“She looks so happy!” my son, Cooper, said as our border collie, Maggie, trotted over to him, ears flopping, yellow tennis ball in her mouth, lake water dripping off her black and white muzzle.
I’m no expert in dog expressions, but in that moment, she did appear carefree (yes, the tail wagging was a telltale sign) and much younger than her 12 years. She dropped the ball, then paused, panting, as if she were taking in the fresh mountain air and majestic view: The rippling blue waters of June Lake in California's Eastern Sierra lapped against the sandy-grassy shoreline; green pines covered the gently sloping hills. The scenery was a big change from our suburban Orange County backyard where Maggie usually hangs out. The only lapping sound there comes from her aluminum water bowl when she’s particularly thirsty.
Several months before the onset of the pandemic, our family had come to Mono County for a low-key getaway with Cooper before he headed off to college. We based ourselves in the alpine village of June Lake. Perhaps feeling wistful about parting soon with his childhood paw-mate, Cooper insisted Maggie come along.