Never mind the Cherry Festival, Film Festival, Beer Festival- Bryn has attracted quite an audience with her very own 15 minutes of fame- a Shriek Fest!
Here’s how things went down.
Happy families sat or lay on the sunny beach at Sunset Park, enjoying their children’s delight and their dogs’ antics. This place, located along Grand View Parkway, is aptly named, as, like the road, it’s located at the base of Grand Traverse Bay within easy walking distance from the city’s downtown. Lake Michigan’s beautiful coastline, to the north, east and west, also boasts lovely sunsets easily seen on summer evenings from this pretty beach.
Bryn, Joe and I arrived a little before five to stake out a spot to enjoy a light meal with two dear friends and another fun couple who’d arrive in 15 minutes or so. A bottle of wine, smoked whitefish, shrimp and sauce, chips and nuts, and maybe a swim in the warm lake would round out this fading day. Then the six of us would carry our light beach folding chairs to the huge promenade that juts out into the lake at the Maritime Academy next door, to watch the sun dip beneath the rolling hills.
Bryn-dog sat quietly on the park grass, watching as Joe and I positioned the tablecloth on the picnic table and laid out provisions and glasses. (Wind was a bit of a problem, as it gusted enough to topple the empty glasses.) She wanted to play fetch with her orange bone, but sensed it wasn’t time yet.
After we’d all dined, Joe looked over his shoulder to check on her. That big fat bone was still waiting patiently between her paws. She caught his eye and glanced toward the park grounds and lake.
‘Hey, Boss, can we play now?’
Those large brown eyes were hard to resist. Joe threw the bone toward the middle of the grassy playground. Bryn dashed gleefully after it and pounced, much as a cat will nail a mouse. Joe repeated the tosses until she began to pant. Ha! Time for both of them to cool off in the lake. He took off his sweatshirt and jeans and ran through the warm golden sand to the water in his swimsuit.
Bryn ran alongside him, then up and down the water’s edge as Joe leaped in and swam out a decent distance. (She remained silent, as always. Bryn rarely speaks, except with her eyes, and that wonderful tail. And then, only one- maybe two- wags...)
Carrying the bone I stopped at the shoreline and shouted, “Ready? Here it comes!”
Our guests watched, knowing what was coming...
Out it flew, about equidistant from Joe in chest-deep water, and Bryn on the beach. Splash! It floated, waiting. She did the geometry in a flash! The advantage was probably hers, as Joe had made no attempt to swim toward it. She flung herself in, zeroed in on the bone, and paddled without strain, even ramming through some largish waves.
But suddenly, as Joe launched himself with powerful strokes toward the prize, Bryn, calmly pumping along, noticed, and uttered the most penetrating shrieks, howls, barks and growls as she doubled her speed! Those operatic shrieks alerted picnickers; some folks ran out on the sand to see what was up. Was someone being attacked?? Heavens, what a Din!
I laughed at some confused, concerned people and shouted; “Our doodle is incredibly competitive! She’s just cheering herself on! Think of them as battle cries!”
Bryn swam full throttle now, screaming, pumping, ------Snatch! She’d got it! Glancing toward a disappointed Joe she paddled triumphantly toward the beach and was boosted to shore by some bigger waves. She kept looking over her shoulder the whole way to make sure he’d truly given up.
She will not retrieve if the bone lands too near Joe. Why bother?
But when we introduce competition, Oh, Lordy!!
She’d probably swallowed half the lake with all that hollering and being partially submerged at times, but not once had she gagged or coughed. Dropping the bone at my feet she shook vigorously and waited ‘til I heaved it out again. Her blood was up, now!
The beach crowd had risen from prone positions to watch the fun. Bryn didn’t fail them. Again those ghastly shrieks and howls and wails, deep or high barks and piteous cries rang over the water as she cut through it, laser-focused. Her vocal range was simply amazing.
This time, though, Joe barely managed to snatch it one second before she could. As she wilted with disappointment he threw it away again, parallel to the beach.
Whoa! Another challenge! They were at an invisible starting line out there. She swam for it so fast her chest rose high; he couldn’t quite keep up, though he tried. She snatched it up and swam jauntily to shore, yielding the bone to my palm signal immediately after clearing the water.
A little aside: Bryn Will. Not. Yield that bone while swimming. Nothing we did- no command- no trying to wrench it away, or attempting to pry open her jaws, worked. When she clamps down, that’s that. All we’ve been getting for our trouble are scratched legs from those clawed paws as she paddles. Bryn finds it impossible, at some deep psychological level, to relinquish her prize until she clears the water. Only then will she immediately respond to the palms-down signal.
This is the one time, as pack leaders, we decided to make allowances, finally agreeing that right-out-of-the-water retrieval would satisfy both parties. (Before the agreement she’d romp all over the grassy park with it, then drop it somewhere far, far away, requiring us to search. It was really irritating to have to leave the water every time, trudge up the large sandy beach past the huge sitting logs, and then into the park to hunt for it.)
So, this new arrangement suited everyone.
Sometimes Bosses can, and should be, flexible.
After a string of ‘shriek-fetches’ we called it an evening. Bryn even won a smattering of applause for her Pavarotti-like demonstrations.
We six carried our chairs out of the park and right to the promenade’s end and settled down to watch the sun’s final descent. It was nearly windless now; bats fluttered by as darkness fell. Bryn sat quietly between Joe and me on a thin ground pad, eyelids drooping. She’d be upside down tonight in her bed, howling softly, dreaming orange bone dreams...
P.S. About 9:30 p.m. I took her out to do her business. Normally she pees for about six seconds. This night it took nearly thirty seconds. I was deeply impressed that her tank could accommodate that much lake...