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October 18, 2006. Today's story is one of two extremes. A perfect start and a miserable ending. Sandwiched between two rainy days, we had a perfectly sunny 85F/29C Wednesday. My friend Jeff and I took full advantage of it by wrapping up work early, grabbing our boats and hitting the river. The weather was amazing. I had to take off my cold weather gear because it was so hot. After dropping my van off at Riverside Park, we were at the put-in on Riverside Drive, directly across from Crossingham Road, by 4pm. We made good time on the river, with just enough water leftover from Tuesday's rain to not drag. This run might have been short on woo-hoos, but was packed with ooohs and aaahs as the changing leaves were beautiful in the setting sun. Perfect day.
At the quarry's rock dam, we didn't find any lines wide enough for Jeff's whitewater canoe, so he started a portage on river left. While I paddled along the top of the ledge trying to choose which run to make, I accidentally got too close to the spillover and went over backwards. I couldn't stop laughing, because I looked like a cartoon character trying to paddle back upstream as I went over. My backwards run went just fine and I bounced down through the rocks, laughing out loud the whole way. I got out and carried my boat to the top, then ran it again, forward, on river left. I wanted to try one more of the lines, a tricky one that hugged a big tree laying in the center of the river, so I portaged back upstream one more time. That run started okay, but I dropped hard off a rock and shot under the tree, pinning the GT, which forced me to climb out and work the boat loose.
This is where things turned from good to bad. While at the falls, I heard a strange sound upstream. I thought it was a bird and went to investigate. What I found wasn't a bird. It was a tiny, sweet little puppy that someone had thrown from the bridge just up the river. He was stuck on a steep river bank and could only get part of his body out of the water. He had been that way for a long time, possibly days. He was a precious fat little six week old puppy. I put him on my kayak and took him to Jeff on the other side of the river. Jeff put him in his Esquif Nitro for the ride down the river. That's how we came to name him Nitro. I had little doubt that we would be able to find a home for him in no time. If I didn't have three dogs already, I would have kept him. But at the take-out we discovered that at least one of his little legs was broken, possibly two, along with a rib. Sadly, our day ended late in the veterinarian's office. Not fun at all. The vet told us that Nitro was an Australian Sheppard, probably a pure bred since his tail had been clipped. My guess is that he belonged to a breeder who heartlessly chucked him out the window of a moving car as damaged goods. People are mean. Twenty-five dollars is the cost to euthanize a puppy. For stinking twenty-five dollars somebody threw a puppy from their car into a cold deep river to die wet and scared, stuck on a muddy river bank. That really sucks.
To say that it put a damper on our day would be an understatement. I told Jeff that they invented the word "suck" specifically to describe evenings like that. But I am glad that we found him. And he was so very happy when I pulled him from the mud and weeds. Going to sleep peacefully was a much better end than what he was facing on that river bank. Even so, the whole thing left me feeling really, really yucky. And there are other details that I won't share with you, because they are too unpleasant, but it was a bad deal. And I won't show you his picture, that would be too cruel for it would break your heart, he was so pretty. The only sliver of hope is that, while paying at the front desk, the vet came back out to say that Nitro had started hopping around trying to nibble on her toes. I think the situation was tough on her too. She said that she would continue to evaluate him some more and check with the local rescue foundations for possible funding for a surgery. If she decided that surgery could be successful and if she could find the funds for it, then she would try to save him. Those were a couple of pretty big "ifs", but I'm very glad that she wanted to try. So far I've resisted checking back to see what happened.
10/26/2006 - Update: Nitro is doing very well in the care of Surry County Animal Rescue.