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Memories of Sommer and Mona, by Don Ernst

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to have a dog. When I started working from home I felt lonely and needed a companion. Sommer, our first dog, was a shepherd mix with a beautiful orange coat with a white streak around her chest. She was a stray in a kill shelter, still in the puppy stage, with lots of energy and very smart. She loved playing with toys and laying in a small pool in the backyard.

My job took a lot of time and Sommer needed a playmate to help burn off her energy. Mona, our second dog, came from my stepson who didn’t have a fenced yard so she had to be crated while he worked. We thought Mona and Sommer would make great playmates. Mona was a big friendly hound dog who shed a lot – her mother being Great Pyrenees and her father a Blue Coon.

Sommer was the boss, despite being half Mona’s size. She ran circles around Mona to get her to play, even running under her to get her attention.

In the beginning, Mona wasn’t friendly towards me and wouldn’t listen. Sommer’s herding instincts helped me manage Mona – she taught her what was and wasn’t acceptable.

Initially, both girls attended doggie day care. I was told Sommer didn’t like certain dogs and eventually she wasn’t welcome. However, Mona was always welcome and a friend to all, though her size and bark could be intimidating.

The girls got older and settled into a routine. Mona continued daycare a few times a week. Sommer stayed home by my side and I would walk her and play with her in the yard.

When my wife and I retired, both dogs were happy having more time with us. This was the best time, but it didn’t last long. Sommer developed lumps that quickly grew bigger and we had to euthanize her in early 2022. She was 10 1/2 years old.

We all felt Sommer’s passing, especially Mona. She took over Sommer’s duties – greeting and smelling visitors and barking at anyone walking past the house. But Mona didn’t chase squirrels like Sommer did, so they took over the backyard.

We honored Sommer’s memory last summer at a gathering of family and friends. Mona helped us heal from losing Sommer. However, this was brief as Mona also got lymphoma. We had to euthanize Mona in April 2023. She was just over 10 years old.

Both our girls having lymphoma that spread quickly was shocking. I’m hoping they didn’t suffer much. We gave them prednisone to feel better instead of chemo, which we were told would extend their lives only a few months and could have traumatic side effects.

Both girls were cremated and we have their ashes in wooden boxes next to each other. I hope and pray they’ve found each other in heaven and that someday we can join them.

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