By Katie Marsico
Illustrations by Nevena Durlova
The scent of a barbecue wafting through the still evening air, the feeling of dewy grass along the edge of the picnic blanket, and the sight of fireflies lighting up the night sky are a mere sampling of the sensations that make summer such an anticipated time of year. Of course, another such sensory experience is the glorious sound of excited barking in a sun-drenched yard or curious meowing in response to the twitter of birds and the buzzing of insects. Pets appreciate summer as much as their guardians do, and sharing the season with them is absolutely the only way to get the most out of it.
There are many ways to go about doing this. One can opt for tried-and-true summer traditions, like a weekend picnic followed by tossing a Frisbee in the park or taking a hike through the woods. (It is worth mentioning, however, that preventative flea and tick medications are as pivotal an element to summer picnics as PB&J and a checkered blanket.)
Guardians who prefer more urban options for summer outings can turn to street festivals and annual Independence Day parades. After all, what better way to reward Fido than with a whiff of hot dogs, juicy watermelon, or the countless other snacks that pepper summer street fairs? Alternately, Fourth of July parades are an opportunity for pets to sport red, white, and blue bandanas and pant in awe at the talent of baton twirlers and the racket of marching bands. Sometimes parade attendees with tails get so caught up in the excitement that they sleep right through offending fireworks that occur later in the evening.
Naturally, one should look to other possibilities besides scheduled fests to … well, get natural. The noise of crashing waves and the crunch of sand are irresistible to humans and pooches alike. Surf’s up at the dog beach this summer, and the combination of water and sunshine is seventh heaven to many four-footed seaside visitors.
It goes without saying, though, that some folks—furry or otherwise—simply don’t care for the water. Mother Nature fortunately offers several other alternatives to landlubbers. Nothing piques a child’s curiosity (or a dog’s or cat’s for that matter) more than a turtle creeping through a wooded area or a butterfly perched on a budding flower. People can let both their progeny and pets take a peek, but it’s only proper etiquette not to grab or touch. Besides, who wants that ideal photo op ruined by the site of Fido pulling off a butterfly wing with his teeth?
There are far better summer foods to scarf down anyway. And, as the saying goes, there’s no place like home—or the backyard. Grilled brats, burgers, or veggie patties, followed by strawberries and ice cream, appeal to diners of various species. And c’mon … who’s to say that it’s bad form to toss that extra Polish sausage to one’s canine grilling partner during the course of a summer cookout?
Alas, seasonal backyard revelry doesn’t have to occur in the context of a mouthwatering barbecue. Reclining on the hammock with a good book and Fluffy at one’s feet (or under the hammock if your pet is a 150-pound Mastiff) is the ticket to relaxation on a lazy summer day. So is blowing bubbles while the kiddies, kitties, and their collared counterparts attempt to pop them midair.
It’s also worthwhile to note that the joys of summer shouldn’t be exclusive to humans, dogs, and cats. Many a reptile guardian knows the delight of watching a cherished pet box turtle stomp across the lawn once the weather is balmy enough for an outdoor adventure. Likewise, a long-haired guinea pig typically responds well to his fur blowing in the breeze if his hutch is moved outside for a few happy hours. Summer doesn’t discriminate when it comes to species—furry, scaled, and feathered can all benefit from a breath of fresh air every now and again.
And no matter what breed or species is soaking up the season, there is no question that companion animals enhance humans’ appreciation of all things summer. Sharing an ice-cream cone with a Cocker Spaniel or laughing at the family cat hunt for dragonflies transforms summer into more than a mere handful of pages on the calendar. These experiences are the basis of a warm, sunny celebration of the human-animal bond.