Wednesday 28 August 2013

Dog days of summer

It's been a long, mostly dry, warmer than usual summer here in southwestern British Columbia. For weeks, long stretches of lovely sunny days have been interspersed with the occasionally cloudy day and brief shower. As August draws to a close and we enter the last dog days of summer, the weather has begin to shift and oh-so subtle hints of fall are now in the air.

My old collie Riley has been enjoying many summer afternoons on the front lawn in the shade of my favourite tree: a honey locust that was planted by my mom nearly 30 years ago. Riley has become such a regular feature in the front yard that I've begun referring to her as my living lawn ornament.

Who are you calling an ornament? That deserves a cookie!

It's the perfect place for an old dog. It's breezy and cool. A great spot for napping...

...or for observing the goings on in the neighbourhood...

...or for doing more napping...

Throughout her life, Riley has always enjoyed spending time on her own outdoors most days, weather permitting. Now that she's a very senior dog, I think the front lawn is a better spot than our fenced and secluded back yard where I can't easily keep an eye on her. The locust tree where she likes to hang out is just outside my studio window so I'm able to watch over her, take her frequent snacks, refill her water bowl as needed, and chastise her if she gets too excited when the mail is delivered (for such a mellow dog with failing vision and hearing, there's something about the mail carrier that never fails to get her worked up).

The bird feeders are out there too, so the steady sound of squabbling chickadees and the occasional peeping nuthatch provides background music, interspersed with raucous squawks of visiting Steller's jays demanding peanuts and twittering flocks of tiny bush tits that swoop in for a snack a couple of times a day.

A red-breasted nuthatch at my bird feeder.

A coloured pencil portrait I created of my
neighbour's black lab some years ago.
Another nice thing is that Riley's neighbourhood dog friends sometimes stop to visit when they're out for their walks. There's the old black lab who's Riley's age and just about as lively (not). At one time Riley didn't much care for this dog but as they've both grown older Riley has warmed up to her.

Then there are the two spaniel boys who just moved in next door. They're a much more energetic pair who are adapting well to their new neighbourhood and have completely charmed Riley. No doubt they reminder her of her cocker spaniel friend Roxy.

Occasionally human passers-by stop to sit on the bench to pass the time of day with Riley. Our long-time nonagenarian neighbour (96 years young) often comes to visit. Riley was once good friends with his German shepherd who passed on a few years ago.

All in all, it's a pleasant way to spend summer afternoons if you're an old dog with a thick double-coat more suited to ancestral Scottish Highlands than BC's Lower Mainland. And I love seeing her there outside my window, sometimes observing her feet twitch as she dreams of the squirrels she used to chase with such enthusiasm, or of racing with her kin at a past collie meet-up.

Riley's the tricoloured collie bounding along near the back of the pack.

I introduced Riley to my blog readers just about a year ago in a post entitled The Ageing Princess. At that time I was noticing significant signs of age in my dear old dog. A year later she's still a happy girl but the physical deterioration has been steady. For the past six months I've had to carry her up the flight of stairs to the living area of my two-storey house several times each day (no easy feat, given her 50+ pounds). She can still mange to get down the stairs but only thanks to a harness that allows me to support her weight as I walk beside her. The harness also allows me to help her on other occasions when her old legs just don't work the way they should. We still go on very occasional, very slow strolls in Campbell Valley Park, and every day without fail we take a couple of meandering walks around our neighbourhood together. I know this is likely our last summer together and I'm treasuring every moment.

My coloured pencil portrait of Riley.
But for now, she really does make a lovely lawn ornament, doesn't she?



  1. I love that your nonagenarian neighbour comes to sit with her, two old friends together.
    Tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat at the thought that this might be her last summer. She is such a special, special princess. Stay well, Riley, and age easy.

  2. Beautiful story - beautiful dog. Enjoy your summer immensely.

  3. Please give Riley a hug from us - Heather and the Smooth Collies. Your description of her is very close to my heart as my older boy is 12.5 years old now - they are angels.

  4. "Beautifuls", the name that has always come to me when I think of Riley. And she is. Both inside and out.

    See you soon Riley.

    Your friend, Sharon

  5. Oh Riley ~ she truly is such a lovely lawn ornament! She is a regal her to bits and can't wait to see her again soon....