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John Eggers: Simon and Simone survive the long winter

I know our two golden retrievers, Simon and Simone, have been dying to ask me, “When can we go swimming?”  Another question that has been on their minds is, “Can we go to summer camp this year?”

You see, we aren’t the only ones who have been longing for those good ol’ spring and summer days, dogs and cats and deer and chipmunks and skunks and raccoons have too. It’s kind of like that old refrain uttered by your children while traveling to Yellowstone on your summer vacation, “Are we there yet?”

Simone made it through her first winter although she wasn’t so quick to venture out into the cold like, Simon, her father. Simone would say, “Dad, it’s cold out. Can we go in soon?” Simon would reply, “Cold, you have to be kidding. This is nothing. Why I can remember when it was so cold that I had ice chunks between my paws as big as those logs John brings in for the fire place.”

Yes, Simone is kind of, well, she’s a mama’s girl. That’s understandable. Her coat isn’t nearly as thick as Simon’s and since she is very light, the sun reflects off of her body. Simon is very dark and he absorbs the sun. I don’t think there was a day where he said, “Outside? Are you kidding? It’s too cold.” Rather, “Simone, let’s go out and play.”

It is amazing how dogs adapt to the cold and the snow. They run into deep snow and Simon says, “Doesn’t this cold snow feel good on your stomach, Simone? It’s so, so cool.” Simone replies, “It sure does, Dad. But I’m ready to go inside. The fireplace feels better.”

Our snow is littered with brown lumps of all sizes. Before the snow melts I have to get out my shovel and fertilize the weeds. It’s strange how the dogs react. When I scoop it up they jump and dance around as if I were taking their most precious asset. When I toss it in the weeds, they go chasing after it as if they were looking for gold.

I hope you aren’t eating anything right now but little Simone not only likes to play with these frozen lumps, she will lie down on our deck and just have a good time chewing on a piece or two. Some dogs do eat their doo-doo, you know, and are really quite fond of it. I was wondering why our cat’s litter box was so clean all of the time and guess what? Simone is fond of cat doo-doo as well.

I tried to introduce Simone to ice fishing this winter. As soon as I start up the auger, she runs to the house. I tell Simon, “Go get Simone.” Simon runs up to the house and returns with out her. He looks at me and says, “I guess she doesn’t want to come, John, she’s afraid of the noise.”

I say to Simon, “Maybe next year.” Simon has a good time. He checks out the holes, drinks a little of the water, runs in the snow and when he gets bored he runs to shore and gets a stick to chew on. If I catch a fish (didn’t happen too often this winter) he will bark at it.

Our goldens can’t wait to take the daily stroll down the driveway. I’ll say, “Get your sticks.” They will be off looking for a stick, which, by the way, litter our yard and deck so it’s no problem finding one.

Simon, being the elder, has to carry the biggest one. It’s as if he is saying, “Hey, John, isn’t my stick bigger than Simone’s?” I say, “It sure is, Simon.” Simon prances down the driveway like a king.

Simone will often compete for the same stick. Simon will dodge by running into the deep snow. This doesn’t bother Simone. She will take a running leap and grab on to the stick. She’ll fight for a few minutes and then let go and find her own.

This winter I discovered what heaven must be like for dogs. Heaven will be a place of many paths and roads lined with sticks. Happiness to goldens is walking down a driveway with a stick in their mouths.

It would be a long winter for Simon without Simone. None of the other dogs we owned needed to be entertained as much as our golden retrievers. It’s kind of like kids at a summer camp. “What can we do next?”

With Simone around, Simon now has someone to occupy his time. They play tug-a-war, growl at each other, chase after each other, compete for the dog toys, and want to go outside and then they want to come inside and then they want to go outside.

You have heard the expression, “He leads a dog’s life.” Now I know what that means. You are resting, playing or eating, that’s it. That’s a dog’s life.

With warmer days around the corner, Simon and Simone can expect to be spending most of their days outside. I know they are looking forward to the time when they can explore the lakeshore and find all sorts of interesting things to put in their mouths and carry up to the house.

“Hey, John, look what we found.”

“Sorry, Simon and Simone, I don’t play with dead fish. Go catch me a live one.”

Yes, Simon and Simone survived the winter and like the rest of us, they are looking for spring and summer adventures in the near future.

JOHN R. EGGERS of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.