Rain or shine, all of Mills can see Margot Nitoff walking her Daschund dogs around campus.
Nitoff takes her dogs, Valdi, 9, and Amber, 8 months, to Mills because she feels it’s much safer and friendlier than the neighborhood outside the gates.
“I take the old guy here, and now the little one, on a walk every morning, unless I have something to do in the morning, in which case I take them at night,” said Nitoff, while patiently untangling the dogs leashes as they scramble around her feet.
Nitoff, whose German accent gives away her heritage after years of living in the States, moved to Canada in 1953 with her Bulgarian husband, Milo Nitoff after Germany’s economy was devastated from World War II. She and her husband then moved to California in 1962 to get away from the severe Canadian winters.
“It was Christmas day in Toronto and my husband turned to me and the kids and said, ‘Let’s move to California!’ We were all very excited,” Nitoff said.
In California, Nitoff worked as the manager of the auditing department in a bank and her husband worked as an electrician.
“In Germany, my husband was an electrical engineer,” Nitoff said, “but his degree from the German university didn’t transfer over to the States, so here, he was an electrician.”
Nitoff, as a young woman in Germany, said she was unable to pursue her passion for painting, because Hitler didn’t allow anyone between the ages of 16 and 45 to attend college as a part of the war effort. Ever since her youth, said Nitoff, she’s loved to paint. She attended the California Academy of Arts and Crafts on the weekends while working and raising her two sons. To this day, she paints voraciously.
Margot has another artistic talent-making doggie sweaters for Valdi and Amber. Margot said she bases the pattern for the sweaters off of the little yellow rain slickers with which she adorns the dogs during the rainy season.
“Each dog has two sweaters and one yellow rain slicker,” Nitoff said.
Valdi is a very good watch dog, said Nitoff. “He makes a big racket when somebody comes to the door. And so does Amber, now.”
Nitoff said that Valdi’s also very understanding.
“You can even talk to him and he answers back, if you understand dog,” said Nitoff. “Hopefully Amber will be that way too. Valdi was just like Amber when he was little. He was a handful.”
Nitoff decided to get Amber, the puppy, after a friend’s dog died and she saw how sad her friend was.
“Boy was that a mistake,” laughs Nitoff, as Amber climbs over Valdi and jumps up and kisses every passer-by. “I forgot how much work a puppy is and I thought that Valdi and Amber would be friends, but they’re not. He tolerates her. He runs and hides from her but she doesn’t give up. She goes for his ears and his mouth. She’s really taken over.”
Nitoff takes a little kibble from a plastic bag and drops it down to Valdi who catches it mid-air. She then throws one to Amber who misses and then eats it off the ground.
“Valdi catches the treats in mid-air,” Nitoff said, “but Amber doesn’t. She’s just young, that’s all. She’ll learn.”
“Amber is a little piglet,” said Nitoff as she pulls her away from a piece of chewing gum that’s stuck to the ground. “She sticks her nose into everything. I really have to watch her.”
Valdi, whose birthday is Valentine’s Day, is a little grey around the muzzle and has “got quieter as he got older,” Nitoff said.
“Valdi’s getting old and grey, like me,” smiled Nitoff. “He’s my companion.”