Summer Gifts

I found a HUGE wolf spider in my bathroom today. It made me jump, and it also made me a little sad. When I have to start asserting my boundaries with spiders trying to relocate to my house, I know that fall is officially on its way. I feel summer’s ending more poignantly this year because of several unexpected gifts. First, I have not had a real holiday with more than a few days off for several years, but this year I had the whole summer off. Second, although the good weather took a long time to arrive this year, it finally settled in sunny and tropical for a long steady stretch. But most importantly, I was able to share lots of treasured time this summer with the last remaining dog from my pack.

My dog, Patch, is nearly 18 years old and last year she had suddenly started feeling her age. Arthritis was reducing her quality of life, and just before my holidays, the vet said Patch had Cushing’s disease and that she likely had only a few more weeks to live. I settled in to spend her last days doing things she liked. The heat was hard on her but she still loved to walk, so we began walking very early each day, before the sun rose too high. Yet the weeks went on and Patch still kept going. In fact, the Cushing’s disease caused her body to begin pumping out cortisol, and this relieved her arthritis pain. Soon she was bouncing around like a puppy again.

I knew we were on borrowed time- any day the changeable BC weather could break, or Patch could go downhill again, so each beautiful morning felt like a gift. And it went on day after day, reminding me of the summers from childhood. The early mornings were clear, with that quiet, thin-feeling air that carries birdsong and color so sweetly. Our route got longer as Patch’s endurance increased. Daily we traipsed past farms and over railway tracks and an overpass, and we rarely saw another person, though we saw rabbits and raccoons and farm animals. My heart felt full as Patch walked purposefully alongside me, a soft little companion with no concept of time.

Yet I was acutely aware of the small changes that marked the passing of the summer, and each one pulled at my heart. Although Patch feels better, I know this is our last summer together, and I wanted time to stand still and hold the feeling forever. Crab apples and blackberries ripened, providing snacks along the way, but they are nearly past now. Then last week we had a rain at night and the next morning had lost its warm promise of another tropical day. The leaves have just started turning yellow and now I have only three more days left of holidays. Patch is still eager to go out each morning, though she now sleeps for most of the day afterwards. Time did not stand still for me and my heart aches to say good bye to the last Summer of Patch. And yet, there’s a tiny piece of joy in there, I think because I’m thankful that it at least slowed down, allowing me to savour special moments like I did as a child. It is a gift I hope to keep.

Cuddles with the cat after a long walk

A walk with my furry companion


6 thoughts on “Summer Gifts

  1. I was drawn to the post by the picture (scrolling through the “outdoor” topic on wordpress) – it is a really cute picture and Patch has a gorgeous coat – but then I read the article. That’s amazing that his body did that, and how nice that must have been to have awhile with him with no pain! I liked your thoughts – good and deep, melancholy, but nice. It put me in a thoughtful mood and makes me want to play with my pup a little more while he’s young. Best of luck 🙂

    • Thanks! Yes, cortisol production is a side effect of the Cushings, and it is not good for the body, but the synthetic form (cortisone) is also a treatment for arthritis. So, oddly enough, if the vet gave Patch treatment for the Cushings she would feel worse than she does now, untreated. Because of that (and because of her age), I will just let her go naturally, without any treatment. I will definitely miss her, she and her brother and Mom were all dogs who lived long lives and we did many things together. Definitely have some fun with your pup- I love that quote that the only fault of dogs are that their lives are too short.

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