It has taken me a long time to get around to writing this! We adopted Summer through Dalmatian Welfare 10 years ago (2009). We wanted another dally to be a companion for our lovely boy Marley and thought it would be good to adopt rather than get another puppy.
Because of circumstances it was arranged for us to meet Summer’s previous owners at a car park half way between their place and ours to do the handover. This was our first chance to get a look at Summer and what a pretty little girl she was! More heavily spotted than our boy Marley, about a third smaller than him and she had one blue eye that made her look very special. I felt a bit sad for her, being handed to strangers in a car park but she hopped into the back of our car and was quiet all the way home. When we got home we immediately took both her and Marley for a walk, so that they could get used to each other on neutral territory. Marley was fine and accepted her straight away. However, Summer was a bit nervous and didn’t like Marley invading her personal space. If he came too close she would growl and lash out at him and he quickly learned what she would allow and how close he could come. After a few days we noticed a rash on her side (Dally rash) that stained her white coat with a sort of beige/pink colour. We realised this was caused by the stress of the move and, although the rash cleared up quite quickly, the staining stayed until the autumn when she shed her coat.
After a short time she got used to Marley and decided he was safe and no threat to her and I would often find them snuggled up together on the same bed or playing gently with each other in the front room.
In the first couple of weeks we kept Summer on the lead when out on a walk but after that we let her off to run and play with Marley. Summer was clearly deaf in one ear, we thought probably the same side as her blue eye. This wasn’t really a problem; it just meant that sometimes she couldn’t work out what direction a sound was coming from. One day I lost her in the woods and when I retraced my steps to find her I could see her through the trees so I called her and instead of coming straight to me, she ran backwards and forwards trying to work out where the sound of my voice was coming from. However, she would normally just follow Marley and so she would always come when I called them.
Summer didn’t appear to have had much in the way of training before she came to us. She would sit for a treat, but didn’t understand “stay” or “wait”. However, she quickly learned these commands and more from Marley and I was very proud of them both when out on a walk and I could get them both to “sit stay” on one side of a little bridge while I crossed the bridge to go to the dog poo bin that was the other side. I would then return to them and neither of them would have moved an inch. Other dog owners would compliment me on what well behaved dogs I had, which was very nice. Marley and Summer both knew I had treats in my pocket that were coming their way if they did as they were told, but I didn’t tell the other dog owners that!
In the early years we used to take both dogs for two walks every day, but as they got a bit older they seemed less enthusiastic about the second, evening walk, preferring to stay in front of the fire, so we stopped the second walk, but they always had a proper, long walk every morning.
When Summer was ten years old she had some sort of a fit and we took her to the vet who said he thought it was probably caused by vascular degeneration and that not enough blood and oxygen was getting to her brain. He prescribed a drug called Vivitonin. That seemed to do the trick and she didn’t have any more episodes and has remained well ever since.
Two and half years ago we moved to north Devon and now live within a mile of the beach. Summer loves the beach and would run around on the sand and splash in the shallows like she was a puppy. Marley on the other hand, thought the beach was a giant picnic and would spend all his time munching on seaweed.
At Easter this year (2019), sadly, our lovely boy Marley had to be put to sleep at thirteen years of age. Summer seemed sad and spent time looking for him around the house. My husband noticed she even looked behind our bedroom door. It was so sad and I wished we could explain to her what had happened, but unfortunately we don’t speak dog. When I took her for a walk after Marley was gone she seemed reluctant to go and kept looking back towards the house, as if she was waiting for him to join us. However, lately she seems to have perked up a bit and now seems to have come to terms with the fact that Marley is no longer here.
Summer has always been quite independent and aloof. We have described her as being like a cat in that respect; however, in recent months she has become much more bonded with us and wants to be with us all the time and particularly with my husband. She has taken to sleeping in our bedroom at night so we got her another comfy bed for in there. She frets if my husband goes out and she won’t settle down until he comes home and when he does come home she gives him the biggest welcome!
Summer now appears to be deaf in both ears. She always hated fireworks but last year she was completely oblivious to them and slept happily in the lounge whilst outside it sounded like a war zone. Every cloud has a silver lining I suppose! Her eyesight appears to be failing a bit too and if I am too far away and she is off lead, she panics because she doesn’t know where I am.
Now Summer is almost fourteen years old and she doesn’t want to walk very far. I no longer let her off the lead because she doesn’t want to run around and anyway, she can’t hear me if I call her. She just wants to dawdle along and spends ages sniffing things which I guess is the doggy version of checking Twitter. These days I let her take me for a walk and I just follow along wherever she wants to go. The only time I take charge on a walk is when we cross the road. She has normally had enough after 10 or 20 minutes and turns back towards home. I always listen to her and she lets me know when she wants to go home. Sometimes I can persuade her to stay out a little longer but mostly she knows when she has had enough and I think, at her age, she is entitled to have her own way. She also doesn’t like to walk up hills anymore. She is the equivalent of 96 now so I think that is understandable! She has a few lumps and bumps; the vet says they are probably just fatty lumps and not anything to worry about. She still has good mobility in her shoulders and hips, but has a little arthritis in her toe joints and also a bit of pain in her lower back and we give her medication when this flares up. She looks a bit stiff when she first gets up in the morning, but I think she is mostly content and happy. These days we soak her dry biscuits because her teeth are not too good, but she enjoys her food particularly as we mix it with a little tinned dog food with gravy, which she loves. She is also a bit spoilt now and is in the habit of hanging around the table when we are eating, just in case something tasty comes her way, which it normally does. She has never been overweight so I think a few treats now and again won’t do her any harm.
We know that Summer came from a family that loved and cared about her and it was just circumstances that lead to them having to give her up for adoption. Over the years I have often wondered if they ever think about her or wonder what sort of a life she has had which prompted me to write about her. We are aware that Summer is approaching the end of her life now and we do our best to make sure she is happy, comfortable and loved