Lady Pitkeathly, my beloved Jack Russell terrier, is a fishing fool. She can spend hours searching for fish and crabs in the shallows. Whenever we are in the dinghy, she keeps a watchful eye on the water. Her greatest fishing adventure began when I had our dinghy up on a plane racing along the mangroves, the warm breeze in our faces. Lady P, as usual, was perched on the bow like a hood ornament with her head hanging down toward the water, diligently watching for fish.
Suddenly, she flipped herself backward into the dinghy: She'd just seen a monster fly out of the water right at us. Her early warning now relayed, our adventure was about to commence.
In the period of one second I realized I was in danger: something very big, almost prehistoric-looking, was streaming through the air toward my head, and I ducked instinctively when I realized it was a giant ray.
? In the same instant I remembered that the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, was killed by a stingray that thrust its bony stingray spine deep into Irwin's chest. Half a second later I realized that what had just crash-landed in the bottom of my dinghy was not a stingray, but a beautiful spotted eagle ray, and hopefully harmless if I could just keep my toes out of his mouth.
As the prolonged second finally ended, I found myself sprawled in a heap next to Lady Pitkeathly in the bow. The motor roared out of control and kicked up a rooster tail of frothing white water as the dinghy spun dangerously in a tight circle, the helm abandoned.
Sputtering and spitting dirty salt from my bruised lips, I carefully reached over the crazed ray, throttled down, and took the motor out of gear.
Lady Pitkeathly was ecstatic, flying around the dinghy, nipping at the ray and yelping with glee as I desperately used both oars and all of my strength to flip the huge, panicked creature back in the water.
After I finally got him out of the boat I had to sit quietly for a moment to gather my wits. At my feet sat my panting little dog who was absolutely shimmering with joy. Her happy eyes looked lovingly up at me as if to say, "Dad, that was the coolest thing I've ever seen!"
- JACK FOARD