The Guideposts editor-in-chief reflects on a summer moment with Millie.
I haven’t talked about my Golden Retriever Millie in a while and people have been asking about her. She turned one in April (you can check out her birthday party video on the site if you haven’t already) and still loves to hang out at the Chelsea dog park every morning with her best friends Ollie, Zeus, Bella and Winky (the one who taught her how to walk on the noisy sidewalks of the big city...you can check out that video too).
But this summer I had big plans for Millie. I was going to teach her how to be a real dog and not just some pampered urban pup.
“She’s going to learn how to swim,” I told everyone. “And fetch. And hike up mountains.”
I have a little place up in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts Julee and I love to get away to. The land borders the Appalachian Trail and there’s a big enough lawn for me to throw something for Millie to fetch and retrieve.
“She’s got the fetching part down cold,” I told Julee after our first training session. “She just doesn’t bring it back.”
The next day I explained to Millie that she was a retriever, that she had to chase down the fetching dummy and bring it back to me. She gave me the sweetest look then tore off after the dummy after I gave it my best center-fielder hurl. She practically snatched it out of the air like the athlete she is and then settled in to chew on it in the shade of an apple tree.
“Bring it back. Bring it here. C’mon.”
Nope. I tried to retrieve it from her. She was off like a shot with it.
All right then. We’d go down to the wide bend in the Green River and I would throw the dummy into the water. She’d have to swim.
An hour later I stood chest deep in the freezing river waving the dummy over my head. “Come on, Millie. Come fetch!” Millie stood on shore and looked at me like I was a crazy person (which is probably true).
Eventually I wrestled her out into the river and pushed her into the current where the water was over both our heads. Millie has these giant webbed paws and is extremely strong. She used every bit of her God-given gifts to swim as fast as possible back into the shallows and onto shore, where she shook herself off and looked at me as if to say, “I will NEVER trust you again.”
Next day I decided we’d hike the Trail up to the top of East Mountain. Millie is a fabulous trail dog. Never strays too far ahead or too far off trail and always comes when called, though she gets lazy sometimes and just plops down till she’s ready to move again. She’s laid back like that.
So I was a little surprised when, hearing footsteps and crackling brush coming down the trail towards us, Millie paused, fur and ears and tail erect, and...growled. Millie doesn’t growl. This was a low, serious, throaty, protective growl. Then she barked, her big giant chesty bark, which on the rare occasions I hear it surprises me almost as much as if she just started reciting Homeric verse. A couple, looking very crabby, came around the bend and stopped.
“Oh, she’s fine,” I said, grinning. “Just a puppy.”
“That’s what they all say,” the man himself growled.
By now Millie’s fur and ears were down, her mouth open, her tongue lolling out, her tail wagging then her whole rump and hindquarters. Yes, these two were the people she’d definitely waited her whole life to meet.
Millie decided that one of their hiking sticks might make a nice fetching toy and attempted to make off with it but eventually I extricated us from that situation on fairly good terms with the now somewhat less crabby couple.
We made out way up the mountain till, breathing hard, we reached its gently sloping summit where we sat on a smooth flat rock and looked out over the fine green hills, bathed in light and shadow, and shared a little water.
Millie’s nose twitched in the breeze that must have brought smells to her from miles and miles away and her ears blew back slightly. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye. I threw my around her and felt her lean into me. All was forgiven from yesterday. And yes, she was a real dog.
So how’s your summer going?
Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.