Silver Lake

Dock Dogs

Dock Dogs

This week is our annual vacation trip up to Silver Lake...

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Early to Rise

Early to Rise

For the last several years, we've rented a house on Silver Lake in New Hampshire...

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See Dogs Swim

Blogger isn't great with video, so this is the best I could do in converting the original, much larger video of this photo sequence.


Over the course of a couple of days of dock jumping, Comet made the transition from hesitant, awkward slips into the water to stretched-out leaps as far out as he could. This is about the pinnacle of his jumping.

When he started out, though, it was a bit more like this. We didn’t take pictures of his truly hesitant first jumps, but you can see even here, once he’s had a little practice, that there’s a little bit of worry about crashing into the water and that he’s treating it as as if he needs to have a paw out to land on. Even though this isn’t one of the first jumps, it’s still a pretty impressive difference between the two.

Landings got quite a bit better too, from careful slips into the water....

...to full-bodied crashes into the water, with the eyes focused on the target.

Gus is, as always, a consummate jumping professional, even as he gets older. He’ll throw himself as far as he can, over and over, until he’s exhausted and dazed. Part of taking care of him has always meant knowing when to make him stop.

(Photo credit: Donna Tippy)


Of course, the entire point of the jumping is to fetch the ball, or the toy, or whatever it is that we’ve thrown into the water for them to bring back.

Fetching is the epitome of an action done for its own sake, an undertaking whose entire point is the process itself. The dog doesn’t bring back the ball and then wait to see what will happen. He doesn’t bring it back and then take a coffee break. Once you pick it up, he takes a few careful steps out ahead, waiting for you to throw it, and hoping you will so he can enter into the process again.

A dog takes simultaneous joy in motion, in connection with you over an activity that he’s absolutely sure you want him to do.

Gus is so good at fetching that he’ll get to tennis balls before Comet most of the time, in or out of the water. The solution is to throw a ball as far as you can, which Gus will chase and Comet will immediately write off as a loss.

Then you can toss something Comet likes but Gus cares a lot less about (Gus will prioritize tennis balls over anything else, including treats, things with squeakers, live birds, anything). Then Comet gets to bring this squeaky bumper thing and Gus gets the ball. It’s a nice arrangement for the dogs, but a little complex and wet for the thrower.

As you saw in the video, though, sometimes Comet does get the ball.

Sometimes, though, you just have to share, especially when we think Gus is too tired and we’ve put the tennis ball away. Then, grabbing the floating turtle is anybody’s game.

(Photo credit: Donna Tippy)

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See Dogs Roll

Once I got off the mountain safely, I headed down to New Haven and climbed in a car with Andy and the dogs, and we headed up to New Hampshire to spend the week with my parents at the cabin they’ve rented almost every summer for the past quarter-century. It’s a place with lots of memories for me, and it situated on a gorgeous lake in easy striking distance to the tax-free outlet towns of New Hampshire.

The dogs like it even better than we do. It’s Comet’s first time up, but he took to it just as fast as Gus has during his times here. They swim every day, and they never pass up the opportunity to scratch their itchy, wet backs in the grass after a good romp in the water.

Comet’s just as handsome wet as he is dry, and wet he was, at every opportunity. In fact, the first night we arrived, it was rather late, and it was as dark as only a rural location really gets. As Andy and I brought bags around the side of the house in the dark so we could go in the back door without waking my folks, we heard a huge splash.

We immediately assumed Gus, who had been here several times, couldn’t restrain himself and jumped in, and we threw whispered chides into the dark, “No! Gus! Get over here! Bad Dog!”

Once we got in and turned the light on, however, we realized that it was Comet who was soaked. There’s no way to be sure what happened, but I can only assume he ran out onto the short, narrow dock with Gus and didn’t realize where he was. He must have been one surprised little dog. Well, not so little, I guess.

Rolling is quite an energetic activity for these guys. They go through quite an amazing series of contortions as they try to get exactly the right surface (dirt, grass, gravel) into exactly the right spot (back, shoulders, haunch).

The result is a dirty, satisfied dog.

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Writer's Cramp


(Or, the Difficulties in Photographing a Golden Retriever)

I've been sitting, sipping coffee, and chatting with my friend Kevin, who's currently expatriated in Paris so he can work on a memoir and a novel. Kevin's in Paris and my coffee is cold. Theoretically, this my time to catch up on some grading, since I didn't get much done over spring break, but I'm obviously not getting that done just now.

I'm jealous of Kevin; certainly, I'm jealous that he gets to live in Paris and be fabulous and write as his full time occupation. But more I'm jealous that he's found a way to organize his life in a way that lets him write. And I realized that the only difference between a Writer and a Writer's Cramp is that the Writer Writes.

Last night, an attempt by Andy and me to create a new Facebook picture for him also resulted in some disasters and in this picture of Gus, and I was reminded of the difficulties of photographing a golden retriever, particularly the difficulties afforded by a flash, indoors. If you're not careful, you end up with satanic eyeglow that makes it look as if your beloved pet has been secretly harboring an army of demonic spirits the whole time you've been feeding and sheltering him. "My name is Legion..." etc.

I was congratulating myself for snapping a picture of Gus that makes him look handsome and distinguished. He's getting older, four now, and the white fur is starting to come in around his eyes and muzzle. He's also got that wonderfully pensive look that's characteristic of some Goldens, but tends to disappear when you actually move to take the picture, since any motion on the part of the master results in the hopeful, ears-perked, is-there-some-chance-the-sun-will-come-back-out-even-though-it's-after-10PM-and-we'll-go-and-play-fetch-at-the park-oh-god-oh-please-if-I-just-want-it-bad-enough-can't-it-happen? look.

Anyhow, as I was busy congratulating myself on taking such a nice picture,I realized that the reason Gus looks so wonderfully pensive and introspective is that he has stuck his tongue into his nose to clean it. Introspective indeed.

Of course, sometimes you wake up and find out it's one of those perfect days and the camera, despite the inherent loss of experience that comes with the attempt to crystallize a fraction of a moment, catches what was soul-refreshing about the day or the dog:


Silver Lake; Madison, New Hampshire; August 2005. Photo credit: Donna Tippy

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