I might have sounded like a crazy person at the beach yesterday. The weather was perfect. I decided to take an afternoon off and help my dog Annie learn to swim. At Ona Beach, just a little south of where I live on the Oregon Coast, Beaver Creek ends in a wide, relatively shallow finger of water that runs into the ocean. To get to the beach, you have to walk a long trail from the parking lot through the picnic area and a bit of woodland. Then you cross a small wooden bridge and finally hit sand.
I talked to Annie all the way along. I usually do. In between discussing my life with her and giving commands—No! Off! Don’t eat that! This way!—I found myself teaching her. “This is where we had that picnic. That’s Salal. Those people are from New Mexico. That’s called a velella velella (blobby creatures on the sand that looked like yellow Jell-O).
And then we got to the water. Annie’s a little nuts, so I don’t dare let her off the leash. If she swims, I swim. Annie splashed into a shallow area that isn’t deep enough for swimming and flattened herself in among the rocks. I urged her up and led her to deeper water. She got anxious and pulled me back out. Standing on the shore, I pointed out tiny fish swimming along the edge of the water. She was busy with a smell in the weeds. Eventually I lured her back into the creek and started toward the deep part.
The cool water rose up my shorts, but I didn’t care how wet I got. I was busy shouting encouragement. “Come on, girl. You can do it. Just a little more.” As her paws left the ground and she started to dog-paddle, I was screaming, “Oh, look! You’re swimming! Look at you! I knew you could do it!”
A family nearby watched us. “She’s swimming!” I called. Soon everyone within earshot was watching. Some teenagers came down close. I know it’s not that big a deal. Most dogs can swim. The human kids were having a good time in the water already. But this was Annie, and I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. Our weather is usually too cold, and I’m usually so busy I don’t get to the beach nearly as much as I’d like to.
Annie clambered out, shook water and sand on everyone, and accepted some petting from her admirers. Then she led me on a long walk across the sand. I felt wonderful, young, alive, and happy. I did not miss having human children or even a husband—Fred didn’t like the beach much anyway. Too sandy.
Walking back across the bridge, I got into a conversation with a woman from Los Angeles who was hunting for agates. “I guess the dog needs her walk,” she said.
“Oh yes,” I replied. “And so does her mom.” It didn’t seem the least bit weird.
Dear friends, I’d love to have children and maybe you would, too, but life without them doesn’t have to be all grief and regrets. I would love it if you would share some of your happy childless experiences here in the comments.