The weekend before last, half of the department gathered for our annual cookout.  I say half because it includes two graduate programs (and associated faculty); the other two  graduate programs party by themselves and don’t invite us (I kid.).  
The best thing about this particular annual cookout is that a number of us have dogs – big dogs.  There were a few non-big dogs, but they didn’t participate in the rough-and-tumble activities. 

So, an outline of who was whom in the dog world, since you weren’t there to sniff their butts like all the rest of the dogs:

Bosco – adult border collie mix
Cosette – 2 yr old black Lab
Chip – 4-5 year old chocolate Lab
Darwin – 5+ year old Golden Retriever mix
Madison – 4-5 year old black Lab
Mal – adult golden retriever
Mars – adult Chow mix
Trooper – 7 month old chocolate Lab

And let me just take a moment here and praise the crap outta Trooper.  I was reticent to bring Trooper along, simply because of the number of people present (about 40) in a free-range, no-fence environment.  I watched joyfully as he not only played well with all the other dogs, but did really well around small children.  One moment in particular made my heart fill with joy:  Trooper had a tennis ball and was playing fetch with a seven or eight-year-old boy.  At one point, the ball bounced in a weird direction over to a small child.  The child was sucking on a pacifier, standing just so on its wobbly toddler legs, and bent over to pick up the ball.  I held my breath, because I was too far away from the scene to really prevent anything.  I know what Trooper would have done to an adult:  he would have run, full-speed, up to the adult, probably slammed into them, and then jumped around like crazy until the ball was thrown.  Instead, my beautiful puppy locked on to the ball, loped up to the child, and sat down.  He then gently, ever so gently, reached his nose out to touch the little boy’s hands which held the ball.  The little boy opened up his hands, and Trooper delicately plucked the ball out of the boy’s hands, slowly turned around, and walked back to the older boy.  I wanted to shout, “LOOK EVERYONE!  LOOK AT WHAT MY DOG JUST DID!!” but instead I smiled and kept nodding at the conversation I was in.  I was so PROUD of Trooper, though.  

The dogs played, and played, and played until they could play no more – well, at least until we all took them home.   Luckily by our shelter, there was a large water reservoir that the dogs were more than happy to play in.  See crappy point-and-shoot pics below:
Trooper and Darwin
Mal and Trooper giving kissies
Chip making his way down to the water
Mal, Madison, Mars (back), Cosette & Trooper (front)
All five retrieving dogs out in the water
Trooper and Mal having a moment of stick-y goodness

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