Dog Days Of Summer

I’m just back from a week spent at the most special of houses in Wellfleet, MA. This place, which I’ve rented for the past three years, is absolutely perfect – off a long, rutted dirt road directly across from a skinny-dipping-private pond with the ocean less than a mile’s walk away.

It’s a dreamy spot and I am reliably sad each year when we drive away to return to Albany.

This was my 20th year visiting Cape Cod. The past two decades have encompassed a lot of life changes.

There were the “two kids/two parents years,” which eventually evolved into the “three kids/two parents + another two-parent family and their child” years. We stayed for two weeks in those days, preferring the bay and ponds, since going to the ocean was an exhausting endeavor with small fearless children and big waves.

Years passed, the kids got bigger and the marriages ended. My children were were either working or traveling and unavailable for family vacations. The days of mini golf, the Zooquarium and seasickness-inducing whale watches were over.

At this point, I suppose, many people would have simply closed the Cape Cod chapter and moved on to something else, but I have a hard time letting go sometimes. Instead, the annual trip to the Cape morphed into an adult vacation, which meant quiet mornings, afternoon cocktails and never running out of milk or bread.

Bliss in a whole ‘nother way.

One family member, though, remained committed to accompanying me on the drive over the Sagamore Bridge – Jeter Greenwood Lilly, our yellow lab. This eighty-five pound hunk of slobbering dog excitedly jumps in the back of my nearly 15-year-old wagon and (eventually) settles down for the often 5-plus hour drive to get to that pristine pond.

This trip is, hands down, the best week of Jeter’s year. I can’t imagine denying him the joy of seven days of swimming. As soon as I park the car when we arrive, he’s ready for the first dip of his vacation. His patience wears thin while we unpack, get the groceries in the fridge and dig out the towels, but we all know he’s running for the pond and launching himself into the water as soon as he is given the go ahead.

It’s a joy to watch Jeter swim and, yes, I do mean swim. This dog isn’t content with a mere cooling off dunk. No, he legitimately paddles around the pond, splashing the water to create bubbles, which he then tries to eat. It’s adorable.

At times, it seems like he’s going to continue swimming away from our dock until he reaches the far shore. But he reliably returns, if only to take another running leap into the water, landing with an impressive splash.

Early mornings and evenings are for waves and being tortured by sea birds, so we walk on a quiet dirt road until we reach the Atlantic. By the time we crest the dune at the private beach to which we have access, Jeter is threatening to yank my arm out of its socket.

This year, when we were alone at the beach, I allowed him to be off leash in the water during low tide. He ecstatically romped in tidal pools between sandbars without venturing into depths that would have made me nervous and, potentially, him a meal for the sharks which have become so common.

When our week has ended and we’re packing the wagon for the ride home, Jeter sits near the cars in our driveway refusing to go back inside lest we leave him behind. As if. Through all of life’s changes, this is one guy who’s always happy and available to ride shotgun.

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