Lola the Fender Dog

19 Feb

A month ago I had to scrub the bottom of Condesa and replace the shaft zinc. I left Lola, our lab mix rescue dog from Baja California, in the cockpit, with her leash looped around one of the cockpit cleats. I thought we’d be in for a drama, since she freaks out when I go in the water, but she didn’t bark.

 I scrubbed and scraped for a while, then popped up to check on Lola. She panted happily.

San Francisco’s water is cold, so I was in full combat mode: Hooded wetsuit, booties, mask, fins, weights, gloves, and a big scraper. Bottom scrubbing becomes meditative, and I heard only muffled scraping and the occasional crunch of a barnacle.

I checked on Lola again and she seemed to be enjoying the day.

 I’d finished the waterline on the port side of the boat, rounded the bow, and started scraping my way down the starboard side.

I glanced aft along the topsides, where I saw a yellowed fender, hanging from its rope, just kissing the water’s surface. Beyond it I saw another yellowed fender, hanging from its rope, also just kissing the water’s surface. Beyond the fenders I saw a yellow dog, hanging from her leash, clawing at the water’s surface with her hind legs, fighting for her life. She’d hung herself by trying to jump over the lifeline to the dock, forgetting she was attached by her leash to the cockpit cleat.

 I wriggled up through the gap onto the finger float. I must have looked ridiculous running in full dive gear – mask still on – slapping my yellow clown fins down the dock.

Lola’s collar was pulled up over her head and had squeezed many folds of loose skin around her face, making her look like a Shar Pei. She choked and her right eye was covered by the collar, but her smashed left eye flashed recognition.

 I grabbed at Lola, but my wet gloves slipped on her fur. I bit the gloves off, balanced Lola on my knee, and unclipped her leash from her collar.

I don’t how long she’d been dangling there – it could have seconds, or it could have been minutes – but after another minute she probably would have choked out. With her hind legs she’d scratched rows of gouges in the blue foam float under the dock, and a flotilla of blue foam bits drifted out into the channel.

When something like this happens to a human they thank God, promise to volunteer at the soup kitchen, and start writing their bucket list. Lola just wagged her tail and wanted a treat. 

Lola jumping overboard without her leash attached to the boat:


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