One Night Swim
In early 1982 around the beginning of March my friend Mark Huchinson and myself decided to go out in the early spring storm in an almost adolescent adventure, taking my beloved dogs with us. It was a blowing, misting rain that whirled around us as we carried our steel flashlights and fought the elements, little knowing that this excursion was about to become an adventure in earnest...
My Doberman pincer, "Reef I", was an extremely adept, highly trained animal who always sought to please or impress me, sometimes doing so of his own initiative. As we walked through the inclement weather he was jumping benches and fences, either because I asked him to, or just to show me that he could. As our trip in the night progressed we began to head toward the water.
As we walked near the lakefront, we noticed that the waves were breaking against the breakwater wall, sending the water up as high as 20 feet in the air. This excited the thrill - seeking urge in us and as we approached the water it was truly a spectacle to behold. The rising swells and the crashing waves were mesmerizing and as we watched over the Montrose Avenue breakwater wall I couldn't help but think;" You couldn't pay me a million dollars to go in there."
As I was thinking this very thought my Reef decided to impress me and jumped the wall, not knowing what was on the other side. His face changed from happy accomplishment to sheer terror as the water pitched and roiled under him. He hit the water and I thought, "Oh my God, I've lost my dog." Our other dog Barky, (Lady Barquelotte), jumped up on the wall to see what had happened to Reef. In a panic I threw her to the ground and then peered into the water trying to find Reef. He surfaced shortly and as I called to him, he swam back toward us.
However, a breaking wave hit the wall, alarming him and caused him to swim away from us, and out toward the center of the lake. There were no choices left.
As I began to remove my clothes my friend Mark told me, "Kenny there's no way your going in there." So I lied and told him I just needed to be able to move more freely. As he kept watching for Reef I jumped in the water and swam out to him. The lake was crazy, but I swam easily and recovered him. Now, how to get him out. We negotiated the water, but when we arrived at the wall, it was insurmountable. Our heads at the water level made this six - foot obstacle seem immense. As I maintained a grip on the base as I said to myself, "This doesn't hurt. I guess I could go this way."
Even as these thoughts were crossing my mind I thought of my dog and the fact that I wasn't alone in this. So I surfaced and re - established a hold on Reef to reassure him. As I did this Mark was hanging his jacket down for me to grab. A wave washed me upward and I rode it up to the jacket and held on.
However, between the waves, the wall, and my ebbing strength I couldn't hold on to Reef. Mark was screaming at me as I hung between life and death not knowing what course of action to take. As I was hanging undecided he began shouting, "Repel Kenny, turn around and repel." I'd been afraid to do this because I didn't want to pull him into the water, but unbeknownst to me he had commandeered two slightly drunken fishermen to hold his legs. So I followed his advice and repelled and suddenly I was free of the water.
I looked for my Reef and found he was swimming a holding pattern near the wall but out of the wave's jeopardy. Having trained him in all kinds of obscure ways, I knew that he would come to the flashlight as part of our silent drill, so I grabbed the flashlight and began scrambling along the top of the wall, shining the light in front of him and calling him. The low end of the wall was 30 feet away, so I ran to it and shined the light directly at him and called him to it. He swam directly for the light and Mark and I were able to rescue him. He ran inland and lay down, digging his nails into the ground like he didn't want to let go.
I went over to reassure him, and myself. At that point I realized that I was cold and Reef was shaking like a leaf in the wind. As I looked at Mark, I couldn't help but think; "You saved us." This thought went through my head over and over. He looked absolutely beat, so we walked home through the park in the misting rain in silence and more or less unceremoniously went to our respective homes, which were near each other. As I got into bed with Kitti, "my girlfriend", I told her that Reef and I had almost drowned and that Mark saved our lives. Her deep sleep response was, "Ken why are you so cold, you're making me freeze. Go to sleep". So I told her in the morning.
A true story by Kenneth Henry Glixon
Thank you Mark Huchinson
Only God knows how many times "Reef", saved me
Subsequent to the writing of this account I was at an engagement party, during which I took my Reef III for a walk. Encountering two other men with dogs we began to talk. While we enjoyed conversation, our dogs approached an expressway, wall which placed them in a dangerous position.
As one of these gentlemen related that he lost a dog to that very wall two years previous, as he had fallen to the freeway below. At that time I referred to the situation of Reef and the Montrose Harbor wall. Whereupon, the other gentleman asked me if my dog was an all black doberman. As it was, he was one of the drunken fisherman who held Mark's legs.
His name is Jeff and he helped save our lives. I thanked him appropriately and after a short dog hiatus, went back to the party with a new perspective and a happy heart.
Copyright 1997 by Kenneth Henry / Glixon
All Rights Reserved