Summer of Patch

by Jo Quinlan from Duncan, BC

I found a HUGE wolf spider in my bathroom today. First it made me jump, Then it made me a little sad. When I have to start asserting my boundaries with spiders, I know that fall is on its way. And I feel summer's ending more poignantly this year because of several unexpected gifts. First, I have not had a holiday for a few years, but this year I had the whole two months of summer off. Second, although the good weather took a long time to arrive, it finally settled in – all sunny and tropical for a long steady stretch. But most importantly, I was able to share a lot of treasured time this summer with the last remaining dog from my pack.

My dog, Patch, is nearly 18 years old now and in the last year she started feeling those years. Arthritis was reducing her quality of life, and then, just before my holidays started, the vet told me Patch had Cushing's disease and likely had only a few weeks to live. I settled in to spend her last days doing things she liked. The heat was hard on her but she still loved to walk, so we began walking very early each day, before the sun rose too high. Amazingly, the weeks went on and Patch kept going. The Cushing's disease had caused her body to begin pumping out cortisol and this relieved the pain of her arthritis. Soon Patch was bouncing around like a puppy.

I knew we were on borrowed time – any day the changeable BC weather could break, or Patch could go downhill again, so each beautiful morning felt like a gift. But it went on - day after day- reminding me of summers from my childhood. The early mornings were clear, with that quiet, thin air that carries birdsongs so sweetly. As Patch’s endurance increased, our routes got longer. We traipsed past farms and over railway tracks. We rarely saw another person, though we did see rabbits and raccoons and plenty farm animals. My heart felt full as Patch padded purposefully along beside me, a soft companion with no concept of time or what time was going to bring.

I was acutely aware of all the small changes that marked the passing of this summer. Each one pulled at my heart. Although Patch felt better, I knew this was our last summer together, and I wanted, well I wanted time to stand still so I could hold the feeling forever. Crabapples and blackberries ripened, and provided snacks along the way, but they are nearly past now. Last week we had rain at night, and the following morning had lost the promise of another of those tropical days. The leaves have just started turning yellow and I have only three more days left of holidays. Patch is still eager to go out in the morning, although she now sleeps for most of the day afterwards. Time did not stand still for me and my heart aches. I don’t want to say goodbye to the last Summer of Patch. And yet, there's a bit of joy in the sadness: my little dog gave me a gift: a summer experienced entirely through the senses, lived moment by moment with a best friend at my side.