Some of my favorite childhood memories occurred at one of my best friend’s ponds. The pond is about 40 acres in total and is surrounded by of acres of pristine forest that is intersected by snowmobile trails. It is a Maine paradise if you are a sportsman or nature lover.
We used to walk down the trails to the pond, carrying some food and fishing lines with us while getting devoured by mosquitos and horseflies. Every time we traveled the trails, we would have 2 companions that trailed behind. One was a small Pomeranian that was surprisingly fit to be out in nature. The other was a 70-pound, hardy and stinky Chesapeake Bay retriever mix (his other half was chocolate Labrador!) named Rocky. Like many who know them, I like to refer to Chesapeake Bay retrievers as “Chessies.”
The AKC describes the Chessie as “indefatigable at work.” Rocky was the epitome of this description. I have never met a dog that swam as much as he did. We would go out fishing for hours at a time, and Rocky would follow us. After a couple of hours out on the boat, we would forget about him. Then, after even a couple more hours, we would see a swimming creature in the distance. Was it a beaver? Was it a turtle? Nope, it was Rocky! I could not believe that he was still out here with us, enjoying himself, and swimming for hours on end. One time I actually watched him, just to see if he took breaks. He hardly ever did, although on occasion he would swim to a dock in the middle of the pond to sunbathe and enjoy the sights. His endurance was incredible and has stuck in my mind ever since.
The breed was conceived to fill the needs of hunters in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland. The waters are icy cold at times, which required the dogs to brave these temperatures and be very weather-resistant. The dog retrieved all of the birds shot by hunters and also protected those birds as well as the hunter’s belongings. When it comes to their behavior, they are generally considered to be more stubborn than a Labrador or a Golden, yet their ability to retrieve is equal or even better than the other 2 breeds due to their amazing endurance. To top it all off, their coat is quite waterproof due to a high oil content. This does contribute to the smell of the dog, which can be strong in some individuals.
Those memories of the pond always stick with me during my time away from Maine. Rocky is just one of the many animals that sculpted my appreciation for all creatures. His enthusiasm and love for the outdoors definitely contributed to my fondness for both animals and the outdoors.