One more time - another pet tale...
|Deb vs. The Swan
Shortly after we were married, we moved to New York so I could take a job with a Swiss company that needed an east coast service technician. The office was in Queens, and being suburbanites, we looked for a house away from The City.
The second house we stayed in was in the Village of Lindenhurst on the South Shore of Long Island. The house was situated on a canal that ran south to the Great South Bay. The “Bay” is actually a harbor that is separated from the main body of the Atlantic Ocean by Jones Beach and Fire Island.
The Great South Bay is a Mecca for pleasure boats, and is one of the most densely populated recreational boating regions in the world. Marinas and canals are prevalent in most of the communities along the South Shore.
While the North Shore of “The Island” is known for its old money landed gentry, the south shore evolved into a giant bedroom for Manhattan – populated by blue and white-collar workers alike. Many of the houses on the canals were used as weekend getaways for city dwellers and summer vacation homes
The canal we lived along was a narrow, brackish estuary that flowed for a half-mile or so from the Bay. It was still a path for small pleasure boats going to the bay, and even smaller motorboats belonging to people headed to the shallows at the end of the canal to do some clamming.
In addition to the human traffic, there was a constant stream of wildlife that patrolled the canal looking for easy meals that could be found in the calm waters of the canal.
On this particular day, a family of swans had made their way up the canal to the waters behind our house.
If you’ve never seen a swan in real life, I can tell you that they are large birds – very large birds. I imagine that they are relatively docile normally, but like most animals, they are very protective of their young. We’d seen the adults before, but this time there were four or five cygnets with them.
As they swam closer to the dock, Spanky got pretty excited by these new potential playmates. A little too excited. With the dock slippery from a recent rain, he slipped off the edge and fell into the canal.
Under normal circumstances, this would have presented a problem, but not a big one. Spanky could swim, although he didn’t like the water. He’d fallen in before, and we had been able to lead him to a spot where he could climb out.
This time was different.
With the cygnets trailing behind the adults, a big dog in the water presents a real danger to the babies.
When Spanky fell in, the large male swan attacked him immediately in an effort to protect his family. Had this battle been waged on land, the swan would have become minced swan very quickly, but this battle was being fought in his territory, and Spanky was the one at a disadvantage. I’d heard that swans have drowned animals of all sizes when protecting their young, or themselves.
Spanky was in big trouble as the swan moved in for the kill. He was struggling to keep his head above water as the swan maneuvered behind him to better use his weight to force him under. All this was happening within a foot or two of the dock, but as far as Spanky was concerned, it might as well have been a mile. Without help from us, he didn’t have much time left.
All this was happening while I was inside the house. Deb’s frantic calls for help alerted me to the situation.
We’ve all heard stories of the mom who lifts a car off of her injured child, but if I hadn’t seen what followed with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Deb can best be described as petite – she might have weighed 105 pounds soaking wet – with boots on. She’s always been toned, and strong, but remember the scene, and think about the odds. The dock was wet and slippery. The water level was about a foot below the dock, and a very large male swan was fighting a panicked dog to save his family.
When I came around the corner, Deb was stretched out, lying prone on the dock. It looked like her toes were digging into the wood while she gripped one of the edge boards with her left hand. She leaned out over the canal – probably two feet or more, fending off the swan with her free hand, reaching for Spanky.
Then, the unbelievable occurred. She managed to grab Spanky by the scruff of the neck, and lift him out from under the swan, and toss him onto the dock with one hand, with the swan fighting her every inch of the way. Remember, Spanky weighed almost as much as Deb, and now, he was soaking wet.
I have to say it again. She had just pulled him out with one hand.
Adrenaline is an amazing thing.
Spanky got to his feet, shaken by the close call, but none the worse for the wear. He barked furiously at the swan that had almost killed him, but from a safer distance from the edge of the dock.
The swan hissed at Spanky, a noise not unlike the hiss of a cobra, secure in the knowledge that he had done his job and saved his family.
Deb got to her feet, too – also shaken by the events that had transpired, but she too was secure in the knowledge that she had just saved her family.