I didn't like leaving Rex behind, but he had blisters on his feet from running so many miles along side our bicycle. He was a black and brown Australian Shepherd looking dog with short hair and a long tail that circled upward. I couldn't leave him chained up in the boat yard, because the sun was hot and I knew he would tip over his water with the chain, so I left him running lose. There were all kinds of holes in the fence and he was able to come and go as he pleased.
It was the summer before Cody was about to go into kindergarten. I was pretty broke. Finding a place to live in Santa Barbara with no money, a kid and a dog was next to impossible.
The Captain had raised his two sons on a boat, and took us under his wing because I was a single parent. He understood a lot more about what I was about to go through than I did, and he wanted to help. He sold us our first boat, which was a twenty-five foot cabin cruiser and allowed us to live on it in his yard.
The problem was, school was about to start and I needed some sort of a rent receipt to prove where we lived. I was afraid the government would take Cody away from me if they knew we were living in a boat yard, so I was trying to get our boat into the water before school started. Then I could rent a slip in the harbor for eight dollars a day and have a receipt to show the school that we lived in their district.
The Captain sold the boat to us for thirty-five hundred dollars and wanted her paid off before she went into the water. That was okay with me. By the end of the summer we had her paid for and fixed up pretty nice.
By that time Rex had learned to fend for himself. He'd come home two or three times a week, but he was into hanging out with his friends. At first I worried, but I knew he was too smart to get hit by a car and he didn't like other people so he wasn't likely to get stolen. He knew where all the good restaurants were and was good at dumpster diving. On several occasions I'd find him and his pack of dogs running around, down town. He was always glad to see us, and would come home, but then he would go off with his friends when I went to work.
By summer's end our boat was in the water and Cody was enrolled in school. I remember getting up early and taking Rex for a long walk. When we got back to the dock, Rex took a crap on it. I shouted, "No Rex! Bad dog," and I kicked him into the water to teach him a lesson. I left him swimming around, while I went into the bathroom to get something to clean it up.
A good doer happened by and tried to help Rex out of the water, but Rex bit his hand. The guy's hand was bleeding moderately and he called the dogcatcher to be sure Rex had his shots.
Turns out the dogcatcher had been trying to catch Rex for a long time and wanted to take him in. She said they were going to put him in quarantine for about two weeks and charge me around fifteen dollars a day.
I explained my poor financial situation and proposed to keep Rex on the boat, anchored out in the anchorage. For whatever reason she accepted my proposal and we anchored our boat outside the harbor. It was a unique experience. We had a four horsepower outboard on our dinghy and we would walk Rex on the beach when there were no people around.
On the Friday night of Labor Day weekend, we didn't walk Rex because it was too windy. I woke up in the middle of the night and the off shore winds were blowing around fifty knots. Rex was out on the deck, starring at the shore. He looked like he liked the wind, and was probably dreaming about running up and down the beach.
I woke up early the next morning and realized right away that Rex was gone. We took the dinghy in and searched the beach, the yard and all of his favorite dumpsters. The wind was still blowing hard. I figured he probably got blown out to sea, so we took the dingy back to the cruiser and followed the direction of the wind all the way out to Santa Cruz Island looking for him. There were only around five or six boats anchored in Fry's Anchorage. We dropped our anchor and went ashore looking for dog prints.
There were paw prints all over the beach that led into the woods. We followed them to a stream that was coming down the mountain. There was a trail along side the stream and we began to follow it up the mountain. There were all kinds of natural pools along the way up. A few of them were so nice we had to take the time to swim in them. The water was clean and warm. There were lots of exotic plants and ferns growing along side the stream. "This is so nice," Cody said. "Can we live out here?"
"You gotta go to school. But we can stay for a couple days."
Halfway up the mountain we came to a waterfall that was about
thirty feet high. We had fun standing under the water and swimming in its pool. After a while we climbed up it and continued our journey up the mountain.
We were near the top of the mountain when Cody said, "I'm getting hot. Can I drink some of the water in the stream?"
"Yeah, go ahead."
We were on a cliff and he started to walk down the trail that led to the stream. All of the sudden he slipped in some dried leaves and found himself dangling on the cliff's edge.
"Get away from the edge!" I shouted.
I could see that he was afraid. He reached his hand out for me to help. I started to ease my way down. Then the ground gave and we were caught in a landslide. Somehow I wound up beneath Cody. We fell through the air for a long time. I was falling back first, trying to hold Cody in the air with both my hands. After about twenty feet of free falling my back pounded a giant boulder in the stream. Cody fell forward and smacked his head on the same boulder.
He jumped up and started to run around in circles screaming his lungs out. His blonde hair rapidly filled with blood.
The wind had gotten knocked out of me real bad. It took all I had to roll onto my knees. I was able to get a hand on Cody's shoulder and pull him down to the rocks. It took everything to yell, "Sit down!"
Soon as I got my breath I pulled him into my arms to comfort him. By the time I got him to stop crying, his hair was saturated with blood.
I spent an hour or so washing the blood out of his hair and ripped up my white shirt for a bandage.
Cody got a pretty good grip on himself and we started down the mountain. The biggest problem was that I couldn't walk. I swam down the stream and crawled as much as I could. When there were big rocks in the way Cody would lift my leg over. I was so proud of the way he handled himself. I couldn't help crying when his bandage turned red. We stopped several times to clean the blood out of his hair and to change the bandage.
Halfway down we came to the waterfall. I didn't think I could make it, so we followed an animal trail. The trail got several hundred feet above the stream and we ran out of things to hold onto. We found ourselves holding onto weeds and realized we'd be dead if we slipped and the weeds broke. It became apparent that I was going to have to go down the waterfall. We worked our way back and some how I was able to get down it. We changed Cody's bandage in the pool and continued our journey.
Near the bottom we crossed paths with some teenagers who helped us to our boat, and went to get their father, who was a Veterinarian. Cody and I were settling in the cabin when we heard the teenagers' outboard coming back to our boat. Then we heard a familiar bark.
"Dad! It's Rex!" Cody shouted, racing his way towards the door.
I'd never seen him look so excited.
Rex flew out of the dinghy and went crazy licking Cody's face on the deck of our boat. Cody got knocked to his rear end and wrapped his arm around Rex's neck. He sat there laughing as Rex licked his face.
"Is that your dog?" The Veterinarian asked.
"Yeah. Where'd you find him?" I replied.
"We found him swimming around in the middle of the channel. The Veterinarian and his kids came aboard and took a look at Cody's head. He had a two-inch opening in the skin of his scalp. The Veterinarian used Cody's hair to tie the wound closed. "That ought to get you back to Santa Barbara but he needs to get stitches. Be sure to go straight to the hospital when you get there."
They climbed in their dinghy. "Make sure you keep an eye on that dog. He might jump overboard again," the Veterinarian said, pulling the starter cord to his outboard.
We had tuna fish sandwiches and all three slept in the v-berth together. We were all so happy to have each other and slept pretty well.
Soon as the sun rose, I started the engine and pulled the anchor. I headed out of Fry's and found myself in a big swell situation. Our boat may have stood about eight feet above the water when it was flat. I'm not sure how big the waves were but they were a lot bigger than the boat. They were travelling east, I was travelling north. They were so much bigger than the boat. Working my way up and down the face and back of the waves was not only challenging; it was killing my back. I figured for sure my hip was dislocated. Halfway across the channel the swell died down and I was able to increase the speed. It took around five hours to cross the channel. I was low on cash and the anchorage seemed pretty calm, so we anchored the boat and took our dinghy into the wharf. We tied to a ladder and climbed up. All the tourists were so amazed to see Rex climb the ladder; they didn't notice the blood in Cody's hair.
I was more amazed with myself being able to climb the ladder. I was hoping all those waves had helped to knock my back halfway into alignment.
The hospital was about five miles away and we had to walk. I made a cane out of eucalyptus branch. It helped a little, but it was easier swimming down the stream than walking. I had to stop quite a bit to rest and it took us a couple hours to make it to the hospital. I figured I'd be okay in the long run because I was able to walk. My hip had swollen up about six inches and I had to tie my belt loops together with string because I couldn't button my pants.
We tied Rex up in front of the hospital and they took us in right away. They checked to be sure Cody didn't have a concussion. The Doctor was impressed with the job the Veterinarian had done and said that too many hours had passed by to give him stitches. There wasn't anything they could do for my back either so we started our journey back to the ocean.
By this time the wind was blowing at gale force and I was worried about our boat. I tried walking fast, but wasn't able to. Soon as we got to the ocean I saw our boat on the beach getting pounded by the waves.
Rex ran over to raise his leg on one of his favorite palm trees. Then he ran ahead to hit another. There were some homeless people sitting in the grass drinking beer, who had a pit-bulldog. The pit-bull charged after Rex and cheap shotted him from behind. All the drunks chased after him, but Cody was the fastest. He dove into the dogfight, trying to pull the pit off of Rex. One of the homeless drunks pulled Cody off the pit and two of them tried to separate its jaws from Rex's neck. Rex was crying so loud. Cody was crying even louder. Both of the homeless men were getting their hands bit up pretty badly. By this time there were dozens of tourists standing around watching. A third homeless man pulled a revolver from beneath his vest and shot the pit-bull in the head.
Cody dove to Rex's side crying, "Don't die Rex. Please don't die. Rex tried to lift his head to lick Cody's face but couldn't. We all knew Rex was about to die. Cody leaned his face next to Rex's and Rex licked. Then his tongue fell and his tail quivered. The sight of Cody crying over
his dog caused all of us to break out in tears. I leaned down and silently ran my hand over his back. The only sound was that of everyone crying.
The owner of the pit-bull was the first to get a grip on himself. "I'm sorry about your dog, man."
His friend said, "I'm sorry about yours. I didn't want to shoot him. It was just one of those things that had to be done."
The pit-bull's owner's hand was bleeding real badly. He said, "That's okay bro'. You did what you had to do. He had it comin' to him."
We carried the two dogs across the street where the land was still undeveloped. Carrying Rex killed my back, but somehow I was able to endure the pain. There were a couple dozen of us and we dug two holes with our hands and sticks.
I led the prayer, "Dear God. Please let their souls continue to live in other forms and allow Rex's soul to come back to us.
Everyone said, "Amen," and we covered them with dirt.
By the time we left the graves our boat was pretty much destroyed. We were walking towards the beach to see if there was anything we could salvage when the owner of the pit-bull came up from behind yelling, "Hold up bro'."
I turned around.
He said, "I know you guys loved that dog a lot, and neither one of you look worth a shit. Anyway I got a Volkswagen van I want you to have."
"Ah, that's okay, dude."
"No, really. You can't be ridin' around on your bike with your back the way it is, and I feel real bad about your dog. Please take it. I insist."
I knew our boat was totaled beyond repair and figured we'd need a place to stay so I accepted it. By the time we got down to the boat there was nothing left but debree. We found our sleeping bags and some clothes and took them to the laundromat. I couldn't believe we were having such bad luck and couldn't help wondering why.
After drying the sleeping bags we tried to sleep in the van. Cody slept on my chest, but neither of us slept very well. I begged God for an answer on why he was putting us through so much. The answer didn't come to me like a conversation, but before I fell asleep I came to the understanding that Cody had a lot of important things to be done in his life and that he was going to have to be able to handle extreme circumstances. I realized anyone else would have died falling off the cliff, and I was able to fall asleep knowing that God was with us and that he had something special planned for Cody's life.