Here is a video showing what it was like out there on my last attempt. Might try again tomorrow or the next day with the wind dropping and the weather clearing. May has been absolutely hellish weather so I gave it a shot and this is what happened. It was incredibly fun, just not conducive to the first paddle from The United States to The Bahamas.
Trying to put this whole trip together for a perfect run is seeming absolutely impossible. I am going to need to settle in some way, but in just what way I am unsure. The reason this trip is so tricky, and part of the reason it is so appealing is that a oceanic river, the gulf stream, runs directly through the middle of it. Currents from the Atlantic pump into the Gulf of Mexico, pump around for a bit and then swoop south and race by the keys on their way by and up the coast of the United States. At its fastest this current moves at four knots, a speed that is felt by all vessels, big and small. My trip is especially tricky with a small target and only human power and a little bit of wind.
I landed on the Man o’ War covered Smathers Beach on the south end of Key West at around eleven in the morning. I jumped out of my kayak in front of dozens of tourists trying to tan their wintery white skin. My face was coated with zinc oxide, my eyes sunken in from lack of sleep, my clothes wet and smelly. I sat on the beach in the warm sand for a moment reflecting on what I had just done. I had paddled a kayak the same distance it would be to paddle to The Bahamas. The absurd goal, an unfathomable distance, didn’t seem so crazy anymore. The only difference, no bugs to fend off, no unpredictable currents, just open water and solitude. Continue reading Middle Keys to Key West
We found the perfect dog quickly. She was a long haired dachshund with a fiery temper and a total disinterest in us. To be honest I have absolutely no idea what attracted us to her. We brought her home on my brother’s birthday, soon to be declared a shared birthday. We did not know her age but we estimate she was about seven.
She, having been a dog solely used for breeding for most of her life, was not accustomed to the ways of a house. She could absolutely care less about what we wanted. We would call “Come here Maggie!” and she would glance out of the corner of her eye at us, and continue about her business. If we tried to pick her up against her will, she never hesitated to express herself less than peaceful.
Needless to say, she warmed up to us quickly. She fit right in. She was short, we’re all short. A match made in heaven. The disinterest in listening to us never stopped though. She was her own dog and she did what she wanted to do. We respected that and she usually respected not to push our tolerance.
Often I would here my mom calling up to me that Maggie had run away and she needed my help to go get her. The word run is not very fitting for those occasions however. Maggie typically would mozie off at a pace that could barely be called walking. Typically we would find her the next house down and even once she had not even ventured off our property. She could be gone for an hour and would only be a block down. Her sniffing was always the hold up. Walking her was torture because of her inability to leave a scent unsmelled.
Before Maggie grew into the family she did find it amusing to make a legitimate break for it occasionally. Thankfully she was a stocky fat little girl and while her leg length to speed ratio far outdid ours, we could always chase her down. One time my dad, my brother and I decided to let her off the leash on the beach. She was scared to death of water so we knew that wasn’t an outlet, and there was a wall on the land side of the beach. My brother and I waited a hundred yards down the beach while my dad let the beast off her leash. Unrestricted, she booked it right at us and thinking we had her trapped, she juked us out at the last second. I ended up tackling her later on down the beach to prevent the true escape of Maggie Cobb.
But soon she was conscious of how great life was with us. She loved it. She loved every second of it. One year after a snow storm my sister and I played in the snow with Maggie. She always seemed to get a thrill of walking around in things that were taller that her. She loved monkey grass I guess for the thrill of a jungle like exploration. Everything’s bigger when you’re a foot tall. She absolutely loved the snow, at least until she ran smack into the curb. She stood up shook herself off, looked up at me as if to say “What, you mean to tell me you’ve never walked into anything?” This was a routine she had already established from leaf piles on the side of the road.
She had an attitude to her that I’ve never seen in an animal. She was a royal princess. She had the life of a princess, that’s for sure. She got to visit the Florida keys, Snowshoe, and Virginia Beach regularly for extended stays. And she loved it. She loved the thrill of new sniffs, and new territories to roam and new animals to chase. In Florida she got to chase me and my dad around the dock trying to catch our newly caught fish. At the beach she chased seagulls with an absolute vengeance set on catching those birds. In snowshoe the deer supplied her with a days full of barks.
One winter at Snowshoe, when my dad released the beast for her regular chasing of the deer, a deer decided this puny dog wasn’t worth running from. After the deer stomped its foot at Maggie, she returned inside with a sore pride. I could not let this down. After seeing my dog walk around the house for days with her head down, unwilling to chase or even bark at the deer outside, I decided to do justice to the deer that commited this crime against my little sister. I ran out the front door just as she usually would and chased them into the woods. Justice was served. Law was restored on the Cobb premices at Snowshoe. I returned back in a gave Maggie an extended belly rub, our version of a high five.
Maggie had an obsession with belly rubs. I swear I saw her on her back more than I did on her feet. Maybe my family just gives wicked good belly rubs, I don’t know. Sometimes to keep Maggie on her toes, my mom would give me a belly rub instead of Maggie. I know, I know criminal. Maggie would walk up and lay her head on my stomach, looking up at my mom with sad puppy dog eyes. If my mom would continue, she would make her best attempt at interfering with the action of belly rubbing, typically by standing ontop of me. If that did not work, she would harrass my mom with barking and glaring. It wouldn’t take long for the sympathy of me and my mom to outweigh our silliness.
Honeslty, the dog had mastered the art of the glare. She would turn her head to the side and look at you out of the corner of her eye. I’ve never been so intimidated in my life, not even by a human, as when that dog would glare at me.
But just as that dog was out to protect the law of unlimited belly rubs solely for her, she felt the need to prevent fights in the house. We initially discovered Maggie’s upholding of the law of the house when my dad gave a very rare and unexpected hug to my mom. Maggie was appalled! What was this thing he was doing to her mother? Was he hurting her? Maggie ran up and in a barking fury, nipped at my dad’s socks. So, being the cruel jokesters we are, we took advantage of Maggie’s vigilante trait. My dad would fake beat on me while I would scream for the help of the one and only John Wayne in our house. Maggie would run to my rescue, and sometimes not knowing who the true victim was, she would nip at my ankles. Geez she needed to understand fair trial before punishment.
Headstrong as she was, she felt no intimidation from her worst enemy. Joggers and bicyclists. Those jerks. I always loved seeing Maggie scare joggers and cyclists. Call me sick but I call them pansies.. At a foot high she probably couldn’t even give a bruise with her old lady teeth. Yet with absolutely no hint of fear, her short dog’s complex would set in and she would defend her turf, which seemed to be about every square inch as far as her eyes could see wherever she may be.
One of the many times her fearlessness brought her trouble, her height actually saved her life. My brother and I were walking her around our neighborhood and with a retractable leash, she was able to have some sense of freedom. A cyclist rode by and while I was quick enough to push the button to stop her from eating spokes, she was already a good enough distance to eat the underside of a following car. I though for sure my dog was dead, but she came up from behind the right front wheel unscathed. Stunned, but unharmed she stumbled away, looking back at the car like it was something she had never seen before.
For my senior spring break, my mom and dad, Maggie and I all road tripped it to the Florida keys. An old maid, Maggie acted like a puppy the whole week. She ran back and forth on the dock as I reeled in fish and jumped clear into the air trying to catch the hooked fish flying above her head. She had a countless number of rides in the golf cart, ears flapping in the wind. And she sure enjoyed her sniffing raids, scanning all the neighborhood’s smells at a block an hour. She loved it. And she saved the best for last.
There was no fade out in Maggie’s life. She lived till she died. On the drive home, with a simple yelp, she was gone.
Tonight I watched the movie “Marley and Me”. Laughing at all the antics of Marley, I sat there with my hand on one of my two new crazy nutcase dogs. Much of my giggling was at relating Marley’s antics to those of my new dogs. However, towards the end of the movie the lives of the two dogs laying with me became irrelevant. I could not relate the movie to them anymore. All I could think about now was Maggie.
I stood up and left. I miss Maggie. I miss her terribly. While I would never forget Maggie, I wish I could say I appreciate the joy she brought to me when she was with me and leave it at that. I miss the long haired dachshund that I grew up with for seven years. I miss her sass and I miss her stubbornness. I miss the princess that the house revolved around. And I miss my protector, my vigilante dog that protected me against all that’s wrong, and some that’s perfectly okay, in the world. I miss the dog that whenever I was upset, she knew it and she would sit with me, looking into my teary eyes with a look so compassionate that I couldn’t help but feel better. I miss coming home from school and knowing my absolute first responsibility was to serve the upside down dog laying on the floor.
George in “It’s a Wonderful Life” learned to appreciate the things he has rather than thinking about all that he has lost. And while I wish I could say I am as wise as George, I admit I am not quite there. Jimmy Stewart probably wished he could say he was as wise as the character he once played. And yet Stewart recited on Johnny Carson’s stage a poem he wrote about a dog named Beau. The poem ends just as the occasion always does. “And now he’s dead. And there are nights I think I feel him climb upon our bed, and lie between us, and I pat his head. And there are nights when I think I feel that stare, and I reach out my hand to stroke his hair, and he’s not there. Oh how I wish that wasn’t so. I’ll always love a dog named Beau.”
I wish I could say I have moved on. I wish I could say I accept reality and solely appreciate what I have here with me in addition to those memories of things that have passed. I wish, but if I said I was that wise, I’d only be lying. I miss a dog named Maggie.