Gertie (the Permapup) surveys the Big Piney River at The Narrows, a piece of Missouri Department of Conservation real estate just west of Houston.

Some dogs are just meant for water.

Our little Welsh Corgi, Gertie (the Permapup), is one of them. She needs no encouragement whatsoever to immerse herself in the wet stuff; whether it’s a river, a lake, or just a rain-swollen creek or an icy cold springhead, she’ll just go right in and start swimming (or wading if it’s too shallow for for the dog paddle).

Last Saturday afternoon, Gertie and I went on an outing with the goal of finding her a swimming hole in an Ozarks stream. I didn’t feel like driving very far from our remote Texas County high country outpost, so I pointed the truck in the direction of the Big Piney River.

I figured we could try out a Missouri Department of Conservation area only a couple of miles west of Houston on Highway 17 known as “The Narrows.” There’s no roadway sign announcing its existence, but there is a sign in the parking lot, which is just east of Dogs Bluff on the other side of the bridge.

Gertie was excited as soon as we arrived, and went into sniffing mode as she got out of the truck. Local MDC workers have thoughtfully and wonderfully prepared the entrance to the area – a long, wide, 100-percent straight trail blanketed by some nicely groomed grass that goes through a stand of trees. Once you get closer to the river, though, the trail narrows big-time, curves and undulation appear, and the virtual lawn gives way to tall grass that almost obscures the walkway.

As I made my way through, with grass brushing against my jeans and shirt, Gertie plowed along below, unable to see where she was going but undoubtedly navigating by smell. You could hear her making her patented sound we like to call a “pig snort,” which must have to do with some sort of smell-related instinctive behavior. Whatever it is, it’s cute as can be.

When we reached the Big Piney, I quickly realized how I had forgotten how beautiful that particular section of it is, and I was glad it’s protected public real estate. It’s aptly named, too, because for a fairly good distance, the river’s entire collection of H20 squeezes through a narrow strip between the steep side of a hill and rock berms created by the “100-year” floods that now seem to happen every year.

Not surprisingly, Miss Gertie didn’t spend much time admiring the scenery (actually, none), but immediately went water dog on the situation. She walked straight into a spot where the river’s narrow portion ends and empties into a calm, wide area and literally swam in place as she tried to go upstream.

I laughed out loud and said, “That’s awesome girl, but you’re going against some strong current there.”

She bailed out and went downstream a bit where she was in control of where she went. Then the fun was on.

She swam this way and that, tail to the sky and head well above water, while I just looked around at the surrounding beauty and snapped numerous photos with my trusty Nikon Coolpix P100.

I’m not sure Gertie wasn’t showing off at times. Once, when I wanted to get a photograph of her swimming, she went in, but only crossed an area of the river that was shallow enough for her to walk.

“That’s it?” I said.

She looked at me and without missing a step continued walking straight toward a deeper area. She went in until she was swimming and paddled her way to the shore about 20 feet away.

When she exited, she shook about two gallons of the Big Piney out of her fur. Then she looked over at me as if to say, “How’s that?”

“Very nice,” I said with a laugh.

After I could tell Gertie had had enough Big Piney for one day, we made our way back through the grass jungle to the tunnel-like lawn strip. She got the chance to chase a rabbit for about 20 yards along the trail before it did an inertia-defying 90-degree veer into the woods.

By the time we climbed into the old Ford, Gertie had pretty much dried off in the warm, late spring temperatures. She was obviously satisfied and napped on the seat until we got home.

It has often been said that residents of the Ozarks are fortunate to live in a place where natural beauty is so readily accessible. Interestingly (and maybe oddly, surprisingly or sadly) there was nobody readily accessing The Narrows last Saturday but me and the Permapup.

Whatever the reason for that is, I know some folks (both two and four-legged) who will be doing plenty more accessing as this summer rolls on – and beyond.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

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