Friday, January 19, 2007

Of Wine and Dogs

Wine is one of two subjects about which I can speak with a small amount of authority. The other is dogs.

In what now seems like another lifetime, I was co-owner/trainer of a dog training, boarding and day care facility. I spent two years—365 days a year, 7 days a week and 12 or more hours a day—with dogs. And that doesn’t count the pack of dogs I was living with at the time.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much similarity between these two subjects. The differences are pretty clear: one is a living, breathing animal and the other is a liquid (although Kermit Lynch would argue that good wine is also living). The more I consider it, however, the more I find in common between these two passions of mine.

The more you learn about wine, the more you realize you don’t know. The same can be said about dogs. The sheer number of breeds and various mixes certainly rivals the number of grapes, blends and wines. People have spent lifetimes breeding and blending genetic traits in search of the perfect dog, just as winemakers pursue the perfect vintage or cuvée.

Although I know very little about winemaking, I think there are some similarities between making wine and teaching dogs. Both require lots of time, patience and experience. And for those who master either trade, the results of their work can be breathtaking. Anyone who has ever watched a service dog in action should understand.

Both wine and dogs never cease to amaze me. There is subtly, beauty, grace, aggression, simplicity, complexity, strengths and defects to be found in each.

For an information junkie like me, there is an endless amount of knowledge waiting to be discovered on both subjects. And they both require hands-on learning; books can provide a foundation of knowledge, but can never replace the glass, or the leash, in your hand.

And just as each individual bottle of wine is different, so is each individual dog. No two Labrador Retrievers are carbon copies any more than any two syrahs are exactly alike.

I imagine these two passions will stay with me until the end. I can’t imagine a life without holding a nice glass of wine in one hand and stroking a dog’s head with the other.

That one in the picture is a Belgian Malinois Eastern North Carolina 1996. She’s a little funky on the nose, but once you get past that she’s warm, delicate and soft with undertones of neurosis and the suggestion of an impending bite.

I wouldn’t trade her for two cases of Château Lafite-Rothschild 1961.


Michelle said...

Great post! The imagine of you holding wine in one hand and petting a dog with the other invokes a sense of peace.

John said...

Thanks, Michelle. That's definitely one of my "happy places."

Dr. Debs said...

Great post, John. As the owner of 2--dogs, not wine!--I know what you mean. Both dogs and wine have the power to beguile and surprise, no matter how jaded you feel in other walks of life.

John said...

Thanks, Deb. I should have known you were a dog lover.

farley said...

You might then be interested in this post over at Fermentation.

Sounds right up your alley.

kosher wine said...

It's nice to read something that links both wine and dogs, and I agree. Both require patience and passion. And when one masters either of the two, the results give one a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.

John said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, KW. My newest canine companion is certainly testing my patience, but he reminds me daily of why I fell in love with dogs in the first place.

Thanks for reading.