The Old Man and The Dog at Sea

As I was leaving the dog park last week, hurrying to get the kids from school, an older gentleman was walking slowly through the parking lot.  He approached Our Best Friend, smiled at him, and said, “Sit.” Our Best Friend promptly sat. The man extended his hand, OBF lifted a paw, and the two shook hands.

I was quite amazed. OBF doesn’t listen to strangers, and is usually aloof with people who try to make friends. Yet he seemed to trust this man on sight.  “He likes you,” I told the man. “He’s not usually friendly with strangers.”

“He’s a good boy,” the man told me.  “Let me tell you a story.”

Uh oh, I think.  I’m already going to be late for the girls. But somehow, I didn’t have the heart to say, “Another time, perhaps.” There was something about this man that spoke of another time and place. I couldn’t just walk off — and besides, he’d already launched into his story.

“In World War Two, I was in the navy– the American navy.  I was stationed in Honolulu, you know. One day, I was walking down the street, and saw this starved, emaciated dog.  He was half-dead, his ribs were showing, so I picked him up and carried him back to the ship.

“Well, as you can imagine, the other men on the boat laughed at me for bringing in this dog. They told me, ‘He’s your dog, you take of him, you find food, clean up his mess.’ Of course I did. They all thought I was crazy.

Maybe this kind of boat? Who knows...

“Now, I was a mechanic.  We had a four engines on the ship, and it was my job to clean out the oil that gathered underneath.  And I did it at night. At three in the morning, the only people awake on board was me and the guy steering the ship, way up top in the pilot’s room.

“So one night I was carrying up buckets of oil from the engine room, which is at the  bottom of the boat.  I took it on deck, and…” Here he paused, looking sheepish and apologetic. “It’s what we did in those days, I tossed the oil overboard. But I must have spilled some on the deck. I came back up with two more pails, and I slipped on the deck.  My legs shot out from under me, and I went flying under the railing of the ship. My shirt caught on the hook we used for the landing bumpers. So there I was, hanging on the side of the ship, the waves were hitting me up to here,” he said, holding his hand mid-way up his chest.  “I yelled and yelled, but no one could hear me over the engines and waves and it was the middle of the night.”

I knew what was coming.

“But the dog heard me,” he said. “He came running, saw me hanging there, and ran off. I had taught him how to climb the ladders on the ship, so he ran up to the helmsman,  barking and tugging on his pant leg.  The helmsman followed him down, found me, and pulled me back on board. That dog saved my life.”

“Wow,” I told him, as I pondered the plausibility.  “That’s some story.”

“I came here after the war,” he continued, “and I was afraid to try and bring the dog across the border– I didn’t have shots for him or nothing, I couldn’t afford it. So I gave him to a buddy of mine in Boston. Then, a while later, I went to visit my friend. I got in the car, and didn’t see the dog in the back seat.  Well, the dog recognized my voice, and he jumped over the seat and straight into my lap. He went crazy licking my face. He was a great dog.”  He took Our Best Friend’s paw again.  “He’s a good dog too.  You take good care of him.”

“We try to,” I answered.

By now I was at least five minutes late picking up the kids from school.  I shoved OBF into the back of the van, and as I drove off, I wondered how much, if any, of that story was true. And why he chose to tell it to me. And why I didn’t just interrupt him and walk off, so I wouldn’t be late for the kids. And what the heck I would do with this bizarre event. I kind of felt like the Wedding Guest in Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner except this guy didn’t have an albatross around his neck.


About one person's view

I'm the mother of three girls, three cats, and a dog. All need constant attention, but only the dog likes to go for long walks!
This entry was posted in dog heroes, Dogs, life, World War II and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to The Old Man and The Dog at Sea

  1. Did you meet him on April 1?

    Regardless, it was a beautiful story and got me sighing. The old man needed to tell it, and for someone to listen. So it was kind of you to give him those 5 minutes, and then to share it with us. If it was true, how very wonderful! It was karma at work, all in the one lifetime. Perhaps OBF knows and hence, the greeting 🙂

  2. silverycloud says:

    Great story!
    But you’re such a cynic. Why should the story not be true?

  3. lol…I was laughing at Georgia Little Pea’s comment about April 1st. I’m a cynic too and hardly ever believe random things are true. I’ll play along and believe the story is 100% true. It’s better that way. 😀

  4. chesshirecat says:

    True or not, a whimsical story? Who knows, it’s a good story. I’m not sure a dog would be allowed on a military ship, but perhaps this was a merchant marine vessel? All the same, I enjoyed the story…the kids are safe, the old man revealed something about himself to a stranger…and it’s a feel good story! Lovely….thank you for sharing it. 🙂

    • That’s what made me wonder– who would allow a dog aboard a naval ship in wartime? But who knows… things were different 60+ years ago. And maybe it was the Merchant Marines, and he thought I would be more familiar with the Navy and just used it instead.

      I think it’s neat that even the cynics want to believe it’s true…

  5. Aleksandra says:

    I want to believe it!!

  6. Kristine says:

    What a lovely story, even if it is slightly exaggerated. It doesn’t matter. It’s the sentiment and the sweet memory that counts. How kind of him to share it and how kind of you to listen and share with us.

    He reminds me of an older man in my neighbourhood who oftens stops me to talk about the collies he used to raise. I haven’t seen him for a little while, actually. It makes me worry.

  7. Pamela says:

    Good stories are a gift and you never walk away from a gift. Thanks for sharing with us.

  8. BM says:

    You were in the rite place at the rite time……and I choose to believe the story. Great story and great of you to have listened.

  9. Jan says:

    hey there,
    Couldn’t resist reading a fellow Canuck’s blog (including your exhortations to “VOTE”. Well, Conservatives aside, I haven’t had experience at the dog park since we live in a semi-rural environs and have access to acres of the most unbeautiful clearcut logging roads imagineable. Enjoyed your blog and your narrations.

  10. The Hook says:

    Seniors are full of great tales, if only we could stand listening to half of them!

  11. Julie says:

    In Norway we have a famous dog called Bamse, a saint bernhard. He has become a war hero for his efferts on board his ship during WW2. Mostly he brought home sailors from pubs after closing time, but he did some other things as well.

  12. houndstooth says:

    Our dogs do visits with us at a few nursing homes, and I hear stories like these rather often. I believe them all. Many of them can’t remember what they had for lunch, but the details of the past are crystal clear, just waiting for another dog person to come along to share them with. 🙂

  13. Pingback: With Love From Jodi | The Dog Park

  14. Mel says:

    What a tale! I love that you got to hear it so you could share it with all of us. I believe his story. I have heard many stories from older people that you think couldn’t possibly be real, but they are. What an amazing gift that he shared it with you Lori. I wonder how many people have heard that story. My guess is not many. What a blessing.

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