It's a dog's life

A possible death mars a trip to the Oregon Coast.

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Fishermen and crabbers along the bay.

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Nora gets a chin-chuck among the rocks.

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Nora finds a friend.

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Nora gets some attention in the tide pools.

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Nora the Schnauzer zips down the beach.

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A woman tosses a tennis ball to a standard French poodle at Nye Beach.

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A crabber tosses his pot into the bay.

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A crabber checks his pot.

A small, yellow dog fell out of a pickup as we merged with the crowded, three-lane traffic on Interstate 5 at Vancouver.

"A dog fell out of that truck," I gasped and jerked at the steering wheel.

Darlene braced both arms against the dashboard. Her expression showed her shock.

Framed briefly in my side-view mirror, the staggering dog disappeared as vehicles swerved around it.

The pickup, with another round-faced dog peering over the tailgate, had blended with speeding traffic.

"The poor dog must be terrified," Darlene said, her voice low.

That incident covered tense seconds as we traveled to Newport on the Oregon Coast on the Sunday morning of last week.

Yet, neither Darlene nor I could let it go.

We somberly shared details and impressions: Yellow or apricot-colored dog;

Miniature Schnauzer size or smaller;

Long hair;

A shell covered the pickup's bed;

No top lid closed the opening above the tailgate;

I tapped the brakes once, swerving briefly. But let up instantly;

No place to pull over on the Columbia River bridge;

The pickup sped away;

Did the driver know the dog fell out?

Did it survive?

We didn't know, but not likely.

Then, as often happens, as we headed west on Highway 26 we became distracted by football on the radio. The Seattle Seahawks battled the New York Giants at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Alas, after threatening an upset victory, Seattle seemed destined to lose. Clinging to a five-point lead, the Hawks floundered against a seemingly inevitable late-game Giants' rally. With seconds to play, Eli Manning tossed for the end zone and a game-winning score.

Seattle's Brandon Browner, however, picked off the pass and ran 94 yards for Seattle's game-clinching touchdown.

The announcers shrieked and bantered with excitement.

I yelped.

And Darlene lifted both arms.

"I don't believe it," she cried.

Neither did I.

We took the Banks turnoff to Tillamook and reached Lincoln City in time for lunch/dinner at Mo's at 3:09 p.m.

I wolfed down a salmon-sprinkled salad and clam chowder, burped politely, and excused myself - Darlene agreed to pay after she lingered over succulent (she said) fish and chips - to take Nora the Schnauzer for a walk on the Siletz Bay beach.

Walk?

Nora doesn't walk on the beach.

She kicked into overdrive when I unsnapped the leash and morphed into a hovercraft floating above the sand.

Finally, when her tongue sagged a bit, she paused to be petted by anyone willing.

Many complied.

I watched a kayaker cruise past, flashing a paddle and dangling a fishing line.

Three crabbers wound-up and tossed traps 40 yards out. They shifted from foot-to-foot for a few minutes before pulling in the traps that held leg-wiggling crabs that they measured and tossed back or plopped into plastic buckets.

A squadron of brown pelicans preened on the sand across the inlet, with an occasional flight sailing east, often inches above the water.

A thin mist, or Oregon Sunshine, draped over the waves beyond the inlet and the hills to the east.

We spent longer than an hour dining and beachcombing at Siletz Bay before touring the final 25 miles to Newport, checking into Hallmark Inn and watching the rolling Pacific from the patio while Nora sniffed the beach grass.

Then, Nora and I rattled down the 72 or 82 - I lost count - wooden steps onto Newport Beach at 5:52 p.m. We ambled north toward a gathering of boulders that form tide pools.

Actually, Nora doesn't amble, either. She turned the half-mile stroll into a 3-mile dash of circles and zigzags to make contact with more dogs and people.

One woman pointed out a reddish starfish locked onto a dark rock. Another held up a hermit crab in a tiny shell for Nora to sniff and me to photograph.

A man and woman tossed tennis balls to a pair of tall standard French poodles. The woman said they visit Newport and the Hallmark Inn for their dogs.

"It's their vacation, not ours, and they love it," she said. "And they treat the dogs nice here."

That comment shifted my mind back to a dog falling from a pickup truck and dashing for its life among the heavy traffic on the freeway.

Despite my desire to forget, the sad image remains vivid and recurring.

Editor's Note: Part two of the trip, about October brown pelicans on the Oregon Coast, will appear here next Wednesday.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com. More of Don's photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com .

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