Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dog Days of Summer, Redux

by Deborah Nielsen

This is the fourth time I’ve started this post on as many different topics. But those earlier ones just weren’t doing it. Sometimes you have to write what’s on your mind and in your heart.

What’s on my mind are the dog days of summer. Literally. Because in July fourteen years ago I got my first dog, a hairless Chinese Crested. The following July, I got my second dog, Spike, also a hairless Crested. Truly a month for celebration.

In early summer when the days start getting into the mid-80s, the boys shed their t-shirts for the season and soak up the sun. Spike, with dark gray skin bordering on black, turned a deep charcoal by early July. By late July, he’d start snacking on the apples that fell off my neighbor’s apple tree. Spike made all sorts of opportunities to go outside just so he could get another apple. He’d stand under the tree branches and chew and crunch with the most blissful look on his face.

When Spike was seven, he was diagnosed with diabetes and had to have insulin shots twice a day. For his evening shot, he, and everybody else in the pack, would get “cookies,” treats of various kinds. Spike turned into my cookie monster. He’d go out to the kitchen every evening when he thought he should get his cookies and start spinning around in the corner where I keep them. Shots were no bother if he got his cookies.

Early last summer his diabetes worsened, his insulin dosage was increased, but his blood sugar levels wouldn’t stabilize. He had a diabetic seizure the end of June and spent two days hospitalized at the vet’s office without getting any better. I sat with him the morning before Independence Day while the vet called first UNC and then another veterinary hospital in Fort Collins to try to get him more advanced medical help. It was not to be. While I held him in my lap, he had a really, bad, seizure. The vet came running with a syringe of medication but it had no effect. We looked at each other and I told her it was time. I held him in my arms while she administered the last injection he would ever have to endure. A weekend for picnics and fireworks turned into one of tears. I still miss him. Every. Single. Day.

But First Dog, Riley, has taken over as my cookie monster. Every evening, he starts out begging, then he’ll paw my leg, then whine, all the while dancing from the couch to the kitchen. I sometimes ignore him to see just what lengths he’ll go to. Pretty soon he’s got the pack, now down to three, all worked up. Continuing to try to ignore them is fruitless. So for a special summertime treat, I'll cut up watermelon or cantaloupe.  You should see them dance and yap and jump and push each other out of the way to be first. Makes me laugh. 

The dog days of summer, though somewhat bittersweet for me this year, are still full of things to celebrate from the dogs' point of view. So maybe I should take a hint and just enjoy the watermelon.

Has anyone else ever had a problem writing about what they should and ended up writing what their heart said instead?

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