We crane our necks to see the reason for our whiplash.
"A raccoon!" he says. "Up in that tree!"
He pulls the Neon over a bit and we all pile out, Sam and Angus rushing and pummeling each other to determine who gets to see the critter first. The coon is plump and fluffy in the wind, clinging to a small tree beside the river. The water is high, higher than we've ever seen it, and it's cold: the ice just went out a few days ago.
And then Angus says, "Look! A dog!"
Over the four-foot riverbank is a chocolate lab standing belly deep in the water. Her head is buried in a hole in the riverbank and I am afraid she is eating another raccoon that has fallen over the edge.
Dave yells at the kids to get back in the car.
"Stop her!" I holler. "She's eating one! Oh GROSS! Dave, stop her!"
She hears me yelling and slowly pulls her head out of the relative warmth of the dirt and looks at us forlornedly. Then she lays down in the icy water.
"She's not eating anything. She's stuck down there," Dave says. "She probably treed that raccoon and then fell into the river. She's an old dog... look at the gray around her muzzle. She fell down and couldn't climb back up."
We are on our way to meet my ex and do the kid-exchange thing... if we don't hurry he will be waiting for us, wondering where we are. But we can't just leave the dog in the water. She is shivering. She probably has hypothermia.
"We should see if the dog belongs to the people in that house," I say, pointing to a white bungalow with a "Go Leafs!" sign in the window.
Dave goes to a house across the road and down a bit. There are two vehicles in the driveway. Lights are on in the house and the garage. It looks like someone is home but no amount of knocking on either door produces a person.
Dave walks back.
"We can't leave her there," he says.
"She might bite you," I say.
"I need some gloves. And some rubber boots. We'll go back home," he says.
We haven't come far. It only takes a a few minutes to get the stuff Dave needs. I grab my camera, too. After all, if there's going to be a hero, I want a photo.
We're back at the riverbank in short order. The dog is still shivering in the water; the raccoon is still in the tree. Dave climbs over the embankment and stands in the water, talking calmly to the freezing, frightened dog. He pets her for a few minutes, talking calmly and she stands wobbly in front of him until, clearly exhausted, she flops down again in the water.
"I have to get her out now," Dave says. "She's freezing to death."
I hold my breath as Dave gathers her into his arms. She's not a small dog by any means and it's a bit of an effort, scooping her up and pushing her up the embankment. But he does it without a problem. She wobbles a bit on unsteady legs and almost falls in. Dave hauls himself up the embankment and grabs hold of her collar.
"I'm going back to that house," I say. "There has to be someone home."
I walk quickly to the house, Dave and the dog coming slowly behind. She is tired, shaky, and can only walk a few feet without laying down to rest.
I get to the front door and hammer on it.
"Hello?" I yell. "Hello?"
I hammer on it again.
I see movement through the front window and a red-haired woman comes to the door, looking at me suspiciously.
I get right to the point.
"Do you have a brown dog?" I ask, and she nods, her eyes widening.
"Yes," she says. "She's been missing since Thursday."
Today is Sunday.
"Is that her?" I ask, turning to look at Dave and the brown dog at the end of the driveway.
"YES!" she squeals. "HERSHEY!"
Her hands fly up to her mouth and tears spring to her eyes.
She runs toward her shaking dog, tears running down her face.
"She was in the river," Dave says. "I think she treed a raccoon and then fell in."
"I'll get my husband," she says, getting up and running over to the garage, yelling for her husband the whole way.
He comes out of the shed, a confused look on his face. "It's Hershey!" his wife hollers. He sees the dog over by us and breaks into a run.
The reunion is an emotional one. I can barely hold back my own tears.
"Thanks," they both say, wholeheartedly.
We make fast small talk and excuse ourselves... we're now officially late meeting my ex.
As we go back to the car I look up at Dave admiringly.
"You're my hero," I say.
He grins and blushes a bit, all 'aw shucks, mam' and 'twern't nothin'."
But it is something.
I don't know how many people may have driven by in those four days, but there were probably quite a few. Only one, however, stopped the car to admire the raccoon in the tree.
And thanks to him, Hershey is alive to tell the tale to her grandpuppies.