He’s not moving. Jordan’s Golden head has settled onto my chest and upper arm, his chin pressing into the belly of my bicep. I’ve threaded my arm between his front legs, my palm coming to rest on his chest, my fingers lightly caressing his easily palpable ribs. His front limbs hang with purpose, reaching with locked elbows and carpi, toes curling to claws.
Jordan’s rear legs dangle, stifles and hocks stretched straight by gravity. The feathers of his petticoats dance slowly, softly to a silent Satie sonata. My left arm slings under his belly, cradling his hips once square and strong, now bony and uncooperative.
His eyes stare beyond me, telling no stories—no adoring looks, no smiles, no panic, no frustration. Blank. His gold eyelashes are still, drops of water tickling their tips.
Jordan is weightless in my arms. His muscles are quiet except for a quiver in his upper arms. Sliding slowly left, I push us away from the ramp cautiously, away from the solid, the known. I can feel us floating now, a small current wrapping around my ribs, inviting us to follow its path. Jordan is still and soft. The tension has left his body. His body moves easily with the cool water, Golden fur flowing like exotic sea foliage.
I close my eyes and feel his body dissolving into my chest, my arms, my mind. His chest expands and retreats, slow and easy breaths escaping through his nostrils as his mouth stays soft, flews quiet and still. I feel his heartbeat on my fingertips, gently tapping out a steady rhythm on his ribs.
I think he’s asleep now. We ride the water together, the rise and fall of the tiny current rocking us, calming busy minds and tired bodies. Jordan is still, limp in the water, his front legs, tired of their purpose, float with wrists bent and paws loose. The burden of his body drifts away as he rests against my body, suspended and weightless in the water.
We float through our buoyant world a few moments more until I begin our journey back to the ramp. I steer our vessel back toward a slanted reality where our tired minds and bodies await us. Jordan isn’t ready to leave our solitude. He’s slow to wake—his paws drag on the ramp, knuckles wrapping the rubber cleats. I lift his paws toward the ramp easily, pads down on the familiar surface. He wakes, his eyes refocusing, his ears alert and his paws reaching toward the next stride up the ramp.
Like an old man lumbering out of bed, we rise from the water with effort, my hands clutching the handles of his harness and life jacket. The air is cold and harsh, a sharp contrast to the warm cocoon. The water has changed us, cleared our minds, borne the burden of our bodies, if only for a short time. We’re cleaner, clearer—layers of pain are gone. We’re ready to try again.