Black Collar, No Tags

So this post is about a dead dog we found today.  No pictures or anything of the body.  Just letting you know.

It was our first kayaking day of the year and I wanted to go somewhere new.  It was beautiful.


Immature Bald Eagle – they’re light brown/streaky white until they’re around 5 years old, when they get the classic white head/dark brown plumage


Tierce was, of course, unimpressed with everything.


“The park, Bitterman. Drive through the park. You know how I love the park!”

Until he started digging for clams.


Mischa noticed her first as we were cursing and swearing our way upstream in the Nanaimo Estuary.  The body was draped over the riverbank, likely pushed there by the currents of the last high tide.  The hindquarters hung down towards the river – not a natural position for any dog.

It didn’t look like the dog had been dead very long; the eyes were filmed over, but present, and the body didn’t look like things had been nibbling at it.  The last high tide had been at 08:47; we had started kayaking around 16:30, roughly a half-hour after low tide.  By the time we found her, it was 18:45.

Mischa held my kayak while I got out.  Then I scrabbled up the bank.  By the time I stood over the dog, I had to keep blinking the tears away.  My brain flashes on random thoughts and images, both past and imagined.

Flash:  This isn’t right.  Dogs should die at home or at the vet’s, with their owners making sure that everything’s done proper.

It was the first time I remember touching a dead dog.  I saw a collar, but the fur was too thick to see if a tag had survived the river.  I reached into the waterlogged mass of fur and yanked it around so I could unbuckle it.  Black collar, no tags.

Flash: Tierce limp on a riverbank somewhere.  

It looked like a Golden Retriever mix, and young – the black on the muzzle had yet to frost over.  Well fed, no missing fur.  The smell was really strong, but I couldn’t tell if it was the smell of low tide on her or the beginning of decomposition.

Flash: A picture of a Shiba that had died during the Japanese tsunami, chained to a post and drowned.  It looked a lot like Tierce.

I checked to see if it was a male or female.  Female.  There was some blood on her inner hindquarters, but just a patch of it. Her hind paw hung heavy in my hand; just there.  Whatever made her the dog that her people would remember, it wasn’t there now.

Flash: Do dead dogs bleed?  The blood would have washed away in the river, wouldn’t it?  Was she alive when she washed up?  Was she hurt or killed and fell into the river somehow?  Or dumped?  Was she frightened?  Did it hurt?

I took a careful picture, trying to angle it so the eyes were mostly covered by the grass over her – if I had to send it to anyone, they didn’t need to see that.  I took a picture of the collar.  I looked up the latitude and longitude and took a screenshot.

Tierce looked up, incurious.  Maybe he couldn’t smell her or hadn’t noticed a doglike shape hanging over the bank.  Maybe he just didn’t care; the mechanics of death beyond him.

Flash:  This cannot be my dog.  This can never be the way my dog dies.  I couldn’t bear it, wondering forever if he was frightened or if he was in agony.  We’ve always been there to take care of him, to save him from himself.

I posted a picture of the latitude/longitude to FLED (FLED – Find Lost & Escaped Dogs Vancouver Island) along with a description and shared it on my Facebook page.  A friend alerted me to a post about a lost dog of the same description who had been missing for a week.  I called the phone number and left a message.  They called back and gave me an email address where I could send them a picture of the body.

It was her.

Her name was Angel and she was only 3 years old.

Black collar, no tags.



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