This past weekend, Wood had three debilitating migraines in three days. During the first, she slept at our friends' house on the other side of the state while Juniper and I walked down to their beach. The kid did the whole half-mile-or-so walk without being carried, both progress and in this case a necessity, as my arms were filled with buckets and sand shovels and towels and a frisbee for the dog and a kite for us all. We all stood together on the bluffs, dog, daughter, and dad, looking down at that endless stretch of water, down to the beach where I'd soon pick up some weird cell phone signal from another time zone. I carried Juniper down the hundreds of wooden steps to the beach, and pointed out into the silver blue horizon and said, "That's Lake Michigan, where your mom and I swam all the time when we were kids."

"The Wild Tiger farted," she said. And she had. Even the strong onshore breeze could not mask evidence supporting that declaration. I was not permitted to smile.

From its eastern shore, Lake Michigan does seem as impressively vast as any ocean in the world. Plus, it is low in sodium and has no sharks. I'd forgotten how much I missed the lake. I used to go all the time, back before it started to feel like just a bunch of creepy people lying around on sand. Last Friday we were the only ones on that desolate stretch of the beach, though you could see the silhouette of a girl in a bikini tossing a football to a guy knee-deep in the water a ways down the shore. Once set loose on the hot sand, Juniper ran straight toward and into the water, a marked improvement over her performance one year ago in Santa Cruz, though she may still wear the same swimsuit. She did not shiver this year, or cry. She laughed with this weird laugh she reserves for new experiences that she finds surprisingly pleasant, and I was proud of her. Juniper has been a very skeptical child. She is extremely deliberate. I followed her along that part of the beach where the waves just reach being that cheesy dad from an old car or coffee commercial who's all proud of his kid growing up a bit, the little squirt.

Then the dog disappears.

I scan the beach into the distance, but Juniper is the first to see him: he's about thirty yards out into the water, and once I see his little seal-pup head all the way out there, I think, "Well, Wendell was a good dog while he lasted."

Five, ten minutes pass. He's further out there, but swimming north along the shore now. I figure with the way he is going, he'll either drown or reach Milwaukee early the next morning. I can't do anything to save him. I'm not David Hasselhoff---not even the earthbound drunk sloppy-burger-eating Hasselhoff. Am I actually capable of rescuing something? Could I trust Juniper to stay on the shore? She laughs again with that weird laugh, watching him dogpaddle out to sea, no idea that I'm standing there holding her hand and figuring that her dog is probably going to die. She won't be laughing when he doesn't come back, I think, and toss my shirt off into the dry sand. Scooping up Juniper while slowly walking out into the water, I scream the dog's name, assuming his crazy dog brain is all panicked and he's swimming in circles not knowing the way to shore. Haven't I read in books about dogs drowning themselves like that? Almost instantly I am in water up to my armpits, not twenty feet off shore. Juniper is wet and she just wants to swim around. I hold her tight, ready to turn back, but heading out just a little further, calling to him, and suddenly my knees are back in the breeze. It's a sandbar, and as I get closer and closer to the dog I realize he's been on this sandbar the entire time, basically walking around in two and a half feet of water fifty or sixty yards offshore with just his head visible above the water. He walked over to me and smelled me for a second then walked away again. We swam out there for almost an hour. It was fun. When we got back to the place where we'd thrown all our stuff, the dog still had enough energy to sprint up and down the shore and spend the next forty minutes harassing me with the pieces of driftwood and other detritus that he wanted me to throw for him. I would close my eyes for a minute and he'd cover me with twelve chewed-up twigs and a tampon applicator he'd found on the beach. And to think I ever for a split second considered diving into that water to rescue his sorry wet ass.