THERE'S SOMETHING I NEED TO SAY. No use keeping it a secret any longer—not in this age of Facebook, Twitter, and the 24-hour news cycle. Besides, my family and friends have known about it for a while and with this issue of LINKS it’s all about to go public anyway.
I am involved with a lady who is not my wife. Our relationship has been going on for quite some time. And just to be absolutely clear, yes we’re sleeping together. As I write this, she is snuggled up beside me. I love her dearly and she loves me. She has four legs and a tail, and her name is Millie.
We’ve been together for nearly 12 years now. Millie came into my life—my family’s life—in the summer of 2000 (hence her name). There she was, cavort-ing with a half dozen siblings on the front lawn of a farmhouse in eastern Pennsylvania. We’d driven over a hundred miles to check out these little cotton balls, but it didn’t take long for one of them to stand out.
“Look at those goofy ears,” said my son Scott, “one sticks straight up, the other flops over backwards.”
“And those eyes,” I said. “Don’t they seem brighter than the eyes on the other dogs?”
“That’s because she’s paying more attention to us than the others are,” said my wife Libby. “She’s telling us to take her home.”
And so we did. I’d had dogs all my life, beginning with Tiny, the wire-haired dachshund with whom I shared my childhood, and continuing through Alice the colossally stupid but irresistible basset hound, Sandy the sweetly rambunctious golden retriever, and Cleo the irrepressible schnoodle (half schnauzer/half poodle). But none of them prepared me for the best friend I found in Millie.
I suppose it was inevitable we’d bond, given our shared interests—taking early-morning walks, eating often and sloppily, scratching ourselves, staring absent-mindedly out the window, and perhaps most notably, watching TV.
Millie, although more selective than I (she watches only programs that involve animals, with a particular predilection for anything featuring a dog), makes TV an interactive medium, hurling herself at the screen and barking until the relevant critter has completed its cameo. Certain movies—Beethoven, Benji, Marley & Me, Old Yeller—are simply unwatchable in our home.
But Millie leads more than a dog’s life. She and I have written five books together. “Work time,” is all I have to say to her, and she knows to scamper upstairs to the big puffy recliner where I sit with my laptop, positioning herself variously as a seat cushion beside me, a pillow behind my head, or a comforter over my outstretched legs. She never misses a day of work.
Perhaps because of her lifelong involvement with the written word Millie also has an impressive aural vocabulary, ranging from the routine sit and stay commands to a wide array of more complex terms and expressions. Among her favorites is “grand walkies with treats,” uttered once a week, on Sunday when the fairways of the Old Course are closed to golfers but open to everyone else, including those who like to watch their Westies run full throttle in pursuit of biscuits.
I’m afraid Millie’s also conversant with the full panoply of curse words. When she hears me use one, she dips her ears and gives me a look of sad concern. If I repeat or shout the word, she quietly leaves the room.
Because, over the past few years, we’ve spent time in both the UK and the U.S., Millie is a seasoned traveler, with more than 60,000 frequent flyer miles under her seatbelt, not to mention four trips on the Queen Mary II. We actually try to take the ship whenever we can—not because we’re frightfully posh but because, believe it or not, it’s about $1,000 less to convey a small dog across the Atlantic on a luxury liner than in the cargo hold of an airplane. Besides, Millie seems to enjoy the companionship of her kennel mates on the poop deck.
Of course, there’s one other activity she enjoys just as much as I do—golf. Blessedly, all seven of the St. Andrews courses welcome canine companions, so Millie has become a regular on the links. When she sees me haul my clubs from the closet, she begins to cavort at my feet, hopeful this will be a day when I’ll clip her leash to the bottom of my bag.
As golf companions go, she’s at the very top—she knows to keep still and quiet while everyone hits their shots, sits politely beside the green until all putts are holed, and when I leave the green, whether I’ve made birdie or double bogey, she stands up and gives me an exuberant high-10, as if I were LeBron James exiting after a 50-point performance.
A few years ago Millie had the leg and back strength of an Alaskan Husky, dragging me around 18 holes as if it were nothing. These days she pulls me on the front nine, then I sort of coax her down the home stretch. Oh, she’s in fine shape for an old girl, can still launch herself onto any chair, couch, or bed with one graceful, effortless leap, but I know this won’t go on much longer.
That’s why I’ve convinced my LINKS colleagues to let Millie get in some extracurricular senior golf. With this issue we’re introducing a feature called Where’s Millie? Intrepid traveler that she is, my girl will be spanning the globe for us, pausing for photos on some of the world’s best courses.
Her first appearance is on the back page of this issue. See if you can guess the hole—the answer can be found on our website, LINKSMagazine.com, where we’ll also be posting additional Where’s Millies.
I hope you’ll have some fun guessing my girlfriend’s whereabouts. As for me, there’s never a need to wonder where’s Millie—she’s always right here in my heart.
By: George Peper