Good Dogs – 7.28.2023

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff, Without dogs, my life would have had more stress, less love and might well have taken a different path. I’m amazed that one can have a deep friendship with another species, and that with a dog we can share huge emotion, understanding and caring.

Our almost fourteen-year-old Labrador, Archer, passed away peacefully on July 17. He had a lovely summer at the pleasant house we are renting in Boston while our regular home is being renovated. I bet he thought we were on vacation in Vermont as usual, and he enjoyed rolling on the lawn, looking at fireflies and meeting the neighbors. We are very sad that Arch has gone, but so grateful for all the wonderful years.Archer was a member of our family even before he was born – we went to New Hampshire to meet his parents – Lulu, a retrieving champion, and Robbie, with a bark through the door that would keep any home safe. Although when the door was opened, Robbie fetched his brown knitted teddy and wagged his tail like crazy. Archer was smart like Lulu and sweet like Robbie. He loved every person he met.

I told Archer everything, and he was a great listener. He was right there to make each day kinder and more fun. Archer took his job of being a good dog seriously, both the part about always being ready to cuddle and play; and the part about living up to expectations – he loved dog training and succeeding at commands. He also loved his friend Moxie, a cairn terrier who lived across the road, and I’m hoping they have found one another in the next place. We love you, sweet Arch.

We have had several dogs, and I will tell you about one other, whose life was rather a contrast to Archer’s, and who was the most wonderful of dogs. He was Rufus, a mix, possibly with Mastiff or St Bernard, but when people asked, I said he was a Mandelbaum Terrier, and everyone agreed! Rufus appeared one night, long ago, when my boyfriend and I were postdocs in Seattle. As we drove through a dark, winding, wooded area with no houses, something small was sitting in the middle of the road. I stopped the car and on investigating, my boyfriend reported it was a puppy. We took him home and he was my dream puppy, with huge feet, white and brown fur, a black patch over one eye, floppy ears. We put up ‘Puppy Found’ signs, but no-one claimed him, so he stayed. Unlike Archer, we had no idea who his parents were, so we called him Rufus Victor Edward Mandelbaum, and he grew to be 100lbs. Rufus was the kindest, most forgiving dog on the planet. We loved him dearly but worked long hours, leaving him alone all day, and he could not be blamed for the resulting book and shoe destruction. On weekends, we went hiking and that helped make up for the rest. As soon as Rufus saw us packing the car, he would climb onto the back seat and would not budge. We had gorgeous hikes together, and Rufus always got a plain burger on the way home.

Rufus seemed a gift from Above, because had he not materialized that dark night, we may not have gone down the fun, comforting route of always having a dog around. And I think Rufus was watched over, for several times he seemed to have protection. As one day, while hiking along a remote beach in Oregon, Rufus, who loved to swim, ran ahead into the ocean.

Unfortunately, he had jumped into a deep channel with rocky sides, and when we caught up, there was our dog, a speck being carried out to sea on choppy waves. I called him, and somehow, even so far away, he heard and somehow, he managed to turn against the waves. When he reached the shore, the rocks he tried to clamber up were slick with seaweed, but we formed a human chain and hauled him up. Thank you, God. We were all shaken but so happy, and Rufus had his own piece of grilled salmon to celebrate.

When we moved to Boston for faculty positions, there were no more hikes, and Rufus had to deal with babies in the house. He did this with the greatest patience, good humor and trust. He loved humans of all sizes unreservedly and was never, ever anything but gentle and loving.

Sweet, good dogs, thank you.

Please enjoy the rest of summer. Our last summer Monthly will be published on August 25.