Summer succumbed to hemangiosarcoma on 8/25/17. I wrote this on 7/10/17 and have left it as it was when I wrote it: a tribute to a dog who I thought had many years left.
I currently have three dogs: Summer, Zani, and Clara.
Clara is the youngster, and has a dramatic backstory. She was a feral puppy, and also my first puppy. Life gave her lemons and we have made lemonade together.
Zani has “all the cuteness going on,” as a friend puts it. She is adorable, wicked smart, sensitive, and feisty—all at the same time. Whenever I teach anything to all the dogs at the same time, Zani picks it up the fastest (unless it’s a verbal cue, in which case she is dead last). Zani has quite the fan club on social media.
Zani helped raise Clara, and they are buddies.
Summer is my oldest dog, currently going on 12 years old, although she doesn’t look or act it. The others tolerate her, and she is part of the group, but they don’t adore her.
But I do.
Summer is not dramatic, except when she is reacting to a delivery truck or an invading dog. She is normally low-key. If you saw her on the street she would be unremarkable. In person, she looks like a rather plain brown dog. She looks beautiful in my blog largely because she photographs amazingly well.
But I have a bond with her that is unlike what I have with any other dog. Even Clara, my puppy, my baby, doesn’t touch my heart in quite the same way.
Summer is my crossover dog. For those who don’t know the term, it means that when I first started training her, I used aversive methods. A year or two in, I “crossed over,” and stopped using such methods. I had used a prong collar on her. I had done collar pops. I had used various other amounts of force.
Dogs who were originally trained with force often act differently from those who never had that experience. Most force training has the effect of discouraging dogs from offering behaviors, and that seems to create a lasting inhibition with some dogs.
I was lucky. It didn’t with Summer. In fact, when I play shaping games with my dogs, Summer is the most creative. She will try anything and makes up crazy stuff.
Summer was also my first agility partner, and we “grew up together” in agility. She is an unlikely agility dog, with very strong interests in the varmint department. But we have a fantastic teacher who helped me learn what Summer loves. We used those things in agility, and she came to love agility as well. She runs fast and happy, and reads me so well that it feels from my end like we have ESP.
As she gets older she is more and more of a dream to train, and just gets sweeter and sweeter.
Guests in the House
A few days ago my friend Charity brought over her Newfoundland puppy, Lizzy. This was their third visit. She and Lizzy have been visiting with me and Zani, who is friendly to people and dogs. I’ve been closing up Summer and Clara together in a room with loud music (so they won’t have to hear us having fun) and yummy Kongs.
Lizzy is still in her socialization period, so it’s extra important that she not have any bad experiences. This is why I kept Summer (not guaranteed to be dog-friendly) and Clara (guaranteed not to warm up right away to a new human) out of the picture so far.
Today I checked with Charity about bringing Summer out, but keeping a gate between her and Lizzy. She said sure. Summer knows Charity. So Summer was delighted to come out, and she visited with our mutual friend. Then she saw Lizzy (obviously, she had known a pup was in the house) and went straight to the baby gate. Lizzy was on the other side. Head-on meetings are not ideal for strange dogs. Both dogs sniffed each other and were a bit uptight. Summer was a little stiff, so I called her away. It took two calls the first time, but then she came right to me. Lizzy was still waiting at the gate so after I gave Summer a treat, gestured and said, “go see the pup.” She trotted over and they sniffed again, then I called her back. We did this about seven times. Summer was just so fantastically nice and responsive, and so happy to be part of the doings. Nice low, wide tail wags. She even gave Lizzy one of her odd, truncated play bows.
After that, I left Summer on her side of the gate with a Kong and went back in with the others. Summer was so happy to have her Kong and be in visual contact. She brought the Kong right to the gate once, and of course the pup was quite interested and came to the gate. Summer was again very nice (I didn’t catch any lip curl or other resource guarding) but I gestured that she take the Kong to a mat a little farther from the gate, which she did.
Later I let Summer come in and do a little training with me while Charity kept Lizzy occupied, and she did fantastic.
We didn’t let the two dogs try to play because 1) Lizzy is already getting big and might play too roughly; and 2) Summer has a history of dog aggression; and 3) Summer is almost 12. But I was amazed at how well it worked out without them actually playing. Just occupying the same area while interacting with their respective humans.
And Summer was quietly magical about figuring out what I needed her to do—and doing it.
My three dogs all have different geniuses. All three are game to try anything I ask of them, which is so cool I can’t believe it at times. But they have different fortes.
Clara has an incredible work ethic and always has. She is up for long training stints.
Zani is a problem solver and usually the quickest study. Plus she keeps me in my place by yelling at me when I don’t train well.
But Summer. Summer is this soft presence, this part of me that got lost and came back via a small town shelter.
This probably doesn’t seem like much of a story to people with friendly, non-reactive dogs. And indeed, it would have been great to provide my friend’s pup with another dog she could safely play with or at least hang out with.
We didn’t have that, but what I had was a dog who has not had an easy time in life who nonetheless kept her wits about her in a challenging situation and was beautifully responsive to me the whole time our guests were there.
I wrote this post because I felt like I don’t write enough about Summer’s quiet, solid presence in my life.
Summer started having health problems on July 21, 2017, and left this world on August 25, 2017, after being diagnosed with a very large hemangiosarcoma on her spleen.
Copyright 2017 Eileen Anderson