Whenever fall comes around, I cannot help but think of the years I lived in Vermont. Those fall colors and smells always seemed to be so vivid and crisp on those early mornings when I would walk to the horse barn to do chores. I remember the aromatic waves from apples that had fallen on the ground, been damaged, and were now collecting dew and mold. Even though the apples were undergoing the decomposition process, the smells that were produced were remarkably pleasant and reminiscent of cider. I would put on my rubber boots and hike around the farm trails with the dogs in the morning, my boots keeping my feet dry through the morning mud puddles. The dogs would happily trot alongside me, sniffing the trails of last night’s wildlife travelers. Other memories of mulled cider, cider donuts, apple pies and pumpkin pies also resurface in my mind when the Fall winds roll in.
None of these memories would be complete without Yankee, the Black Lab that stayed beside me on morning walks. His leash was a red lead rope, and he had a red nylon collar that was absolutely filthy from years of outdoor hours and a total lack of cleaning. On that collar, in faded black permanent marker, you could see the name “Yankee.” He was an elderly dog that I met in 2012 when working on a horse farm, and he and his owner ended up becoming some of my best friends.
What was it about having that Black Lab by my side that made me feel so complete? Perhaps it was growing up with Labradors around me in my hometown and within my extended family. The friendly Labrador was a trademark of the idyllic Maine lifestyle, and that has only become more ingrained in not only Maine, but the New England way of life as well. Dogs that are true representatives of the breed exemplify friendliness and positivity. They are ambassadors of goodwill, joy, and community. Perhaps it was intuitively knowing that no matter what came my way when I was with Yankee, he would welcome it with a wagging tail and an open-mouthed smile. Many people would remember that happy lab, or at least crack a smile when they felt the joy that he brought to every moment.