So Much for Barking Dogs

Ron Karpinski 2000


The Robertshaw IV, out of Long Beach, California, measured sixty-seven feet, stem-to-stern.  A twin-engine motor yacht, it occupied a prominent spot in the marina, filling the last berth on the last dock, directly across from the Coast Guard station.

Later, owners installed fences and gates to keep out the public; but, in 1968, one could still wander freely among the boat slips.  Strangers often gawked about, marveling at such opulent splendor as no working stiff could ever hope to attain.

Early one spring evening, a man walked his dog along the edge of the harbor.  Beginning at the far end, the two of them worked their way toward the Robertshaw IV.  Up one dock and down the next, they strolled in silence.

The man held his dog, a large Labrador retriever, on a long leather leash.  While the man paused and gazed wistfully at each luxurious yacht, the dog tugged on the line, straining to sniff the next wooden plank, just beyond its reach.

As they neared the last row of boats, the dog stopped.  Something down at the end of the dock caught its attention.  Hair on the back of its neck stiffened.

Forty yards away, a mound of fluffy gold fur lay atop the coiled mooring lines of the Robertshaw IV.  When the object moved, the dog strained at its leash.  A massive sea lion raised its head, basking in the waning glow of a setting sun.

The dog lunged forward.  The man, over six feet tall, tried to restrain his charge; but the hound snapped the leash and raced headlong down the pier.

Galloping at full speed, the dog bellowed a vicious warning.  Teeth bared, it closed in on the wallowing sea lion.  Seemingly bored by it all, the sea lion rolled over and slipped into the water, disappearing beneath the surface.

Water in the area ran fifteen to twenty feet deep.  Somewhere below, the sea lion circled.  Seconds ticked past; ripples on the top faded into smooth green glass.

Leaning far over the rail, the dog barked at the spot where the sea lion had entered the water.  A few more snarls, and the dog would trot back to its master in triumph.

Suddenly, the surface exploded.  Like a Polaris missile, the sea lion shot straight up, rising a good ten feet in the air.  Salt spray spewed in a wide arc.

The dog scrambled to get out of the way.  Tail between its legs, it retreated up the dock, charged past its master, and vanished in a nearby parking lot.

Slowly, the sea lion climbed back onto the pier and reclaimed its spot in the sun.


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