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Dog Days of Summer

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: May 31, 2006 10:14am ET

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.

Jeff Mcneice
May 31, 2006 1:04pm ET
James, I totally relate to your story about Hannah, I too am on my third Golden. Jake,like Hannah takes two walks a day which is about all he is interested in since at heart he is lazy. My first two Goldens loved the water and if a puddle was all that was at hand so be it they were in it. Jake only likes sprinkler systems for some unknown reason and won't go in a pond to save his life. He does have one trait I must admit he got from me, his love for Merlot. On more than one occasion I have caught him sipping from my glass. As a companion, he like Hannah, can not be beat. Thanks for sharing about her.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  May 31, 2006 1:08pm ET
Maybe the Merlot Society could use Jake as a mascot, no? This Merlot's no dog...
Tom M Martenson
Rockford, IL —  May 31, 2006 1:16pm ET
I have a three year old Chinese Shar Pei, Princess, that loves to go for walks/runs. We go for 30 minutes twice each on Friday-Sunday. It's good exercise and she loves to search and hunt for varmits. After work I like to get a glass of wine and talk her for a more leisurely walk. It's relaxing and she enjoys it.
Dale Johnson
Steamboat Springs —  May 31, 2006 2:24pm ET
James,Being a loyal fan of Golden reteivers I echo your feelings to the tee. I have become very interested in Highly breed golden retreivers for hunting. I currently have two females, mother daughter combo. The mother has been breed 3 times to a National amatuer field Champion Jaco. The daughter I will breed in about a year. It's amasing the differences that can be present from animal to animal and when you own a top bred animal, your at a whole new level. I guess it's just like fine wine!!Dale
Anton Hicks
San Francisco, CA —  May 31, 2006 8:54pm ET
While I certainly love golden's to a fault, I was under the impression that the Wine Spectator was a wine publication. I have noticed a distinct deterioration in Mr. Laube's writings (both in their pertinence to the general consumer of this magazine as well as its perspicatiousness as an opinion piece), and this is a lovely case in point to Mr. Laube's general incompetence in fulfilling his duties as a wine-writier. I am sorry to hear the inevitable decline of Ms. Hannah, but I would nonetheless suggest that Mr. Laube keep this meaningless drivel to himself.
Paul Miller
Virginia —  May 31, 2006 9:36pm ET
As a lover of Goldens (I'm with my third, too), I can appreciate the variation from pooch to pooch. The one thing which has always been so terrific is their loyalty and affection. Unfortunately, Macduff doesn't share our affection for wine. He has been known to enthusiastically slurp a bit of beer occasionally.
Rob Mcmichael
Milford, MI —  May 31, 2006 10:27pm ET
Great comments about Hannah. Thanks for sharing! And one piece of advice - ignore the comments from the reader from San Francisco. I've never trusted anyone who would use the word "perspicatiousness" anyway. Have a heart San Fran.....
David W Cummings
Jacksonville, FL —  June 1, 2006 12:05am ET
Unconditional love. A dog can melt the coldest hearts and I fear that my mutt is not long for this world.Her name is Bailey and she is 14 years old. On her first birthday she had pizza and punch. She loves Pepsi but not wine. Where did I go wrong?I for one am certain that all dogs do go to heaven. Cats do too. My late wife is waiting for her cat and our dog, finally together again.
Serry Osmena
Los Angeles, CA —  June 1, 2006 10:21am ET
I have an 18 year old more lab than pit mix. I walk her everyday for about 30 minutes - more than that and it starts to bother her. If you don't already do so, I suggest you give Hannah a high quality MSM or chondroitin as a daily supplement. I also get my 3 dogs accupuncture treatments once a month. She is up and down stairs at my house, and at 80 lbs with an irreperable knee injury from her former owners (abusers), that's no small feat. And yes, in our industry, every bit of walking helps!
Lee Stipp
San Anselmo, CA —  June 1, 2006 11:06am ET
Great story, Jim. I miss my Golden, she was my best friend growing up in a very rural Edna Valley many years ago. She made it an astonishing 18 years and I can't help but think she even felt guilty leaving us at the end.
Sao Anash
Santa Barbara —  June 1, 2006 11:18am ET
Sounds like Mr. Anton Hicks needs a dog.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  June 1, 2006 11:48am ET
Serry, both Hannah and I are on pills to ease the pain of aging...
Brian Stephens
Charlotte, NC —  June 1, 2006 3:43pm ET
JL - I have always admired your writing and gained enormous insight from your tasting notes. Now that I know you are a golden lover as I am I hold you in even higher regard! You'll be glad to know that we recently auctioned off a modified re-enactment of the 1976 tasting (with current vintages) for the Golden Retriver Rescue Society of Charlotte, NC. The auction was a big success and will go far to help the wonderful goldens who need a little help finding thier 'forever' homes. Thanks for sharing - please disregard the comments of hicks from san fran, looks like everyone else enjoyed the posting.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  June 1, 2006 7:17pm ET
Brian, thanks for your kind words. Part of the fun of the blogs is testing new waters and ways to talk about wine and life.
Scott Mcdonald
Chicago, IL —  June 2, 2006 12:31pm ET
Rob,Taking your point one step further, I've never trusted anyone who uses the word "perspicatiousness" but doesn't realize that it's spelled "perspicaciousness".
Tom Glover
The Woodlands, TX —  June 2, 2006 5:34pm ET
Hey Anton, if your time is so valuable that you only want to read about wine, when James starts a blog on a subject other than wine (such as dogs), skip it and go on to something else. Some of us might like the occasional non-wine subject! I see these blogs as lagniappe, so I enjoy the non-wine subjects.James, I can relate to the companionship of dogs. My first dog a lab/doberman was a ball retrieving nut and had quite the personality. We had her for over 15 years before it was time. I was away from home when she needed to be put to sleep. I had my wife give her some beer (she LOVED beer--sorry it wasn't wine) and some ice cream as her last meal. I still think about her a lot. We are on our second greyhound who is quite a character and nips, bumps and nudges us until we take her for a walk.It's always hard when it is time to part company, but the memories and companionship are worth the pain of the departure. Enjoy your time with Hannah now more then ever!
Tim Ballard
Gilroy Ca —  June 3, 2006 1:44am ET
What Anton needs to realize is that at the end of the day James Laube wine critic for Wine Spectator Magazine is a human being who needs a companion like Hannah. The relationship they have developed over the years has had such an impact to him he needed to share it with others in the manner he knows best- writing. This does not take away from his integrity as a wine writer for his employer. He is just giving a "human" aspect to his occupation. I share James' love for Goldens. My wife and I have two. The older red coated Daisy loves the water, 6 month old Taylor would not care to ruin her beautiful white fur with a swim in the pool. She fell in at 4 months old - found her way out showering the walls with cold pool water. Every dog is as unique as every person- Thanks James.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  June 3, 2006 1:55am ET
Tim, that made me smile...
Robert Wood
Reston, VA —  June 3, 2006 10:16am ET
James, I've long believed that God's 2 greatest gifts to man are wine & dogs. (If the list goes to 4, I'll add music and cats!)Very touching about Hannah. She's obviously led the perfect dog's life, with a devoted owner.
Austin, Texas —  June 7, 2006 2:36pm ET
Timely blog entry, I just finished reading "Marley and Me", the first book I've read that had nothing at all to do with the wine industry in years - terrible confession I know. My 8 year old black lab Henley has been by my side during my professional transition into the wine world and continues to sticking to it all these years. From sitting on my feet calmy in a tasting room while listening to me ooo and ahh about wine to waiting 12 hours inside my old house in the Presidio after a long day of selling wine on the retail front, thank you for sharing your human and "dog" side with the rest of us! Dog's provide us as many memories as wine along the years.

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