I am NOT a summer person. The light is too bright and direct. The sun is too hot. During these long stretches of 90-degree days, I stay inside feeling sorry for the crunchy brown lawn and wilted flowers. One daily outing, however, cannot be avoided. Both dogs go bananas when it’s time for their walk. We climb into the car and drive to an unpopulated farm lane where they can frolic for fifteen or twenty minutes. One has a reflective light brown coat; she could stay out all day bouncing back whatever the sun throws at her. The other is a Lab mix whose black fur absorbs the heat. In minutes, he’s feverish and his hide is on the verge of spontaneous combustion. It takes him a few hours to recover from all that fun, but by the next afternoon, all is forgotten. He is raring to go again and simply won’t take no for an answer.
BLACK DOG WALKING
A touch of heat exhaustion on a walk is
a minor sacrifice in service of a major treat,
like scorching our thighs on the vinyl seats
of Mom’s Buick on trips for ice cream
At the farm lane, he bounds out of the car
dancing with and dodging the sweltering sun
flitting in and out of the cornfield, wallowing
in the creek, flopping under a shady pine
On the ride back, he claims the armrest,
slyly elbowing toward the dashboard until
his long tongue hangs an inch from the vent
panting and gulping the refrigerated blast
He slurps long and deep at his water bowl
as if he has discovered an oasis in the desert
He withholds the last mouthful in his jowls
and dribbles it across the cool ceramic tile
to his favorite spot, where he collapses
onto his side and remains for a long time
underfoot, motionless, barely breathing
a stiff-legged silhouette waiting for
the canine police to draw a chalk line
around him and question the witnesses
He blinks back to life, shaking off his coma
long enough to relocate to the couch
Tomorrow, if I say there will be no walk,
it is far too hot for a black dog to be out,
he will whine that I am overprotective.
Don’t I know he was only playing dead?
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