Dog Days of Summer

May 31, 2006

Hannah, my loyal canine companion, is on her last legs.

She recently turned 14, which in dog years, puts her in her late 90s.

I grew up with dogs and pets and have had my own dogs since my college days. Living in the northern San Diego coastal communities of Cardiff by the Sea, Encinitas and Leucadia, I got hooked on my first golden retriever because this breed liked the ocean as much as I did.

Whenever I needed someone to walk the beach, my dog was there, tail wagging, tennis ball in mouth, ready to hit the sands.

Hannah is my third golden and the most unusual. She might be the smartest of the three. But she is peculiar in that she doesn’t like the water, and really never liked to retrieve. And goldens are famous for being water-loving retrieving fanatics.

My best water-dog-retriever was Sasha, who would chase a Frisbee until my arm wore out and who swam with the best – in chilly mountain lakes or heavy ocean surf.

While Hannah didn’t like aquatics or chasing sticks, she has been one helluva watchdog, with a ferocious bark (which is also a bit unusual for goldens, who are better known for licking people to death than growling).

By now you might rightly be wondering why I’m talking about a dog in what’s supposed to be a wine blog, so here’s why:

If you have dog, you always have someone to walk with and someone to talk to – even if she can’t talk back. And walking is important, because it’s exercise, and in this business you never get enough exercise. All the eating and drinking can quickly add inches and pounds to one’s waistline.

I try to work out one hour a day in two 30-minute segments. Lately I’ve worked out at a health club – ok, we call it the gym – and I see plenty of famous Napa Valley winemakers working up a sweat.

The other 30 minutes come from my strolls with my dog. We used to jog together, but then my knees started pinching and Hannah balked at longer walks, trying to get me to turn around whenever she could.

Over the years, we compromised. Lately, the walks are much shorter. Around the block is about as far as Hannah can make it.

But we still walk every day, rain or shine, usually twice.

If you have a dog, you’ll always have a loyal companion to walk with.

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