"Aw Mom just let him get in the creek!" a voice calls out from behind the trees.
"I'll let him get in once I get his poop in my pocket," I call back, slightly exasperated having just been walking in the creek and having a forty pound dog pulling one way as my respectable citizenship is at risk if I can't grab the poop he deposited in the park.
"Why do you want to have his poop in your pocket?" the voice calls back.
Where is this person and why on earth do they CARE what I'm doing??
"I don't want his poop in my pocket but there isn't a trash can and I don't want to fall on it so I'd rather it be in my purse."
There, done. Poop is bagged. We turn the corner to the stream bed and see a little old lady, pink plaid shorts with a cotton ball dog in her lap. Beside her an elderly gentleman with velco shoes and muddy knees is casually smoking a cigarette.
I walk through the water with Orion.
"I'm trying to teach him to swim," I say as we plow across the two inch water. "I don't have AC at home and he was hot so I thought I'd take him here to the stream bed."
"Well it ain't that deep here but there's some good pools up further the trail."
I walk right in the stream to a part that drops off.
"Well I don't actually know if he can swim yet because he's only five months old tomorrow."
"He's a big one. I bet he just knows how. I think my neighbor has one just like that. You aren't my neighbor by chance are you?"
I smile. Another girl earlier on the walk swore I worked at her vet. At least I'm getting some variety from Sarah Silverman. "No, I'm not your neighbor. I live in Norwood and I'm pretty sure I know all of mine."
"Well okay. I just haven't gotten around to meeting everyone yet and I know she had a yellow dog."
Orion is patting the water with his paw. Slapping the surface aware it drops off. I'm standing up to my knees.
"Well Barry look at that. She's just standing in there. Must be good shoes you got."
"Yeah I've been walking all up the stream so far."
Orion makes a leap and does a little mini dog paddle towards me.
"That's right. Come on. Swimmie swimmie," I'm calling, scooting backwards just like the mothers do in baby swim lessons. He loops once than tries to bounce out of the water making huge sloshing leaps. His tail flies left and right, arching water like a lazy sprinkler on a hot summer day.
"Good boy!" I'm praising.
"There you go!" the lady calls from the bench. "Hey Barry isn't there a spot further up we use to take Seth?" Barry cocks an eyebrow. "Would you like to go for a little walk? I'm pretty sure there's a water hole at the end of this path."
"Sure," I say sloshing out of the water.
"I'm Mary, and that's Barry and this is Cotton--but she doesn't like the water. She delicately places her feet in but won't swim."
Mary scoops up her dog and starts walking across the stream towards me, grey hair and all, not batting an eye at having water up to her ankles. "I've been meaning to replace these shoes anyways. Well Barry, I can just feel the leather stretching." I trail after her introducing Orion and myself and down the path we go.
"Barry is this the right place?"
"Well I don't know, it's all grown up."
"I think we're getting the parks mixed up."
"Well let's just climb down there Molly and see if we can find a deep spot." And before I know it I'm scrambling down the creek bed after her.
"I do this all the time with my grandkids," Mary's saying as we walk over loose rocks, heading towards an overpass. "My one grandkid he loves rocks so we're all the time in the creek looking for em'. My older one doesn't like it much that I do this, but that is just cause he's afraid I'll get hurt. But just think, I was just sitting out there now I'm walking down a creek with a stranger I met trying to find a water hole for her dog to learn to swim."
I'm acutely aware Mary's in flip flops, has a good forty years on me and might slip at any minute--I sympathize with the oldest grandkid but am equally impressed like the young one must be. We trudge along and end up under a bridge.
"What do you think? Should we go?" I ask.
"Looks like the pool on the other side."
In we go. Voices echoing off the cement walls. Orion looks up at me, grabs the leash and tries to pull me back to the other side. Mary's behind me making barking noises. He's not convinced this is a brilliant idea.
"Come on buddy," I say and we continue along.
Half way in Mary stops.
"What kind of water do you suppose this is?"
"Just the stream." I'm ahead of her, just about at the end.
"Well what if it's something else?"
"I'm here!" I wade in and the bottom drops out from under me rapidly causing me to flail slightly and pull my shorts up. Orion trails behind me, does three little doggy paddles then back to the ledge. Mary's still contemplating the water, so I too move back towards the ledge pleased to no end that Orion in fact will be a swimmer.
"You're probably right about the water," Mary says.
And Orion pulls us to the opposite side of the bridge.