The year I turned nine was destined to be the best yet because I was going to spend the first of many summers at a sleepaway camp in New Hampshire. Little did I know that there would be a surprise that would make that summer even better, still.
The camp was the same one my cousins had attended and worked at from the time they were nine. I was ecstatic that my cousin Amanda had decided to work one last summer in order to spend my first one with me.
When I finally arrived, Amanda met us at the car and when I got out, I was immediately engulfed in a huge hug. But not from Amanda, it was from her dog, Nellie!
Amanda had surprised me by bringing her 2 year old Golden Retriever puppy to live with her for the summer. Nellie loves the outdoors and enjoys hiking, swimming, and meeting new friends. I am sure spending the summer at camp with so many girls and activities was a puppy’s dream.
I’ve not been as lucky as some friends and family over the years because we never had a family dog. My parents had always said we traveled too much, so I was determined to spend as much time with Nellie as I could. I brought her along to every activity I could. We swam with her in the lake and watched her splash in the little waves. I made sure to bring her to the sports field to play with her favorite thing: tennis balls. We played fetch for hours in hopes of burning out some of her seemingly endless energy before it was time for lunch.
Spending a summer away from my parents at nine years old came with some feelings of homesickness. However, having Nellie there to lend a hug or a tail wag always put a smile on my face. Having a pet for the first time in my life, even if only for the summer, helped me through a hard transition and I am still grateful.
I should have known from the start the impact that Nellie would have on my summer because she was named after the camp, Camp Nellie Huckins, where many of the women in my family had grown up year after year.
I always find myself reflecting on the moments Nellie and the other dogs in my life have touched my heart. Those memories will live with me forever.
And I’m especially thoughtful this month because the National Dog Show airs on Thanksgiving Day and it is a must-watch for me and my family because the joy and authenticity that those dogs exhibit warms my heart.
Thanks to Nellie, I will be rooting for the Golden Retriever to win Best in Show Thanksgiving Day! Watching the National Dog Show with my family and giving thanks for all the dogs that have helped make us who we are today is one of my favorite parts of the holiday.