Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 6

FROM THE EDITOR

DOG WALKS INTO A PUPS' ISSUE . . .

How a Pinot
Becomes a Cookie
Reluctance to own a dog is not necessarily commensurate with
the fruits of actual ownership.
By KURT RHEINHEIMER

S

o we were just taking a walk in the neighborhood, Gail and I, those dozen years ago. We
were still in our own block-with its gentle
slope, its tree-shrouded sidewalks, its feel of innocence and freedom from threat.
And then, from within a house just a few
doors down sprang a neighbor we barely knew,
since she hadn't lived there long.
"I just can't," she wailed. "One baby and another due
any day, what was I thinking?! I just can't!"
She was carrying a small, black, lab-looking puppy.
And she was crying.
And Gail's former ol' kinda-mean dog Gunnar had
died-peacefully and gracefully-a few months earlier.
From above or even beside, the most casual observer
would have seen coming what I did not.
"Just hold her a second," said the distraught neighbor
to Gail.
Many coos later, Gail spoke the same words to me.
Being a generally polite person, I took the tiny, excited
puppy, pulled lightly at her ears and, while eschewing
actual coos, made stupid, sympathetic noises in the direction of the dog.
"Just let her visit for a night," said the neighbor who
had seemed-before brazenly moving in for the kill within two minutes-to be a kind and normal person.
Female heads tilted pleadingly in my direction. It
would be up to that would-be observer to inform as to
whether it was two heads or three.
These 12 years later, the neighbor has three sons, the
eldest of whom is taller than I am, and seems to be very
nice to his mom, despite her treacherous tendencies toward neighbors.
And Cookie, the black-with-white-details lab-looking
dog who turns out to be mostly Norwegian elk hound
with some boxer and pitbull mixed in, is at work, right
here next to me in my work-from-home office, on getting
in her 20 hours of sleep for the day.

6

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Hiking
companions
Gail
Rheinheimer
and Cookie
pause on the
trail.

I did not have a dog as a child-the family did have
a cat that liked to walk backwards-and thus grew up
somewhere between wary and afraid of them, a situation that did not improve well into adulthood, owing to
encounters on rural runs with big, loud, protective dogs
bounding across a big green space as if to gain enough
momentum to jump the fence and have me for lunch.
Then came Gunnar. Generally good, but occasionally
unpredictable. And then a series of other dogs owned by
our sons. Good dogs all.
And so when the dog from down the block came into
our house for the sleepover, I was susceptible, as of course
I am to the wishes of her owner, whose affection for dogs
is a reflection of the dogs' own loyalty and unconditional
love.
In fact, I named the dog. She came to us with the
name Pinot. Elegant, heard in one manner, but also, in
those days of training, a sort of admonition when heard
another way.
"Cookie"-diminution of "Oreo Cookie" owing to
her coloring (ain't I clever)-was immediately embraced
as the name by Gail, with the imaginary observer again
called upon to judge whether the motivation was for the
name itself or for immediate ammo-"you named her,
Kurt"-in the early skirmishes of the adoption battle.
Cookie-85-pound hater of squirrels and fervent lover of grandchildren and their parents-has been many
things to us over the years, not least of which is a foodpesky hiking companion on non-summer hikes, as well as
a mammoth drainer of bank accounts owing to a series of
leg operations on par with those of NFL quarterbacks Joe
Theisman and Alex Smith.
She has had the good taste and discernment not to
seek to visit down the block.


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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020

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