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The (Mostly) True Adventures of Cinto

Not everything we read is true. As good readers, we need to be able to separate fact from fiction. Most of this story about our dog Cinto (pronounced "SEEN-toh") is true, but 10 things in the story are not. See if you can find the things that aren't true. They're listed at the end of the story, but if you peek, Cinto will come after you and lick you into line.

The story

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When Cinto was about 10 weeks old, we took her to the edge of a lake to see what she would do. She cautiously walked into the water up to her knees (or elbows, I'm not sure which) and pawed at the water.

It was as if she were considering her golden retriever ancestry and thinking, "Let's see, I was bred to do something. Herd sheep? No, that's not it. Pull a dog sled? No, why would I pull other dogs in a sled?"

Suddenly Cinto realized what she was bred to do, and she took off swimming in a long, lazy backstroke to the other side.

Cinto became a great frisbee dog. We would practice almost every day in a nearby park. As she got better and better, she could catch a frisbee as far as I could throw it, about 120 feet.

Cinto got so good that she would run as fast as she could, catch the frisbee in her mouth, stop, turn, stand on her hind legs, and throw the frisbee back to me.

I bought Cinto a harness so she could pull me on skis. This is an actual sport called skijoring. Laplanders and some other Scandinavians have animals like reindeer (but usually horses) pull them on skis for transportation.

When I first put the harness on Cinto in our nearby snowy park, she looked up at me as if to say, "OK, now what?"

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Then she took out a copy of her pedigree and showed it to me. "See?" she said, pointing to her breed, "It says retriever. Golden retriever. Not malamute, not Siberian husky - retriever."

We tried it anyway. I put my skis on, then held onto the long straps attached to her harness. "Mush!" I said. Cinto just looked at me. "Go!" I said. "Please?"

Nothing. Cinto was as stationary as a statue of a golden retriever wearing a harness. "Wait here," I said. "Stay." (My commands to Cinto were impressively obeyed when they ordered her to do what she was already doing.)

I came back with her frisbee and grabbed hold of her straps. I threw the frisbee with my right hand, held the straps with my left, and got a brief ride across the park as Cinto ran after her toy, not seeming to realize that she was pulling me across the snow.

When she turned to bring the frisbee back to me, I was already there.

I have never seen a more puzzled dog.

Finally, she got the hang of skijoring in the mountains, and we would go for miles. It was especially exciting when she saw a rabbit or fox 100 yards ahead on the snowy road, and would sprint as fast as she could after them. I held on and must've hit water-skiing speeds.

Cinto has been to 48 of the 50 states.


She sends us postcards from all over the country, and always travels Greyhound, which must be kind of a species-loyalty thing.

When Cinto first saw the ocean, she just stared at it for a long time, as if she were thinking, "Man, that lake goes on forever!" Cinto loves to swim, and she's gone swimming in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Michigan, and the Mississippi River, where she pulled a barge from St. Louis to New Orleans.

Once we were on an overnight ferry trip along the coast of British Columbia, and when I went down to the deck to let Cinto run around, she got away. I was looking for her when I heard an announcement over the ship's intercom: "Will the owner of a golden retriever please come to the purser's office?"

She had been found on the lido deck, playing cards with an elderly couple.

On our travels, Cinto has been to many college campuses. She's been to the University of Wisconsin, Wake Forest, the University of Virginia, Amherst, and Yale.

When we were driving back from a trip to all these campuses, we stopped at the University of Nebraska, even though we're not fond of that school because their football team always seems to beat our hometown football team, the University of Colorado.

So we were walking around the campus, and suddenly Cinto saw a rabbit and took off chasing it. She chased it down a walkway between two hedges, and it looked to us as though she was heading into a building.

We looked up and saw the sign on the building, which read, "Admissions."

"Oh no!" I said, "Our dog could've gone to Amherst or Yale, but she's going to the University of Nebraska!"

Cinto is now the dean of the law school at the University of Nebraska and still teaches an occasional class, most often leash law.

The real story

OK, Cinto never did a long, lazy backstroke, and she never stood on her hind legs and threw the frisbee back to me. She never took out a copy of her pedigree and showed it to me, and she never traveled alone (except around the neighborhood when we'd left our gate open). She never sent us postcards or traveled Greyhound, and she never pulled a barge from St. Louis to New Orleans. She wasn't playing cards with an elderly couple on the lido deck.

And her duties as dean no longer include teaching.

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