but I wasn’t fast enough. Loki launched herself off the boulder and through the air. She belly-flopped into the kayak, her hind legs just missing the boat, kicking the water and sending the kayak into a spin.
Realizing that she was now “splashing,” her second-favorite activity aside from rolling in smelly things, she became all the happier. With great gusto she splashed with her hind legs, sending splatters of dung and mud all over me and my white shirt, and my lovely broad-brimmed taupe hat. Using her muscular frame, she propelled herself at my upper torso, covering my face with sloppy kisses and rocking the kayak with her exuberance. I was no longer a vision of loveliness. I was a Tide commercial.
I didn’t think Loki could top that gag-producing performance. But this last week, Loki got skunked. I will take lake muck and cow gunk over skunk funk any day.
Many thanks to Shannon Fharnham, owner of Mountain Paws in Winthrop. She met me at the shop after hours so we could get skunk odor-neutralizing spray and shampoo, which worked fabulously.