Naming Summer

We were driving south to North Milford to make the down payment on a golden retriever puppy who will be born July 23-ish. The house has felt empty since Willow left us in March, and Dejah, who was little sister for seven and a half years and an only child for the last three months, has shown signs of needing a companion of her own species, or perhaps of missing Will as much as we do.

As we journeyed we bantered names back and forth to try them out for size. We pre-picked names for Willow and Dejah, and it has worked out. I still get chills remembering when I picked up the tiny bundle of fur and asked, “Are you Willow?” and she settled against my chest comfortably, forging a lifetime bond.

We were hoping to come up with a name that might be an homage to the late and wonderful Willow — maybe one that starts with a W like Windy or Winifred or Wanda or have a warm sound with a double-consonant in the middle like Winnie or Hollie or Cassie.

We went through other characters from Buffy the Vampire Salyer (where Willow came from) or other TV shows like Firefly. Inara was a contender; Buffy herself had an outside shot. We tried state names and country names (After all, Henry Jones Jr.’s dog was Indiana), so Colorado and Arizona and Georgia and Albania were tested and rejected. Red looked up the names of elves and trolls and humans and other beings from Lord of the Rings, but nothing struck our fancy. (I think Fancy may have been one of the suggestions.) We easily considered more than 100 possibilities.

And then one of us suggested Summer.

I don’t know why, but as the name rolled around my brain, I saw a little golden retriever puppy running through the grass as Willow had that first day. She loved that field. I could sense a beautiful golden retriever standing in the sun and answering when we called her: Summer. I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, and I choked out, “I don’t know why, but Summer has passed the break-up-Warren test.”

Red didn’t say anything for a few moments as the highway raced by. Then she smiled and, in a voice brimming with as much emotion as mine — because she had also was talking through a lump in her throat, as it happens — she said, “Me, too,” and we both laughed and cried.

And so, assuming all goes well, little Summer will join us in mid-September. And thanks to Windsor, a big gregarious fellow who seems to love people as much as people love him, and Lady, a regal girl almost as beautiful as Willow herself, Dejah will discover what it’s like to be a big sister.

I will miss Willow forever, and Summer will never replace the hole left by The Best Dog There Was. But Summer can certainly dig her own place in my heart, and I’m starting to look forward to that.

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