To Summer on Her Fifth Birthday

I’d long heard about the bond between dogs and humans, but having never had a dog of my own, I could’ve never imagined, much less know, the inexplicably deep connection I would be able to establish with a four-legged fluff ball. Growing up, my family was confined to small apartments in which a pet – despite how deeply we desired one – did not comfortably fit our plans. My mom, always the animal lover, could simply not bring herself to do it without a yard, no matter how badly my brother and I begged and begged.

I dreamt of having a golden retriever from the time I was around 8 or 9 years old. And yes, I was that specific. You see, as some of you already know, I learned my first colloquial English phrases (and pretty much everything I deemed culturally “American”) on Full House, and viewed the Tanners as the quintessential all-American family (everything mine wasn’t). Early on, I determined that my first step into assimilation would have to be a golden retriever like Comet. It took a while and lots of Americanizing, but at 29, Summer spunkily marched into our newly purchased first house and made it a home. My life and my heart have never quite been the same.

Summer came into my life during the hardest season. I was grieving and heartbroken, my optimism and fun-loving nature placated by a difficult loss. Through every tear, restless night, lost days spent sitting on the couch, anxiety attacks and difficult phone calls, she was there – wedged beside me, sleeping on my head, licking my face, walking right next to me.

We have done an immeasurable amount of walking in the past five years, this golden girl and me – and with every mile, we have gotten closer. She has made me better. I never understood it, this seemingly inherent human thing for dogs, not until I had one of my own – incessantly loving on me, needing me, missing me, making me feel like I’m the most exciting person in the room and the comfiest spot in the house.

Over the past five years, Summer has introduced me to countless strangers, forced me to laugh (even when I didn’t feel like it), covered me in sand (and in water), woken me up in time to see sunrises I would’ve otherwise missed, made me notice birds and squirrels and subtly moving leaves, introduced me to PetMD (she regrets it), and taken me down streets and trails I might’ve never explored on my own.

How she went from 5.6 lbs. to a nearly 70-lb. lap dog, I do not know, but I cannot imagine the past five years without her. I am so grateful for what she has given me, for how much she has enriched my life, for that sincere love she gives me, every single day, no questions asked, no treats necessary.

Even after five years, I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand the depth of this human-dog connection, but I’m so thankful to be experiencing it with Summer. I truly believe she was my dog long before I owned her, and I love her more purely than I ever deemed possible (or necessary, admittedly). My wish on her birthday is that we get countless more miles in together, that she cover me in sand and water and licks and love for many (many!) more years to come, and that she know how deeply she is loved and treasured, always.

Happy fifth birthday to my number one pup!

And as if you, reader, needed more evidence of my crazy-dog-momma ways, I leave you with these shots from Summer’s pawrty at Cosmo’s (which has become tradition around here). Enjoy!