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Sarah’s Simple Pleasures: Dog Days of Summer

We are officially in the Dog Days of Summer, and I would venture to say that this might go down in history as the doggone doggiest summer of humankind. For once, that’s no exaggeration. And while you may be reading this nodding, crying, shaking your head, or catatonic with disbelief that we are still in a coronavirus pandemic, I must warn you that I do not use the term ‘dog’ in a negative context. Quite the opposite. I am here to honor the sometimes vexing (excessive barking at mailperson), often distracted (squirrels, birds, butterflies, dandelion tufts in the breeze), but always devoted (furry cuddles for hours) humble hound.

How fitting for the Greeks to call the brightest star Sirius— the Dog Star. Its annual path across the night sky in pursuit of Orion is so named the Dog Days of Summer. There’s something eternally uplifting about this ancient history in light of our volatile modern one. The promise that a bright, faithful friend will follow us is a comfort.

If this is the first time we’ve met here, you should know that I have such a friend. His name is Gilbert, a.k.a. Gilly. He’s nine pounds of inexhaustible love and ferocious fluff. Many of you have your own dog star beside you at this very minute. Little bodies with colossal souls. I know for a fact that I could not have journeyed through 2020 without him following at my heels.

Immune to COVID, Gilly daily reminds me that we, humans, are not the masters of the universe that we often think ourselves. Our meticulously devised civilization is entirely undone by the invisible—a virus. It reminds me of that scene in Disney’s The Sword in the Stone when Madam Mim contracts measles during the Wizards’ Duel. I can’t even leave the house without a mask, hand sanitizer, and a six-foot bubble. Meanwhile, my dog is licking dirty shoes and bringing home dead bugs without so much as a sniffle. In fact, I haven’t seen Gilly happier. Suddenly, his family is going for long walks, playing in the garden for hours, snuggling on the couch at night, baking treats, and grilling on the back porch. It’s positively his Shangri-La.

I’m not surprised that pet adoption has skyrocketed. It’s part of our human DNA—that yearning to reconnect to our primal roots. Nature reassures us that the world will thrive. Plants and animals, the land and seas, seasons, and planets will keep doing what they do even if our city streets are empty, and we can’t go to football games.

So, when a lifelong friend texted me that she was getting a puppy, I was ecstatic. She sent photos of my nieces, her daughters, tearfully cradling their furry bundle. A boy pup in a family of all girls. He’s going to be doted on and adored every minute. And for the first time in six months, my nieces don’t look afraid. They look hopeful and blissfully happy. Their new family member follows them home next week. I can’t wait to celebrate his arrival. Summer of 2020 will be remembered as the year his bright star appeared in their lives, outshining everything else. That’s the power of these Dog Days.

Shoutout to the little creatures with big souls keeping us company during these times—what’s the name of yours?

About Sarah McCoy [1]

SARAH McCOY is the New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children [2]; The Baker’s Daughter [3], a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central [4]; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico [5]. Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post [6] and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an orthopedic sports doctor, and their dog, Gilly, in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with Sarah on Twitter [7] at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page [8], Goodreads [9], or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com [10].