You don’t really understand the true meaning of “unconditional love” until you have a pet. For me, that means a dog.
Dog owners tend to be passionate and even possessive. Twenty five years ago my love and devotion went to a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier named Cristina. Sadly, she had a rare kidney disease and died at age eight. In my grief, I swore I was a one-dog man and never wanted another.
But then along came Lionel, a Miniature Goldendoodle, who, since the day I met him, has been the love of my life.
Lionel, now age 6, actually belongs to my daughter Jessica and her husband, Jay. But my wife, Hazel, and I sort of adopted the pooch when Jessica and Jay became parents to our grandson, Asher, almost two years ago.
Hazel is Lionel’s primary caretaker. But when Hazel isn’t around, I get Lionel’s full attention! My blood pressure is lower when he is near. When he sits on my lap, or next to me, I feel that I have died and gone to heaven.
Today, as I write this letter, is a perfect example. This morning I went to my eye doctor. When I got home, slightly depressed from nine months of isolation due to COVID restrictions, I also couldn’t see well, due to my pupils having been dilated for the exam. What to do now?
It was 72° F and partly sunny here in Florida. So I went outside with Lionel. I lit one of my favorite cigars, put my legs up, and Lionel jumped up next to me onto my lounge chair. I enjoyed the smoke while petting him. My depression melted away. I closed my eyes, and Lionel and I took a one-hour nap.
About three years ago I suggested “Winery Dogs” as a cover story for Wine Spectator. The editors did not seem to take it seriously. Last year, I put it on the calendar for 2021. A few months ago, I had a Zoom meeting with all my editors and let them know how important this issue was. I told them, “this could be the best-read issue in the history of Wine Spectator if we give it the attention it deserves.” I know some of them may have thought I was crazy, but for those of us who are dog lovers, we knew it was true!
If you have a pet, you will especially enjoy the issue in your hands. If you don’t have a pet, we hope this issue will inspire you to consider adopting one.
Adding a pet to the family means extra work and responsibility. But they repay it many times over with the happiness they bring. In this cover story you will meet more than a dozen wine country dogs, and their owners, vintners in Napa and Sonoma who appreciate the joys of canine companionship and whose work and play have been enriched by the love of a dog.