I hate summer. Well, let me amend that statement. Historically speaking, I have always hated summer, because I lived for 45 years in a hotter-than-hell Southern state. I desperately wanted to be outside, enjoying nature with my dogs and horses. That never became a reality because I melted in the high humidity. I also hated chiggers. And mosquitoes. And rattlesnakes. I especially hated to sweat and feel that salty drip, drip, drip from my forehead sliding down into my eyes.
Then I moved to a Rocky Mountain state. Now I can tell you exactly why and how much I love summer!
On a recent mid-July evening, I walked my five dogs (four of them hard-luck rescues) down to the barn to feed the two geldings and six donkeys, and I didn’t even sweat one time. When I take the dogs with me, we have to walk down the long, private road we share with three other homeowners. My dogs are all off-leash for our daily walks. We can run into literally everything on that road, from a speeding delivery truck to a protective momma mule deer and her fawns. My dogs must have a great recall, and so I taught them that. It gives them and extraordinary amount of freedom. Their recall is not always 100-percent perfect, of course — they are no more perfect than we humans are.
Once I spotted some mule deer below us in a field. I called my dogs to me and we walked past them in a tight heel formation. I went on up the long driveway to get the mail. On the way back, the stubborn and fearless deer were still in the same spot. Before I could ask for a heel, my huge Irish Wolfhound mix named Monster spotted them and off he went on a grand chase. I took off running in the other direction, calling all the dogs to me and away from the deer. They all chose to ignore the deer and ran with me … all except for Monster. He was momentarily deaf to me as the allure of deer scent won the day.
It can be a dangerous pursuit, indeed. A mother mule deer can take down a dog, even a large one, quite quickly with her sharp hooves. Last year in our mountain town, a buck jumped a fence and killed a service dog who had been let out only briefly to go the bathroom.
Monster learned the hard way that day not to chase deer, but not because of the deer themselves. I was watching him from a distance with my other dogs when I saw him tumble face forward in a rather brutal face-plant. He had smacked right into an old barbed wire fence covered by tall grass and it happened just as he was getting close to the back heels of the deer. He wobbled around stunned for a second or two and then remembered he could hear me calling him. He wasn’t hurt, other than perhaps his pride. To this day, he ignores deer. I think he associates them with barbed wire fences coming up to meet him and smacking him hard in his bearded Wolfie face.
Besides the daily wildlife encounters we experience, the dogs and I love our daily ritual of checking on the equines. The dogs all take the opportunity to take a dip in our large pond by the barn. Five soaking wet dogs do look funny, especially the new puppy because her coat is normally so fluffy when it’s dry. They get wet and come to share their watered-down coats with me with and shake off as close as possible, and I always laugh.
I live at 7,200 feet and the air is normally dry, without the hated humidity to weigh me down. I feed the horses and donkeys with five happy dogs running and playing all around me. I’ve taught them all to please not go into the areas where the donkeys and horses live and they all stay outside the wood fences they could easily walk under.
Even Trinket –- an intense, long-haired German Shepherd puppy and our newest edition — obeys this unspoken rule. I’ve seen far too many three-legged dogs on other ranches to allow my pack to chase my equines. It helps that I am a professional dog trainer, because I know how to fairly show my five canine assistants what is permissible on our ranch and what is not. What is not is often dangerous.
As the equines are happily munching on their feed, I need to work on our pasture irrigation. We actually have water here in the high desert, thanks to mountain snow in the winter and reservoirs made from that snow. Each evening I open or close various gates on the white water pipes that keep our fields a rich green. As I work, the five dogs romp and chase one another. Trinket, ever the whirling dervish, runs parallel to the water pipes, splashing in the water with a German Shepherd smile a mile wide on her dark, gorgeous muzzle. She has mud up to her elbows and she doesn’t care. I don’t either.
The other night, after a cooling monsoon rainstorm had cleared, I found myself lying on my back on a bench we have in front of the barn. I lazily watched the white clouds as they booked it across the cornflower-blue Colorado skies. I turned my attention back to my pack of wet dogs after a while. I saw four of them just in front of the barn, happily snacking on the hoof shavings left there from the farrier’s horse hoof trim that morning. Most every dog loves a good, fresh hoof-trim scrap. One dog, however, could not have cared less about the yummo hooves. Trinket the puppy was highly engrossed in chasing butterflies through the tall grass.
As I surveyed the pleasant scene in front of me, I felt enormous gratitude for being where I was and in the company I was with. I don’t need to share moments like that with another human -– my dogs, horses and donkeys and I are happy together as we are and are not lacking a thing. We all feel lighter and happier without humidity. As I called the pack to walk up the road with me towards the house, I marveled that the weather could still be cool in mid-July. I marveled that my five dogs all got up nearly as the same time I did, leaving their hoof chips and butterflies behind for another day. We walked as a unit to the house –- the dogs were damp and smelly from the pond, and my heart was full of love for the summer and all the sweetness it brings.
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