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Sam Cook column: A dog’s drive is inspiring

Sometimes, when the yellow dog and I go to the pond near our home, I take along a couple of her retrieving dummies. When we’ve finished a walk or a run, we go to the pond and I throw a few for her. 

This makes her day. Merely the sight of me swinging the dummies is enough to set her whole 60-pound frame to waggling and hopping.

Understand, this isn’t a new deal for Lucy. She’s more than 10 years old, and still the thought of leaping into the water to fetch me a white plastic dummy is almost more than she can bear.

There’s a little dock at the pond, and if nobody else is using it, that’s where we toss the dummies. I launch the two dummies in different directions. They land with satisfying plops on the water. Lucy sits at heel until I send her. She bolts from my side, races along the dock and hurls herself into the air.

“She gets a lot of height,” said a fellow who stopped by the pond one night.

She hits the water about 10 feet out and starts chugging for the first dummy. She snatches it as if it were a downed duck and comes snuffling back with it.

It’s her job to remember where the other dummy is, and she never forgets. When I release her for the second dummy, she does it all again – dash, leap, splash, chug, snuffle.

Neither one of us ever gets tired of this.

I think Lucy is doing this mostly for herself, for the sheer joy of it. I am merely a convenient enabler. If there were a dummy launcher that she could trigger herself, she could retire me and do this all day.

Other than tracking, flushing and retrieving a real pheasant or ruffed grouse, shagging dummies is the high point of her days.

She is just as happy to retrieve dummies without the dock entry. But even from a muddy shoreline, she’ll always leap rather than just run into the water. That’s just how she rolls.

I’ll admit that I prefer the dock entry because I get such a kick out of seeing her flying through the air, yellow legs tucked, ears flapping. On a warm summer evening, watching her hit the water reminds me of all the rocks and ledges and docks I’ve ever leaped from, the satisfying shock of entry, the thousands of little air bubbles climbing up my skin.

It must feel just as good to her.

This is how we should strive to live, I think. Throw ourselves headlong into our passions. Chug toward our goals with unflinching focus and hold on with unwavering tenacity. Pursue our work and play and love with boundless energy and pure bliss.

It sounds good in theory, but I fail regularly in the execution. I’m not yet living life at Lucy Level.

But on summer nights down at the pond, she happily demonstrates again how it’s done.

I keep trying to live up to her example.


Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or Follow him on Twitter at or on Facebook at “Sam Cook Outdoors.”