I always wondered why they call them the “dog days” of summer, particularly back when I didn’t have a dog. If it has something to do with lying around being lazy and hot, I defy you to find a dog who’s been doing more lying around panting and sweating in the heat than me. You couldn’t do it, because dogs can’t even sweat. Now I’m supposed to feel sorry for them because they breathe harder in July?
I do, though, finally have my own definition of the dog days of summer, based on two events in the last week that reminded me of why I’ve always considered dogs the one true sign that God might actually love us.
The first took place a week ago, when my wife and son and I got to visit Snow Caps Sled Dogs, a wintertime dog sled operation and Siberian husky kennel outside of Breckenridge. They had 138 huskies, two litters of them just two weeks old. And trust me, if you haven’t seen a two-week-old husky, picture the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. A two-week-old husky is cuter.
With a dog kennel and sledding outfit making headlines for all the wrong reasons back near my home in the Aspen area, it can be easy to brand all such operations as cruel and inhumane. That’s definitely not the case. The dogs I saw, and we got to meet nearly all of them, were clearly loved, well fed and happy to be there.
Looking for something to do to keep his dogs active in the summer, the Snow Caps’ owner, who grew up a mile and a half away, outfitted a six-seat golf cart with big tires and shocks and started taking people for rides pulled by a team of dogs along the plentiful dirt roads nearby. His newest invention, though, is the real winner: dog scootering.
Picture an oversized, two-wheel scooter like a Razor, but with big rubber tires and shock absorbers on the fork. It’s not really like that, but it’s close. Now picture yourself on it, being towed at high speeds down four-wheel-drive roads by a pair of huskies. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? I pictured myself wiping out and getting my hand caught in the rope and getting dragged over rocks and tree roots for a mile or so.
No such problems. The scooters are remarkably stable when they get moving, and the dogs even slow down immediately every time you apply the brakes. How cool is that? Dog scootering is seriously my new favorite sport.
The second event took place earlier this week, when my wife made the decision to put our 17-year-old golden retriever to sleep. My wife’s best friend from the age of seven weeks old, Clover had lived a life that most other dogs could only dream of, and she’d been in pretty good shape all along, but in the last few weeks the writing was on the wall. It was time.
I’ll spare you the weepy details, but the passing of such a remarkable dog demands more of me than just a brief mention and a shoulder to cry on. She was a really special girl. I’ve owed my wife a sonnet for a number of years now, so I wrote this one for her to remember Clover by. I call it On the Passing of an Old Friend.
My gentle friend, we’ve known this day would come
As you lay down to take a final rest
If I could tax my life I’d buy you some
Seems it’s not mine to give at my behest
But pray you spend the moments we’ve to spare
And lift your grizzled, noble snout again
To sniff once more this lilac-scented air
This yard, these trees, your faded puppy pen
Now raise your velvet ear that quirky way
To hear and know these most important things
A love like ours will never fade away
No matter all the sticks forever brings
Go forth to gnaw on heaven’s sweetest log
And know you’ve always been a good, good dog
So that was it. It’s not really like Shakespeare, but it’s … well, no, it’s not really that close, but it’s the best I can do on this Thursday morning. And it comes with a ton of love for a beautiful soul and a wonderful companion.