TO DRIVE from Brooklyn to Midcoast Maine’s Pemaquid Peninsula takes roughly seven hours. For years, my husband, Caleb, and I have made the trip with Toby, our butterscotch-colored shepherd mix, in a tiny Honda Fit that quickly fills with a cloud of fur and dog breath. Toby can only tolerate the ride by curling his 50-pound frame around the feet of the front passenger. But once we reach our rental cottage, his senses are overwhelmed by the scent of brine and the sounds of woodland animals. In the morning, we wake to find him resting his chin on our bed: Guys, I have to get out there and protect you from the rabbits and squirrels.
Toby was three months old when we found him at a shelter in Long Island. On morning gambols in Prospect Park, he scarfed down picnic remains, tinfoil and all, as we ran behind shouting like cartoon characters. How, we wondered, did two bookish, almost-middle-aged gay men end up with such a bro dog? But this little toughie soon became affectionate. On our drives to Maine, when we stop to stretch our legs in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he trots through the main shopping district, bat ears unfurled, approaching everyone for a pat or a scratch. (We’ve nicknamed him the Mayor of Portsmouth.)
As Toby changed, Caleb and I changed too, becoming a bit more jockish as we followed him up Midcoast’s hiking trails. Toby has scampered up most of the peaks around Camden, including all 1,280 feet of Bald Mountain. After our hikes, we stop at Muscongus Bay Lobster, in the quaint village of Round Pond, which puts an end to any conversation about the best lobster roll in Maine. Toby sprawls under our table, sniffing around for fallen morsels.
Even though it feels as if we just brought him home, Toby is now 11 years old and his hiking days are long past. I don’t like thinking about Maine without his nose pressed against the sliding glass door of our cottage, ready to embrace the day. But for now, he has enough energy to play with one of us each night after dinner while the other washes up. I think he’s still got a few road trips to go. ■