I’m posting this now because I’m not going to have what it takes to post it in a week.
10 years ago I started dog fostering with Secondhand Mutts. My son’s mom had moved out, I was going through a nasty custody battle, and getting to spend time with my toddler was very uncertain.
The second dog I fostered was Summer fka Destiny (She only every had stripper names). A leggy, black, 2 year old lab/hound mix who had the spent half of her life in shelters and foster care. No one knows what her puppy-hood was like, but her timidity and fear of men gave some clues. She hopped up on my bed as soon as we got home — I clapped my hands and said “no!” and she never did it again. Not even when I wanted her to. I fostered her for a few weeks and one day my son said “I like Summer.” and that was that. We adopted her.
I wasn’t a fan of the name Summer, but I kept it because I wanted her to finally have some stability.
And now she’ll soon be dead, and I made the decision to kill her, and I’m not looking forward to wading through all these tears that honor the blessing she was to my life these past 10 years. Something is killing her slowly, and I am going to do for her what I hope someone has the strength to do for me one of these days.
She is a great dog, and as my dear friend Zena told her, she “did such a good job.”
One of the first things I realized about Summer is how much she loved and protected my son. When he was with me, she would sleep in his doorway, facing the front door, every night. I would take her with me to pick him up from preschool, and she would sit down and calmly accept all of the rough attention that a dozen 3 year olds provide.
She almost never came when I called her, and this has always hurt. She never pooped on a walk, so I never had to carry doggie bags. Initial walks with her were something — she would pull one way, and my toddler another, but eventually she settled down and became very good on a leash, unless she wanted to sniff something. Then she’d plant her paws, lower her center of gravity and become immovable. She was always best off a leash though — kept near me, and would naturally heel when I called her. Our rambles in the woods are some of my favorite memories. She would sit with her butt in the snow, and not care. I don’t think she even felt it. She loved the winter, and in the summer I would get her shaved. She looked ridiculous, with her yellow lab undercoat, and a black stripe down her back to her otter tail.
An incorrigible gossip, she loved to look out of the window and silently watch people and dogs go by. When I would come home from work, I would see her nose peeking from behind the curtain. Her favorite prank to play was to hide in the shade or behind a plant until someone had walked past on the sidewalk, and then sneak up behind them and bark like the dickens.
Her fur. Damn am I going to miss petting her. She has this glorious dewlap that was softer even than her perma-puppy ears. I used to joke that when she died I was going to get that part of her preserved so I could pet it forever. I’ll be putting her in the ground whole, though. Its an honor she deserves, and my final responsibility as her friend all these years.
She used to howl when my son played his harmonica, and I taught her how to sing on command. She loved little chipmunk squeaker toys and would howl around those mouthfuls in what I called a toygasm. In her youth, she used to forget I was home sometimes and I’d start seeing toys fly up into the air from behind the couch. She used to love to play fetch, but in her final weeks, she only put a tennis ball in her mouth when my son arrived for his week with me. She whuffed like a puppy when she dreamed.
She never barked to be let outside or inside. Then I fostered Susie Q Cream Cheese — the worst basset hound of all time — and she learned that barking would get you back inside. Instead of barking a bunch though, she’d give one diffident woof. She was a dear heart.
She ended up in a lot of poems — only a couple are on here though. I might make a little chapbook of them in her memory.
She was a balance to all my bad sides. She was my only companion and emotional support through years of loneliness and depression. She taught me so much about acceptance of things outside of my control. Her soul is going to flicker out soon — and this brief precious world will become a mite poorer. I am so grateful that I was able to share in her life — all of these tears must be worth it.
ah i must take my beast’s shape out of me and fill a hole dug by myself thy flag hide now glorio us of dirt oppos it e to my r ough p arts o ur last p act o h trem u lous you always knew i would be the death of you where will i put m y dirty hands now how deep do i dig a dog’s grave and will the grass grow sweet there