by Edward Grinnan
This is a story about how my dog, Millie, never ceases to amaze me.
I hadn't planned to but last weekend Julee had back-to-back rehearsals for a concert so Millie and I ventured upstate to check out our place in the Berkshires about 130 miles from the city as the crow flies (we drove). Actually I was anxious to see how the house had fared over this rude winter.
Thank God it was still standing with its roof intact but there was a ton of snow in the yard. Millie bulldozed a few paths but it wasn't the same as being able to run all over the place, and I could tell she was a little disappointed.
Likewise all our favorite mountain trails were impassable without snowshoes. Millie might have giant paws but they would be no match for the drifts.
Instead I took her down the road to a woodsy little development on Steven's Lake. Most of the houses were closed down for the season but I knew they had a plowed road that went around the lake. We could get some exercise there. Mostly what we got was muddy.
My Devon Cream Golden Retriever suddenly looked more like hot chocolate. I would have much explaining to do when I got home. And Goldens, sweet as they are, can smell pretty sour when wet.
We turned around eventually. On the way back up the road, Millie would run off from time to time to check out one house or another, sniffing around for signs of life but always coming back at my whistle.
Except for one house, set up on a hillside way back off the road. I could barely see it through the naked trees. Millie strode purposefully up the driveway. I whistled. She trotted ahead. Finally I followed.
Millie disappeared around back. I was slipping and sliding at this point and calling her name, shocked she could be so oblivious…or willful. Then I thought, Not a deer carcass! and began running.
Actually it was the main entrance to the house. Millie was sitting patiently on the little porch giving me a very grave look.
"Millie, come on!"
Wouldn't budge. Suddenly a man opened the door. As soon as I recovered from the surprise of seeing that someone besides us was populating the area, I apologized profusely for my dog's behavior.
"That's all right. I have one too. He's pretty sick right now or I'd ask you in."
So we got to talking. He was a New Yorker too, and like all New Yorkers we immediately traded neighborhood info. He lived in the Village, and I told him I lived in Chelsea.
"I have my practice in Chelsea, at Penn South. I'm the podiatrist."
I'd seen his sign a million times. Of course.
"Maybe your dog knows mine. I used to bring him to work with me all the time when he was young. Buzz. A Mastiff mix."
Buzz? Really? Buzz and Millie had the same walker when Millie was a puppy, and they would often walk together for hours. I hadn't seen Buzz in ages.
"He's real sick," the man said, "and frail." I peeked through the door and saw Buzz, ancient now, sleeping on a pile of blankets. "I'd have Millie come in but I'm afraid she might want to play and Buzz's hips are shot. I thought he might like it up here with the fireplace and all."
I knew he was telling me his dog was dying. I felt terrible for him. It's as bad as losing a person you love, worse sometimes, since some people refuse to understand how very deep the sorrow can be at losing a beloved animal. Millie nudged the door open a little wider and stared in at Buzz. She was very still. Very quiet.
"How 'bout I put her on her leash and let her say hello," I said softly, knowing hello would really be goodbye because dogs know these things in a way we mere humans never will. The man nodded and I leashed Millie up.
She padded over to Buzz, leaned in and nuzzled his ear. Buzz's tail flopped against the old blankets. It was all he could manage…and all I could do to keep the tears from my eyes.
She turned and gave me a look that said, "That's what this is all about. We can go now."
And so we went, just like that. I thanked the man and wished him luck and said a silent prayer for Buzz's peaceful passing. Millie was already quite a few paces ahead of me. I caught up and dropped to one knee, hugging her and not minding the wet and the mud and the Golden aroma.
Someday all of this will be explained to me, hopefully in heaven. Until then I am content to be amazed.