It happened just like this but I can't explain it.
I tossed the stick across my parched back yard and Oliver stood still, listening carefully,
until it landed in a patch of sand and cast a small noise.
He ran to the sound head down, nose snuffling, searched for his toy until his snout bumped
it. He picked the stick up and light on his feet, trotting, fetched it back to me.
My Oliver is a gorgeous Labrador. His body is the color of wheat, his paws and the tips of
his ears, shades of honey. He's big, smart, quick, loving, and blind as a brick. The vet
said his eyes probably saw a variation between sun-drenched Florida day and shadowy night,
but nothing else.
I threw the stick high; it flew, flipped, arced, and sounded on the ground' but Oliver
He stood frozen, ears pricked, tail stiff, one paw lifted, taut. His head turned minutely,
he whined faintly. He bolted for the back fence, found it with his nose, leaped, front paws
catching back legs pumping, scrambled over the top and'-
I stood alone in my yard.
Horns honked just beyond the fence. A-1A, the beach road, was always hectic.
My heart pounded twice before I yelled, 'Ollie!' He had never done anything like this
I ran over brittle grass and sand to the fence gate, flipped the latch, and saw frantic
traffic. Horns grated the air. I saw Oliver. My heart lurched.
I saw Oliver beyond the cars, sprinting towards the beach. Two-foot waves arched and
tipped, crested with froth.
Barefoot, braless, scared and rude, I darted between cars, arms across my chest to keep
myself inside the droopy tank top.
Oliver dashed along the deserted beach where the sand spread dry. He ran, head bobbing,
ears trailing, back legs springing to his chest and released in a blast of pluming sand;
his tail a blurred contrail.
My baby looked so pretty. I didn't know he could run so fast. I had no chance of catching
him; he ran a hundred yards down the beach.
I jogged in the clefts of sand that marked Oliver's path. The harder I ran, the deeper my
feet sank, scrunching. I could hardly see him now. Please, honey. Please stop, baby.
At full speed, not slowing for an instant, Oliver plunged into the ocean.
He vanished in the glossy, rolling blue water.
And finally saw his head, steady as a little boat, riding the waves outward and-
Screams. Fifty feet out, I saw white arms thrashing, blond hair blinking between curtains
of water. A woman, terrified, drowning.
She saw Oliver and her eyes opened wide with astonishment. My baby's yellow head, riding
the waves, sliding towards her.
I hesitated at the edge of the water, then waded in till my hips caught waves. Far as I was
going, I couldn't swim.
Oliver's head chugged straight towards the flailing woman.
The screams stopped.
Oliver stopped swimming. He floated, his head rising and falling with the swells.
'Keep shouting!' I screamed. 'He can't see you! Keep yelling!'
Sparkling blond hair dissolved into the water.
Oliver floated; primed, sharp.
Blond hair appeared again, the woman choked, yelled.
Oliver swam towards her. Swam straight and easily' and bumped her.
She grabbed the hair around Oliver's neck, maybe part of his collar; I couldn't see her
I shouted, 'Come here, boy!
Oliver swam. He swam so effortlessly, so confidently. His ears like feathers around his
head, like wispy wings. My baby looked so beautiful. Look at him. I started crying, the
woman started crying. I cried and caught waves on my stomach and cried and didn't feel
scared for her anymore. She felt the same wonder I did; she held Oliver and knew she was
safe and sobbed with awe and--
Oliver swam without doubt.
'Come here, honey,' I said, incredibly moved, happy, overcome. 'Come to mommy, baby. Come
here wonderful, boy.'
Oliver came to me, dragged his relieved burden to the shallows. I reached for them, the
scene a soft watercolor through amazed, joyful tears.
My hands under her arms, I dragged the woman ashore, set her down gently in damp sand. I
knelt beside her; she breathed harshly through waves of pain.
Oliver preened and pranced, shook himself, licked my face, licked her face, turned circles,
licked and lapped both of us.
Dozens of red splotches covered the woman's legs: jellyfish stings from ankle to thigh.
'Good boy,' she said. 'Good boy.'
And, 'My God, he's blind.'
'Yes,' I said. 'His name's Oliver. The best dog in the world.'
She leaned on one elbow, and Ollie sat close, panting, happy, touching her.
'I'm going for help.'
Oliver lowered his head, nuzzled the woman's cheek.
I said to him, 'Stay boy.'
I knew he would.