Story Short-- Latimore's Sandbar

Last summer, husband and I took our pups down to the Salt River beyond the floating parties and groups of people. The park entrance zigzagged off the main road, and compared to the tubing and barbecue parking lots, it was secluded and quiet...perfect for a walk with Leah and Latimore. We traipsed along a trail that bordered between a cliff wall and the river. Even though the trail was shaded well by the tall trees growing along the river's edge, it was still Arizona hot in the summer and as the trail gained elevation, the trail rose out of the trees and the temperature rose with it into the sun.

We eventually turned around as we didn't bring any real hiking supplies nor water for the pups, and the heat was almost unbearable.  As we made our way back down to the water, we found a beautiful spot where the river had branched off from its main route. This portion of the river was a mixture of fast and slow moving water with the fast current nearest to the shore. As we stepped into the water, it was moving pretty quick, but it was only a couple feet at its deepest. A couple steps in though, and the water seemed to hardly move. It was a mini-sand bar, not even a foot deep in some spots and with rock and sand topping out in others. Just beyond the sand bar in the middle was the larger portion of the fast moving water. The mini-sand bar was like a mirage in our overheated minds, and any concerns washed away amid the peacefulness of the scene. It was half a pool length of perfection, just enough cool water to wade in, right in the middle of the desert.

The dogs were not on their leashes at this point. They were running around all over the shallow water, splashing and bear hugging each other, having a great time. I was bending down to pick up a pebble to throw near my husband when I heard Latimore barking aggressively. I looked up to see that a kayaker had steered into the our little oasis and was floating right next to OUR sandbar. He was floating by quick and Latimore was just as quickly following him, but staying on the sandbar.

We called for Latimore but he was definitely not listening and I immediately was worried that he was going to follow the kayaker into the deeper, faster moving water which reunited with the main part of the river just around the bend. Leah came over to us right away and Tyler put her leash on. Latimore luckily turned around to come back too, but unluckily chose to cross into the deeper, faster moving water on the other side of the sandbar, the side closest to the edge. He was instantly caught in the current.

Poor Latimore is a good swimmer, but that's if conditions are perfect. He is what I call a casual swimmer. He doesn't really use his back legs, and these were not ideal conditions. Plus, this was his first river experience. He didn't know how to go at an angle, or to try and run/swim getting his body up and out of the water like Leah does. Instead he just swam straight into the current and was making absolutely no forward progression. I kept calling him, but I also saw the look of fear in his little puppy eyes. He was panicking. I could hear little whines and I was worried he was going to get too tired to keep swimming, but I didn't know exactly how to get to him.

I made the decision to go in after him, but to come up from behind him.  As soon as I went into the water and he saw me close to him, he let up on his swimming so that he was kind of floating toward me. I was able to grab his collar at the exact moment I realized I could not touch the bottom. I held his collar but had no ability to guide us out of the water's momentum.  I let the current smash us into one of the huge boulders that bordered this portion of the river bank. I was able to turn my body just enough to get one of my feet to push us out away from the next huge rock and logs that were jutting out from the edge.

With the water deeper, the current slackened a bit and I was able to get Latimore into a football hold. The water was well over my head, but Latimore was a good little victim. He didn't wiggle around or try to fight me off. I was able to swim us over to where I could touch the bottom. We were just making it when a group of ten kayakers floated by.  I remember thinking two things--how hilarious it must have looked to see me neck deep with a dog in my arm AND what complete asses they all were to float right on by without even a word to see if we needed help.

We were able to make it to the sandbar, but I didn't let go of Latimore's collar until we were onto the dry side of the river and he again had his leash on. My knees were cut up and burning pretty good, but Latimore seemed okay. I was really worried that he would be scared to swim again, but when we got home, I jumped into the pool to wash the river off of me, and Latimore got in too.


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