Last Summer. Upper Mo. River Breaks, Montana
I pulled the canoe over to get my bearings and let the man chase the waves after earlier leaving my two day paddling buddy and local expert Sander.
Zeusy was doing his thing when he suddenly gave out the most awful yelp he has ever made. He immediatly laid down. He wasn’t getting up.
Something terrible just happened. While running he didn’t see the tip of an old tree jutting from the water. My best pal and adventure buddy just got speared and impaled on the tree.
“Oh god Zeusy !”
I was on an island in the middle of Lake Oahe. The sun is going down.
I checked his wound and he had a three inch tear in his chest. I could open it and see muscle but
I couldn’t tell how deep the wound was. I packed it to stem the bleeding, and he quickly went into shock. I covered him in every coat I had, opened my sleeping bag and wrapped him tight.
He didn’t want to move. My dog never stops. This is bad.
Not knowing how I was going to get him to help I called Sander. This is his territory, his water, he would know who to call.
Sanders said to use 911 and call the Sheriff. Uh,duh! What was I thinking! I was always a part of 911. I had never called it!
In no time they had me connected to the North Dakota Fish and Game Warden Erik Schmidt.
Warden Schmidt advised me to paddle down several miles and meet him at a concrete ramp that a rancher,Mr. Herb Grenz, uses for his pumps and piping for irrigation.
“Hold on Zeusy they are going to get us out of here! ”
I packed him in the canoe. The tent lined the bottom. The jackets and sleeping bags covered him.
As I pushed off I was looking backwards and saw the sun drop below the skyline.
My heart almost sank with it. Lake Oahe is full of tricks. Stands of old trees, Logs, sandbars. This could get much worse, and I don’t carry the hi-powered lighting to navigate at night. A headlamp and a Solarpuff were switched on.
“Paddle ! Damn it Craig you have to paddle harder! ” , I said to myself over and over as I forced a fast, steady pace. I had already paddled twenty-one miles. Everything on my body hurt.
Darkness dropped. I was having a hard time, seeing any distance. I stayed about 200 yards from the East Bank in hopes of avoiding those trees. The huge cutbanks could be barely discernable by their lighter shade against the dark sky.
The phone rings. It is Warden Schmidt. We work at my location. He said he turned on his emergency lights to locate him.
I could see nothing.
He said listen for the irrigation pump.
“Look at the water tower on the West Bank in the City of Cannonball. ” “Could I see it? ”
“We are across from there.” He said.
We were miles away. It got darker, and the temps were dropping. 50’s that evening was predicted. Not good for a dog in shock. The water tower had been consumed by the dark.
Warden Schmidt continued to call and orientate me about every thirty minutes. Still no emergency lights. No steady drone of pumps.
I was paddling so hard I soaked myself with the spray of the paddle. No worries. Zeusy has never given up on me, I never on him.
An eternity passed. The bank turned and there they were. I shouted out with joy!
The “They” included the rancher Herb Grenz who guided me to a safe landing using a flashlight. His land, his territory.
“They were getting us out of here Zeusy ! ”
Warden Schmidt had notified Dr. Malmedal of the Linton Veterinary Service that we were coming earlier in the evening. He was waiting.
We packed Zeusy in the front seat and off to Linton, North Dakota we went.
It turns out this is where Warden Schmidt grew up. His town, his territory.
We reached Dr. Malmedal. He and his wife were definatly kind, compassionate people as they cared for my best pal!
No internal injuries detected.
I got dizzy and almost slumped.
My fear was over!
In no time Zeusy was full of meds with more meds in the bottles for his recovery.
Warden Schmidt made motel arrangments for us at Don’s Motel. He soon had us there. He inquired if I needed anything from the store. Ham and cheese sandwich and a Pepsi? ” , I asked.
“Sure” he said easily and off he went. But realizing what the time was he turned back. Everything was closed.
As if everything he did wasn’t enough the man went home, made me a turkey and cheese sandwich, brought two Sprites, two clementines, and two fantastic cookies his wife made.
In North Dakota I have met the most kind and generous people I have ever met!
As I write this Zeusy is recovering, I have “Linton ” t-shirt one of the cleaning ladies brought to me when she asked why I had a jacket on. The paddling t-shirt has two months on it. Great for paddling, not to run to the store.
Don, the proprieter of Don’s motel a devoted animal guy hooked me up with a leash. A pink one. ”
“Probably not your dogs favorite color ! ” He smiled. My gratitude will out weigh Zeusy being seen in a pink leash.
Thank you Warden Schmidt and the fine people of North Dakota!
I will never forget what you did for us!