Dear Boomer,

            It’s been a sweltering summer -- the kind where you just want to dig a deeper hole under the back step, and lie in the shade with your fur against the cool earth.

            When Alpha and the Pup pack the van, I wait in the shade of the front doorway until they’re done. There’s no need to work up the heat by prancing around to attract their attention. I have more confidence now that they will take me with them to the cottage.

            Occasionally they mislead me.  They pack me into the back of the van, and I’m excited about a trip to the cottage, but then they don’t make the turn along the river and head east towards the lake.  They continue driving south, and in a short while my suspicions are confirmed when they drop me off at summer camp.[1]

            Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I mind spending a week or two with our friends.  I don’t mind the quarters – bunking out in the rows of pens.  I certainly don’t mind the air conditioning.  And it’s always a pleasure to see who will be at summer camp this time around, and to play with the others when they open our crates and let us run free.  The food is good.  The humanoids who run the camp are very agreeable. 

            But it’s just that, compared to the joy of going to the lake, and sniffing around for frogs, and chasing fish in the shallows, and having all manner of new humanoids to throw the ball out into the water, and swimming out into the cool lake to retrieve it, well, summer camp is just second best.

            I always know that my stint at summer camp is coming to the end because the humanoids give me a bath.  I don’t like baths normally.  Who does?  A bath removes much of the aromas we work so hard to acquire, and we take on a rather humanoid scent of soap.  But at summer camp, a bath also means that Alpha will come later that day to take me home.  I withstand the indignity of it all because I know that, in a few hours, I can begin to reacquire more dogly smells from Windsor Park.

            And sometimes there are unforeseen advantages of having that last bath at summer camp.  The humanoids remove my collar to bathe me, of course.  Usually Alpha makes sure that my fur is well dried before putting my collar back on.  Drying sometimes takes several hours – which means a degree of collar-less and leash-less freedom for the first walk to Windsor Park.

            But at the beginning of the summer, Alpha put my collar back on before my fur was fully dry.  What’s more, he made the collar a little tighter than normal.  I didn’t mind the discomfort at first.  But after a day or two, the combination of wet skin and tight collar began to create real problems.  Before I knew it, Alpha took off my collar and brought me in to see those people with the white coats who seem so nice until they start poking you in all kinds of places you don’t want to be poked.[2] 

            This time, it wasn’t a case of poking so much as shaving.  They shaved the fur from my neck and provided Alpha with all kinds of pills and sprays as minor torments for me in the short term.  But the long term benefits have been terrific!  Alpha seems to be waiting until my neck fur grows back in before getting me a new collar.  The result:  months of glorious freedom.  No collar.  No leash.

            All I must do in return in not abuse my new privileges.  I’ve paid special attention to his commands.  When he whistles, I come.  When it’s heel time, I heel.  And when he leaves me outside a Bank Street store, I wait patiently, trying my best to prove to him that, once the collar and leash are restored, he won’t have to revert to tying me up again. 

            Of course, there is that problem of my short attention span.  When there’s so many smells and other distractions on Bank Street, I sometimes forget that I’ve been instructed to lie down and stay.  But hopefully, before my fur grows back in, I can train Alpha to be less uptight about giving me a certain degree of latitude in the streets of our community.

                                                                                    Counting on my fur growing very slowly,


[1] Zoscha’s first reference to “summer camp” occurs in Part 5, August 2000.  Recent scholarship by Cindy MacLaren (unpublished Master’s thesis, Carleton University, 2011) concludes that the “camp” in question was the Gloucester Boarding Kennel on Ramsayville Road.

[2] MacLaren op. cit. has concluded that Zoscha’s medical care was received at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital on Bank Street.