The “Old Dog” Days of Summer



I learned recently that the origin of the phrase “dog days of summer” was based on the rising of the star Sirius (the dog star), a time of year that the ancients associated with heat, thunderstorms and mad dogs. That got me to thinking about my Labrador Retrievers, Bette and Davis.

Now they weren’t mad dogs, but I was madly in love with them. How I miss their dog drool that was my constant summer fashion accessory. And, the way they’d run up to me and shake out their fur after a swim in the pool.

As puppies, they were more energetic than we, of course. But as dogs do, they
matured quickly and we became contemporaries, eventually sharing the
same inevitable signs of aging.

Take nature’s highlights, for example. As their faces grew white and their fur became speckled with “glitter,” people commented that they looked good
for their age. Since I no longer dye my white hair, I can only hope the same applies to me.

Bette suffered from arthritis. So, do I. Hers was persistent; mine, only occasional. Even though she limped, she remained in high spirits. I, on the other hand, have
a tendency to whine.

During our park outings, I
watched younger dogs chasing
balls, remarking to my pets,
Remember when you used to do
that?” I also saw younger people
jogging with ease, and said to
myself, “Remember when you used
to do that?”

Bette eventually needed
medications including one for
bladder leakage. I suppose taking
a pill was less humiliating than
wearing doggie Depends. As for
me, I simply try not to sneeze too

Davis developed a hearing loss, just like my husband did several years before. Therefore, repeating myself with increasing intensity became the norm. There was, however, a major difference between Davis and my husband. The dog didn’t
keep saying, “What?”

Walks in the park became shorter and slower due to their diminishing endurance, but I found the new, more leisurely pace quite compatible with my own preferred tempo.

There was a certain beauty in sharing our “golden” years with our aging pets, a mellowness that didn’t exist before. As the end grew near, I knew I’d agree to any reasonable treatment that afforded them quality of life, including laser
treatments for Bette’s arthritis.

But love them as I did, if there was to be a budget allocation for cosmetic surgery, that belonged to me.

Epilogue: Bette died at 15; Davis, at 16. We now have Sam, a 3-year old
Russell Terrier. The budget for cosmetic surgery remains unused.

Susan Goldfein holds a doctorate in Communication Disorders from Teachers
College, Columbia University, and enjoyed a successful career as a clinician,
teacher, and consultant. For more essays filled with wit, wisdom and irony,
visit Susan’s blog, Her book, How Old Am I in Dog
Years? may be purchased on and


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