Dogs, Water & Safety
Just wanted to relay a misadventure that I was involved in yesterday at Union as a heads up to everyone. My buddy and I cruised down to Union yesteday afternoon to play around. Having never been there, he asked if he should bring his dog. I kinda gave a halfhearted response that some of the features are on river right and the put-in, etc is on the left. Assured that the dog would not get in the water, we put on above the dam. Moments later I look upstream to see the dog swimming in the middle of the river. I knew this was going to be bad given the nature of Union at higher flows. After swimming through the first hole, the dog was then washed through the second wave/hole and into the nasty river left eddy. This eddy (it may be the one at the third wave/hole...can't exactly recollect, but it is the "bad" one at Union) recirculates back into the current and creates a nasty little boil seam that the dog was stuck on and trying to fight through in order to get back to land, which was less than 15 feet away. Neither my buddy or I were able to do anything in our playboats, so I jumped out and swam to the dog and tried to jank her to shore, but I was unable to break the seam either and had to swim out into the main current to get back to shore. We tried, with the help of another boater to do a human chain using paddles, but were unable to reach her. Finally, some slalom boaters were able to coral the dog between them and drag her to shore by holding her collar and stroking on one side to break through the eddy line. All in, the dog probably swam there for about 10 minutes. I was fairly exhausted after swimming in after her 2-3 times, and I am in reasonably good shape.
I am relaying this story for several reasons. First, I want to thank again those boaters that pitched in to help get the dog out of the river. Second, don't bring your dog on the river with you. I am a huge fan of having our furry friends on trips to hang out with at the take out and campground. But they don't understand water, and as strong as they may be at swimming, they cannot help themselves in a rescue situation, and I have seen too many dogs get swept into bad spots on the water, nearly run over on the road or plain lost in the woods because their owners let them tag along for the trip downstream. Third, if you are going to have your dog around moving water, get them a dogvest, it may save their lives. Fourth, get in shape. Its been awhile since I went for a prolonged swim, and I was reminded just how exhausting it can be, especially in cold water. Fifth and finally, please be safe out there. If I had had my throwbag with me yesterday, the ordeal could have been over in seconds by bagging a swimmer who could grab the dog and then yanking them to shore. But, since it was "just Union" I left my bag in the car. That will never happen again. I hate to preach, but safety on the river is not just something that happens when you need it. You have to practice good safety every time you are on the river, even when its just your local park and play spot. My buddy feels horrible about the situation, but fortuanately this turned into a "good lesson," that I think everyone on the buzz can learn from, and not a tragedy. Be safe, have fun, and I'll see you out there.
Peace, Chris Mo