Polar Bear Plunge 1/1/14

I have never seen so many dogs so happy, all in one place! I arrived early at Double Bluff Beach to make sure I got one of the T-shirts. The fog on the drive down was already lifting and at times the sun was peeking through, reflecting off the Sound in such a way to cause the silhouette of Mt. Rainier to appear then disappear. This was my first time at both the beach and “the plunge”. I have several times participated in events at the other extreme, including being invited to a sweat lodge on the Navajo Reservation many years ago, and biking the Katy Trail in 102 degree heat and humidity of Missouri. But a Polar Bear Plunge? I have seen such on the news before, but had never had opportunity, or at least, never taken opportunity to participate before this move to Whidbey.

While walking the beach, contemplating the ramifications of taking this dive into the Puget Sound, I witnessed another first, a clam hunting dog! At first I thought it was a random, by chance happening, the barking, pawing at shallow water, then a quick poke and grab and the dog came up with a live clam and tossed it into the air toward his human companion! Then I saw him do it a second time a little further down the beach. This was amazing for this outsider to behold. I have a feeling the dog did not care for the taste of clam in its mouth as it did not stay there long, being tossed quickly into the air. On this particular day the pet owner must not have been interested in digging clams as they were left on the beach to dig their way to safety again, other dogs coming by to sniff, but no takers in wanting to do more.

This was my third “cultural event” since moving to the Island at the end of October to begin working at WAIF. I attended the Halloween Parade and Christmas Parade in Coupeville where I now live, but this was the first in Freeland. Early on I have claimed to know The Secret of the Island. That we live in Paradise! On this day, at this event, I believe I know what makes this place a paradise. It is about the connections we make with each other, with the environment that surrounds us, and with our four legged friends that attend walks on the beach (running and jumping for joy rather than just walking), or huddle and purr on our lap, or are just present while we do what we do in life.

I preach to the choir when I say this. From the newly installed park bench from a family and “their furry friends” at Double Bluff, to the tourist map of the Island I was given when I first arrived that indicated where all the dog parks were located on the island, people here love their pets! While people love their pets in Kansas City too, where I am from, I have never seen a map of the city showing any of the neighborhood dog parks. And they certainly do not have a beach and Polar Bear Plunge, at least not in any lake I particularly want to jump into. I opened a local newspaper recently, to the obituary page, of the four photos of the deceased; three of them were of the person with their pet sitting in their lap. I have never witnessed such in a KC paper. Just further evidence of the unique setting of Whidbey Island! I hope to be up to the challenge of maintaining and expanding the high standards WAIF has established over the years for homeless companion animals of the island. Islanders expect it, and the animals depend on it.

I am re-baptized, revitalized, and reawakened! In other words, it was real cold when time came to take the plunge at noon. Shocking the system into life I suppose is the purpose of such celebrations, and one I plan to do again! One challenge accomplished, on to the next!

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