Willie and Water

By Tina Hogue

It was hot that day, even in the hallways inside, and in the corner of a pen, a dusty bear-skinned dog named ‘Willie’ had his belly on the concrete trying to keep cool.

“He loves water,” the guy at the desk said, “he’ll just lay in it.”

“Maybe he’s part Lab?” we wondered. So we took him home and tried our best to bathe him, repeatedly.

Apparently, this dog did not like water.

He avoided the bathrooms at all cost, had a distaste for sprinklers, and got very suspicious whenever I turned on a faucet.

So imagine my surprise when one day, at Mayberry Park, this thing stuck his paw right into the swirling Truckee river.

He pulled it back immediately. I think he surprised himself a little bit. And then, I’ll be damned, he stuck it back in.

Standing there, wide-eyed and breathless, he looked like how children look when they stand in front of the ocean that moment right before something, deep inside, compels them to go on in.

Something, in the perpetual movement and gray-blue clamor of the Truckee, is just hypnotic. Ancient and ethereal, it curves around trees thick as sedans that it nurtured from seedlings and washes over beer cans from 4th of Julys past, soldered to the rocks by algae, those rocks older than 4th of July itself.

“Older than the flow of human blood through human veins,” wrote Hughes, each year bearing a new mark of age, but the path stays the same.

Up to his chest, staring intently at the water, I imagined Willie too was pondering the river, asking it in a child’s voice: How deep are you? Where do you go? How are you different from the water in my bowl? In my bath? And how long will you stay?