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Kathy Tun

The dog days of summer

I’m sitting here with my dog, Harley, on our front steps and I tell him, “Tomorrow is gonna be big.” He looks up at me not even understanding a word, and he grins. He and I both know that there is nothing but time ahead of us, and we just have to figure out what we’re going do this summer.

Harley, my black Labrador, is one of the greatest friends I have here in the Illinois Valley. For the past six years I’ve been taking him out on walks, feeding him apples and having conversations about the meaning of life on our front porch with him. He knows I like to worry a lot, so occasionally on a whim, he’ll pull me toward a tree or a patch of flowers. I try to stop him and say, “No, we’re sitting here. Stay.” But he isn’t very convinced. I think it’s his way of telling me to stop sitting around on my butt waiting for something to happen. To Harley, no amount of treats is worth sitting still in the same spot all the time.

Once in a while I try to coax him toward the house, but instead he’ll run after one more rabbit that’s too fast for him to catch, or he’ll roll around in the grass for just a little bit longer. He knows when my patience runs out because eventually he’ll look back at me with that big grin of his as if to say, “Isn’t this fun?” It’s hard to scold him when he looks so happy being free and playful.

The other day he jumped around in the yard when he saw the birds flying from tree to tree. I was talking to him about this terrible day I had when he suddenly had this urge to join the birds instead. I don’t know how Harley does it. Whenever adventure is right there in front of him, he chases after it without a second thought. He doesn’t even care that he may never be a bird.

When I’m with Harley I start to enjoy making these spur-of-the moment decisions. It’s been great. When he decides to take an impromptu nap in the sun, I don’t try to argue against relaxing. And if I decide to take a new path around the house, he’s up for smelling the new flowers and trees. My pal, Harley, has taught me how to make the most out of my life. I mean, nowadays I don’t even mind when the neighbors see me peeing on a mailbox.

(Just kidding — I only do that when the neighbors aren’t watching.)

Harley — my tongue wagging, tail-flying spontaneous wonder dog — is my hero this summer. He is teaching me how easy it is to treat every day like an adventure. He simplifies his life by happily exploring what interests him while inspiring the rest of us, with that joyful look on his face, to join him. When I tell him that tomorrow is going to be big, I know he won’t understand the words I say. But I do know he will be more than happy to seize the day alongside me because he lives his whole life believing the best is yet to be discovered.

Kathy Tun of Spring Valley is a junior at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington.