Surviving the dog days of summer
BY MITCH MODE
Special to the Star Journal
If time is of a river then summer is when the waters run slow; no urgency in the speed of days as the river flows deep and moody. Summer days are of a leisurely pace. Come autumn the river of time picks up speed again; days are as riffles and then rapids as autumn hastens toward gray November. For now, August, and time and days seem to move at a different pace.
Odds are that August will bring heat; history suggests this will be true. Temperatures will rise; days will seem to slow; time will last forever it will seem. August; time of heat and somnambulant days. Dog days.
My dogs live the dog days in the rising sun of the waning summer. Fenway is most comfortable; Thor less so; Riika not at all. Fenway will lie in the sun stretched out as if a bather on a beach, rolling over occasionally as if to even out his tan. Thor sleeps in the heat but then it gets to him and he rises to plod to shade. Riika has nothing to do with it. She goes out, feels the heat, goes back to the door and barks; she wants in.
Riika has never done well in the heat. Come autumn and the hunt and I hold her back on days when summer heat lingers into September and, more often of late, into October. The heat sends her to misery and she looks at me with sad eyes. I leave her at home on those days.
For the past 15 years we have hunted the autumn woods and for past two, maybe three years I have come home on a day in November and thought, this is the last time she will hunt. The years have caught up with her. She is slow moving and deaf as a stone.
We hunted an afternoon last November in stands of young popple under a cool blue sky. She put up three birds; I missed them all. That has been our tradition; she finds birds, I miss them on the wing. We have adjusted. She seems not to care; I pretend not to. But we hunt. She has slowed down as the days of August slow. Still, the body may be older and slower but the desire remains.
Thor, ol’ Thor, he never had that desire, not like Riika has. But he loved to hunt just the same. Long legged and with a goofy look about him he had the skills; the nose and the build to go long distance in the woods. But he never had the hot desire that burned in Riika’s soul.
But Thor lost his hearing as well and in the thick woods he has not adapted as has Riika. I see him look for me but not see me. Then he moves farther away and I often lose sight of him and in the absence of knowing where he is feel a fear in my gut. It is not a relaxing hunt for all that.
Then there is Fenway, 18 pounds of Boston terrier with an 88-pound attitude. Fenway, who owns the backyard as his kingdom and woe be unto any other beast that may venture there. Fenway the sweet dog who in his fast beating Boston heart is a hunter of a peer with the big dogs. Fenway who, this summer has killed a full grown rabbit (he outran it and caught it); dispatched two voles (they’d burrowed deep in to the dirt; he scented them and dug them up); and killed two chipmunks (he chases them with abandon nearly every day).
Fenway loves the dog days; he is a summer dog at heart. He lies in the direct sun in the morning as if in his morning bath. He sleeps in it during the heat of the day only seeking shade only when the heat builds to uncomfortable levels.
This is the time of the dog days for us, for the two old dogs and the one that, at four, we still call the puppy. Summertime and the living is easy.
Summertime and the river of life moves slowly for us and the dogs alike.
Outside darkness comes. The slow-moving day comes to an end. The heat of the day begins to fade away and the night of the dog days is on us.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.