The Heart of Walden Pond

I saw the little dog tethered to its owner’s ankle as I walked past the lifeguard office on the main beach. It was the middle of the day and the beach was crowded with happy sunbathers, thankful that at last the weather had warmed enough for them to visit the pond in their beachwear.
I looked at the medium size dog for longer than I might otherwise have, except that something struck me as odd. He was light brown, had a curly tail and was cute. I love dogs. But it looked out of place. Suddenly I realized why.

No dogs at Walden Pond.

It tweaked my interest that in the middle of a busy Saturday there would be a dog on the main beach, tethered to its owner’s ankle, and the wardens of the pond, and the lifesavers standing on the walkway just twenty feet away were not all rushing over and reminding the owner of the rules, or the concomitant fines.

Without thinking much more, I wandered over and…

“Excuse me. I’m a dog lover. Actually I volunteer at a rescue. How is it that you are able to have your dog here?”
The woman turned around and without indicating she was distressed, or indignant at my question (I later apologized for my ‘nosiness’) said
“She’s a working dog.”

We chatted for a while and the woman told me what an amazing difference the little dog, Nakita, had made to her life. I told her how my daughter, who loved animals was in hospital just having had a bone marrow transplant. How much she really missed her animals, her ginger cat and little grey and white Shih Tzu, and how after her last long hospitalization in February she came home and buried her head into her cats fur, and cried into the warm belly of her little Shih Tzu. I thought of how I missed the presence of these little creatures when I am in the hospital now with her, how when I arrive back home after a day or more away, I seek out our little dog, pick her up and cuddle her. Perhaps I was also apologizing for my curiosity…her situation far from what I had first thought.

When I walked a little further along the sand I met a friend, another open water swimmer, and we chatted as we put on our wetsuits, deciding on our respective swim courses for the day.
She happened to tell me about one swim, when she thought she was swimming next to someone, but then realized this ‘other swimmer’ had extraordinarily short arms. “It wasn’t a swimmer,” she told me. “It was a turtle”.

I have heard other stories of the snapping turtles in Walden, some very large ones, but never seen one myself. I have heard about how vicious their jaw snapping might be, how it is best to avoid them. My friend seemed to have a different tale.

We laughed about how these chance meetings can be misconstrued. My friend and the turtle, both continuing on their own paths, neither ‘snapping’ at the other, swimming in harmony.

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