Mom said that I should warn you that this story is upsetting, and that some people might find it disturbing. If you are sensitive to stories about dogs in danger, you should probably skip this story. Mom and I both wish we could have.
My Friend Remy is a part time busy-ness dog, but his dad is a trained murderer. Remy’s Dad knows how to chop a person up and then put them back together so that they wake up and it’s like they were never murdered in the first place. It’s called being a “drama surgeon.”
Remy had never been to the dog beach, so Mom and I made plans to show him and Dr. Remy’s Dad the best dog spot in The City. When we got there, the wind was blowing faster than a car drives through a neighborhood, so there weren’t many people, and the people that were there looked like they were just trying to survive. I took Remy down the cliff on the sand steps, and showed him how the wind wasn’t so bad when you got to the beach. Then Remy and I took turns losing the ball in the ugly brown froth that the wind made on the ocean while our humans walked and talked behind us.
We had walked a little more than a mile down the beach when Mom looked up and changed the subject. “What’s that guy doing? Is he okay?” she said. Her tone started judgy, but by the time she had stopped talking her voice had real concern. “What do you mean?” asked Dr. Remy’s Dad. None of us were expecting to see a person acting strangely way out here on the dog beach where you couldn’t drive or be homeless, and it was inconvenient to do math. So even when we did see someone doing something weird, our eyes told us it was probably a normal thing. “Why is he kneeling like that? Alone, on the beach? That’s strange, right?” Mom said. The man was standing on his knees in the sand. One of his arms was sticking straight out like he was trying to balance on a log or cast a sorcerer’s spell. He was holding the other arm to his head with his phone in his hand. “Remy, c’mere!” said Dr. Remy’s Dad. “Oscar, c’mere!” said Mom. They put on both of our leashes. “Oh my god, is that his dog?” said Dr. Remy’s Dad. Now the joking was gone from his voice and there was concern in it too. “No!” Mom said slowing down like she wasn’t sure whether to start running or fall on the ground herself. “Nononononono!” she groaned. Dr. Remy’s Dad handed Mom Remy’s leash and started running toward the man. Remy and I could tell that the humans were scared, so we were scared too. Mom’s movements slowed down even more until she froze, and so for now Remy and I froze and waited for something to happen.
Now we could smell that the man had blood on his teeth, and we could tell from the way he was moving that he hadn’t just been resting on the sand to make a phone call or cast a spell. “Dad! Where are you going?! DAD!!!” Remy barked as Dr. Remy’s Dad walked away from us toward The Man, and then helped him lie down on the sand. “Mom! Why isn’t the dog moving?” I asked. The dog was lying like he was asleep. His fur was waving wildly in the wind, but all that movement in his fur only made it more obvious how still he was. Mom was too frozen to speak, so I barked more urgently, “Why won’t he move???” I didn’t know how he could possibly sleep with his dad in so much trouble. What kind of a dog lets that happen to his man and then just takes a nap?
Normally when Mom is this upset she would grab the nearest dog so that we could all calm down together. But instead Mom unfroze and did her least favorite thing in the whole world; She made a phone call. Remy and I tried to run up to where the action was, but Mom twisted, yanked and spun until we were all tangled up in leashes to keep us far away from The Man, and the dog, and Dr. Remy’s Dad.
The Man tried to sit up. He was weakly shouting something, even though Dr. Remy’s Dad was sitting right next to his head. We saw Dr. Remy’s Dad gently put both hands on The Man’s shoulders and say something. Then The Man started howling the name that he had been half-whispering/half-shouting a moment before. What I heard in his voice that moment was something that I had never heard in a human bark before, and any dog with love in his heart could not help but run up and try to comfort The Man. But The Man’s dog didn’t move. The Man tried to get up and look for something, but Dr. Remy’s Dad gently but firmly held his shoulders on the sand as if holding someone down could be a hug, and then he carefully moved his body between The Man’s head and where the dog lay.
Meanwhile, Remy was still shouting with the same panic in his bark as The Man. I stood silently and stared at Mom for instructions, but she was still on the phone, and her voice sounded calm but I could hear a the same panic as in Remy’s voice trying to push through her throat. She was saying words like, “fell,” and “head injury,” and “disoriented,” and “medevac.” “No, we’re down on the beach,” she said. “At the bottom of the cliffs. About a mile south of the sand stairs. My friend is a doctor. He says hurry.”
Mom told the phone to hurry, but everyone knows that witches that live in phones can’t be hurried. We waited and waited for this horrible scene to end. Dr. Remy’s Dad took the phone from Mom and started talking to the lady inside while he gently lifted The Man’s shirt and poked at his tummy looking for drama. Then he piled sand around The Man’s neck so he would have a comfortable pillow while Dr. Remy’s Dad moved around and carefully squeezed up and down both of The Man’s legs and arms.
While Dr. Remy’s Dad was talking on the phone and feeling for drama, a woman who had passed us just a few minutes before Dr. Remy’s Dad met The Man came back up the beach toward us. “What happened?” she asked. “I think he fell,” Mom said. “But I was here just a few minutes ago, and I didn’t see anything.” Mom looked like not knowing what to say made her as distressed as Remy sounded. “I don’t know how we didn’t see anything… How could we not see someone fall down that cliff? But all we saw was a man kneeling in the sand.” “And the dog? He is…” Mom couldn’t let the woman finish the question. She just turned away and closed her eyes tight, like if the woman didn’t finish the words and Mom closed her face tight enough, then everything might be okay. “I can find where we are on the map, if you need to tell the ambulance,” the woman said, showing Mom the mapp on her phone. The road looked so close on the mapp, not even a block away. But when Mom and the woman looked up from the phone, they looked helplessly at the 60 foot sand cliff above our heads. “They can’t come down the cliff,” Mom said. “It’s too unstable. The nearest place to drive onto the beach is like 3 miles that way.” Mom stretched her arm back in the direction that we came from. “Or I think you can come up from 3 or 4 miles in that direction,” she pointed toward the direction from which no one ever came. “… But I think the tide’s too high and they can’t get through that way. They’ll have to come in with a helicopter, I think.” “But a helicopter cannot land in this wind,” the woman said. Mom looked helpless again. Remy saw her go floppy and yanked at his leash, trying to get to his dad.
We stood there a long time like that, with Remy trying to bolt to the safety of his dad, and Mom petting both of us and telling us we were good boys. Another man came and offered his help. While Dr. Remy’s Dad held The Man’s head and talked to the lady in the phone, the woman held The Man’s hand, and Another Man laid his hands on The Man and chanted a prayer. Dr. Remy’s Dad later told us that at first he wanted to send Another Man away, but the chanting helped calm The Man down and he finally stopped asking about the dog. They were all doing the dog’s job of taking care of The Man, but who was helping the dog? The dog never moved, no matter how many people touched his Man.
By now Mom had finally figured out that the only way to calm Remy down was to walk. So we paced back and forth along the beach, about-facing every 50 steps or so. The rhythm of it calmed us all down like chanting, and the movement brought us peace.
Finally, after an hour, the biggest bug I’d ever seen slowly lowered itself down from the sky to the beach. Then, a man with a giant bug’s head and a gun on his hip got out of the bug and joined the small crowd around The Man. Then, more men in fire helmets and lots of big clothing came jogging down the sand. They had bags of supplies, and they did a lot of things that I didn’t understand, but would never let anyone do to Mom. The dog lay 5 feet away, doing nothing. I was getting very worried about the dog.
Finally, Dr. Remy’s Dad was free to come over to take Remy’s leash for the first time. The humans hugged us while we watched the firemen pick The Man up on a hard hammock and wrap him up tight. “He was my age, his dog looked just like Remy, and that was the kind of thing that I might do,” Dr. Remy’s Dad said, like he had fallen off the cliff with The Man too.
It was hard to tell what The Man and the dog had been doing before they landed on the sand. They had been on a walk. Then the dog went too close to the cliff, and The Man followed to bring him back. One of them lost their balance, and the other either followed or tried to help. Then they were on the sand. When you’re scared you hang on to someone that you love, so The Man had probably hung on to the leash even while he fell. Maybe that’s why he and his dog were still together when they got to the sand.
Finally, the men picked up The Man on his board and carried him away from the dog to the giant flying bug. Another Man and The Woman walked away. The only one left on the sand was the dog, who still lay in the same position with the wind blowing his fur. The dog without his Man was the loneliest thing I had ever seen in my life. Later, the men came back for the dog and put him on his own board, tucked him under a blanket, and drove him off the beach in a tiny sand truck.
Remy, Dr. Remy’s Dad, Mom and I all walked back to the stairs that climbed back up the cliff. The air seemed broken and dangerous, and the wind blew into all of our thoughts and blasted our words away. In the car kennel, the humans said goodbye quickly so we could get out of the suffocating wind and end the whole experience. But the experience followed us home.
Usually when we’re home I let Mom do her own thing, but that day I followed Mom around the house wherever she went. Whenever she stopped moving, I came to sit by her and made sure a part of me touched her at all times wile I looked around for danger. When she sat finally still, I put my head in her lap. We stayed that way for a very long time, and I wasn’t sure why I felt so lonely with Mom sitting right there. My book was being released the next day, and I needed to be happy for my fans. I had never had so much trouble feeling happy before.
Oscar the Pooch