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An enormous blue basset hound about the size of a 1974 Oldsmobile Regency 88 soared high above the flooded landscape using the motion of his vast, floppy ears to bank and steer his lazy glide. He let out a gurgling bay which I’d come to recognize meant that he was about to spiral downward toward the morass to pick up fresh passengers.

The dog executed a showy barrel roll and began plummeting earthward, pulling up from his dive about ten feet from the shimmering surface of the suburb below, then circling cautiously, sniffing all the while. He touched down on the roof of a large split-level hosue, surprisingly solid despite being up to its eaves in water. Sure enough, a family of three clustered around the impressive stone chimney, praying for an airlift out of the disaster zone. Our newfound passengers clambered aboard, entwining their fingers into the dog’s rough coat, and with a bound, he took off skyward once more, shearing half the roof off the house he’d been perched upon a moment before.

So the day progressed, circling the ruined city searching for survivors. Whenever we couldn’t get a good landing pad, the dog would buzz down low, strain a moment, then cough up a large wad of white foam which would harden before it hit the water and form a durable and buoyant life raft. The stranded unfortunates could climb aboard, then I’d toss them a tow-line and we’d skim them to higher ground.

In moments of high spirits, the great basset would blast forth full-bodied howls, letting all and sundry know he was near, then blast into stomach-curdling loop-the-loops, or fly just above the levels of the flooded streets and take monstrous chomps out of the broken houses and waterlogged trees. His grand moment had come, and he was glad to make the most of it.

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