"Simon and Simone, let’s go for a walk." The magic word is "walk." When they hear it, their eyes and ears perk up and they are doing their dog dance. Every day around 5 or 6 o’clock, they can’t wait to hear "the" word. It’s kind of like when an elementary teacher says, "OK, time for recess." Kids go crazy.

It’s been a wild and crazy year by anyone’s stretch of the imagination. I think even dogs were affected by COVID-19. Dogs don’t like change and when there is dramatic change, they sense it. "John, why are you staying home so much?" "John, why don’t you take Kathy out more often?" "How come you are staying home on Sunday morning?"

Earlier in the spring after a hard frost, Simon did bring to the house a small frozen cabbage that was in our compost pile. He had fun chewing on that for a few days, which was reminiscent of chewing on a frozen pumpkin in days gone by.

Lake Julia is down about 2 feet and there is a large scum, sludge buildup along the shore. In summers past, with this much hot weather, Simon and Simone would take a swim every day. Not this year. They just lie around in the house where it is cooler and wait for the magic word.

I don’t take them in the long, tick-infested grass and weeds for a walk, I stick to our driveway, which is kind of long. Simon will go about three quarters of the way and look at me and say, "I think it’s time to turn around, John. It’s too hot." I will turn around and head back.

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Simon has some asthmatic issues and long walks in hot weather are not good. Simone, Simon’s daughter, takes the hot weather a little better. "Come on, John. Let’s keep going. Pop, you can go back home if you want."

Since my sister-in-law, Barb, is in a nursing home, we inherited her small dog, Sissy. Sissy is just as eager to go for a walk as are Simon and Simone. Long green grass must be something they miss from their diet because the first thing they do after running back and forth and jumping on me, thanking me for taking them for a walk, is to go along the side of the driveway munching on grass. They look like a small herd of grazing cows.

All three love to chase chipmunks. I think purposely the chipmunks play a game of tag with them. They seem to be pretty fearless. All three will gather around a pile of wood and wait to see some activity. Sissy seems to have the better nose. The first thing she does when she is let outside is to go and explore the chipmunk villages around the property. There is the firewood pile, the lumber pile, the gardens and the sheds.

They will, on occasion, catch one and kill it; I don’t think on purpose. They won’t eat it and can’t understand why it doesn’t get up and play more tag.

A highlight earlier in the summer was taking all three dogs to the spa to get their summer haircut, nails cut and get a nice grooming. Sissy looks like a different dog with all of that winter hair gone.

With his nails cut, Simon has a better time navigating on our slick, wood floors. His legs are becoming arthritic, kind of what happens in humans. We put some mats down so he can get a better grip with his claws. As he goes from one small carpet to another it looks like he is playing hopscotch.

The pontoon boat rides are on hold until I get my motor fixed. Simon and Simone both love boat rides. Sissy is the opposite. She stays on shore, wanders back to the house, stops to take a look back as if to say, "Don’t stay out too long."

What do the dogs do when it’s so hot outdoors? They get a little exercise indoors. It’s called following Kathy on her walker. To exercise her legs, which is important for any wheelchair bound person, Kathy walks with her walker while I and the dogs follow behind her pushing the wheelchair in case she decides to take a break. It’s kind of like a parade. They seem to be just as tired as Kathy is when she is finished. I probably should get some balloons and flags to jazz it up a bit.

Simone is the darling of the lot. She is kind, minds well, never gets in the way, always pleasant, doesn’t bark too much, takes the occasional abuse of Sissy who is jealous, and is what you would call, about as perfect a dog as one can find. I only wish she could get some swimming time in because she loves to swim. With the lake so yucky, I am afraid it will be awhile. Do you suppose I should buy her a wading pool?

Fourth of July was not a good day for the dogs. "Hey, John. Would you tell our neighbors to stop making those loud noises?" In spite of the fireworks ban, some people still felt obligated to shoot off some firecrackers—the louder the better. There is no love between dogs and fireworks. I am sure if dogs were in charge, they would be outlawed and any offenders would be penalized by going around town to clean up any dog messes.

Simon and Simone and Sissy’s summer adventures have been limited due to dry weather and a cruddy lakeshore. If you were to ask them how their summer was, they would say, "We’re bored." We are hoping for a very wet cooler fall when things get back to normal and Simon and Simone can take that last leap into the water before it freezes. We’re all hoping for rain.

"Hey, John. Do you think it will snow soon? When will the lake freeze? We want to go for a walk on the ice."

(This column is dedicated to a South Dakota reader who enjoys my Simon and Simone stories. Thanks for reading.)

Riddle: Why do dogs scratch themselves? (Answer: Because they are the only ones who know where it itches. Why do dogs love belly rubs? I have to ask Simon that question.)

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Thanks to the Bemidji Lions Club for doing the most recent PSA on KB101 and Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.