Michael Baugh, CPDT-KA, CDBC

Stella’s never played in the crisp dry leaves of Fall, never played in the season’s first snow.  She’s a Texas Dog from start to stop.  She’s equal part pant-in-the-sun and roll-in-the-mud.  This is her first full Summer with us, and it’s drawing to a close.

This time of year has always been about things ending, and new things beginning.  The lazy days get shorter.  School starts up again.  Dogs who used to romp with the kids now lounge at our feet.  Some things start; others stop.  It’s the natural way, transition.  Even if we miss the crisp leaves and the fresh snow, things change.

Last year at this time, we were saying goodbye to Juno.  We knew she was leaving us, but we didn’t know when.  We knew another dog would follow; but we didn’t know Stella.  Turns out she was out on her own, just a puppy, barely old enough to fend for herself.  She had a hurt foot (there’s still a scar) and a virus hiding in her blood (distemper).  She was a broken dog, on her way to mend our broken hearts.  Starts and stops.

There are songs and movies and poems and books, all about Summer and its end.  It is reflection and hope, sentimentality.  It is the romance gone and the work ahead.  It is the darkness that comes before the day is really done.  It is the fire we light at night, even if it isn’t really cold enough.  It’s that dog by our side, beautiful in the warm glow, the one we didn’t expect to have this year even though we love her just the same.

Photo Courtesy Robyn Arouty Photography

Things change.  Summer starts and stops.  Cool winds will blow from the panhandle towards the Gulf.  Our Texas Dogs, good and strong, see us through, into the winter and past it.  It’s the natural way of things, creatures steady and wise, bound to us for generations.    Last year it was Juno.  This year it’s Stella.  I love them the same.

Stella’s head seems to bob in time with a country song playing in the distance.  It’s what’s left from the distemper (neither of us cares for country music).  She’s been out in the September Sun, rolling in the mud.  Juno was golden, thick coated, built for crisp leaves and snow.  Stella is lean and long, thinly furred, giant-tongued for panting.  She’s a leggy blond, built for Summer.  Her first has passed.   Stop.

And start.

(originally published in Texas Cats & Dogs Magazine September 2010)