Zeke zigzagged on the banks of the Floodwood river. Mid-summer brought torrential rains that gave the river a name. The hay along the river, between the road and woods, had become a thick mess of reeds and lily pads. A bend in the river here formed a deep pool with years of wear. The pool spilled over on the bank across from the house, ruining the hay, but produced a dense slough marsh where grouse lay low. Zeke wanted grouse, but a pair of sandhill cranes had taken up residency and practically attacked her when she came close. Zeke was an eight year old golden lab mix. A typical dog from these parts. She had short legs and a broad head with too long ears. Her muzzle had started to gray and she had a thin white colic stripe from the bottom of the chin to her navel. She was a pointer and a fine retriever that never swam well but loved the water. Her nose was keen and she could thrush a pheasant like no other Zeke Mike had ever owned.
Zeke was the third Zeke of her kind. The two before her had succumbed to a perishable demise on County Road 8. Mike's stepfather had named every dog Zeke to prevent confusion and the unadulterated family disputes that erupt when naming a new dog. She was the best Zeke and would eventually gain fame as a "laster", which only meant that she knew how to cross a road. She was a smart dog and learned a mighty leap into water despite an unnatural fear of drowning. When she was a puppy, Mike had to carry her into the water and hold her as she spun her legs like windmills, whimpering with closed eyes. He would hold her out in the water and carefully let his hands drift away like a father guiding a child's bike the first time w/o training wheels. The fluffy beast whined and cried. Mike felt horrible doing this, but this was the last pup from Zeke II before she died, the runt, and he needed a new dog. She wasn't all hunter, her pa was a mongrel that hung around the neighbor's barn and lived off squirrels and scraps. Her mother, Zeke II was a full fledged, Chocolate Labrador that could point, retrieve, swim, and lay around with the best of 'em.
Zeke eventually learned to swim but she never got the hang of swimming. She was like an inner city youth: all awkward gait and head struggling to keep above water. Her muzzle snorted with abstained breath, and in the murky water of the slough, bubbles formed in the wake of her strained breathing and furious legs. Zeke had resolve and she knew how to find a bird and bring it back. Mike spent hours with her. She wasn't gun shy, loved to snake out birds, but was prone to chasing a squirrel once in a while. She also succumbed to the constant pressure of the bombing sandbills, abandoning her resolve to lay in the shade when their boisterous assault became too much.
Zeke heard the snap of the twelve gauge. The mark fell haughtily into the shallow water and Zeke sloshed to the ruffled buoy. It was sinking when she got there and she clasped jaws around it, a pinning corral as she swam back to shore. She dropped it at Mike's feet and wagged her tail as Mike slapped her wet chest with a thud through her ribs. The sound echoed into the still morning.