2016-09-07 / Editorials

No swimming with the alligator

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

I hated to break the news to Milly, the liver and white springer spaniel who lives at my house. But she needed to hear it and she needed to hear it from me.

I waited until the last possible minute, while we were walking in the park along Lake Lanier and she was anxious to get off the leash and into the water.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t so swimming for a while.”

“Why not?”

“Because the Department of Natural Resources has gotten reports of an alligator in Lake Lanier, and you can’t go swimming until they catch him.”

“What’s an alligator?”

“It’s a reptile with big teeth that likes to swim in the water, and it loves to eat. You, especially, would be a nice dinner for him.”

“Well, I have big teeth, too. And I’m not afraid of anyone. Let me go swimming. Please.”

“No. And you’re afraid of your own shadow.”

“I am not.”

“Yes, you are. A leaf fell out of tree next to you a few minutes ago and you hid behind me and barked at it for 10 minutes.”

“It snuck up on me. I wasn’t expecting it.”

“Well, the alligator will sneak up on you, too. I’m just being cautious. I don’t want anything to happen to you. I’m sure they’ll catch him soon and you can go back in the water soon. I’m sure you’ll survive.”

“You’ve never kept me out of the lake before. Why are you so afraid of the alligator now?”

“Because he wasn’t there before. Fisherman have just reported seeing him in the last few days. Apparently, when the gator was very, very small, it was someone’s pet.”

“You mean like I am to you?”

“Well, something like that. Except that the gator grew too big for the people to handle, so they released him into the lake.”

“How big did he get?”

“The DNR said he appeared to be about three feet long.”

“Shoot, that’s not much bigger than I am. Why am I supposed to be afraid of him?”

“Well, you’re afraid of the Chihuahua that lives down the street.”

“He’s annoying, what with the constant yapping. The little jerk won’t shut up.”

“Plus, you eat Dog Chow. The alligator eats other animals, and that includes dogs, if they get close enough to him. We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“Please let me go swimming. I’ll take close to the shore. You see how I scare off all those geese all the time with my ferocious bark. Maybe I’ll scare off the alligator, too.”

“You don’t scare the geese in the least. They’re just trying to get somewhere quiet. I know the feeling sometimes. Come on. Let’s go home.”

A few days later, news came that a trapper had caught the gator, and it was safe for Milly to return to the lake. I haven’t told her yet.

I’ll let it be a surprise.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN.com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch.clarke@gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/blog/mitch.

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