Western New York is in full bloom these days, the warm summer weather offering many outdoor, fun-filled choices for folks to really shake off the horrible winter which held us hostage for what seems like forever.
Just a few weeks ago, it seems, we were bundled head to toe and huddled by the fireplace to fight off the cold of the polar vortex that gripped the region, nearly freezing the waters of the mighty falls.
But alas, summer is here and all is well, at least for the moment. There are concerts in Lewiston and at Canalside in downtown Buffalo. And of course there is music and excitement from time to time in downtown Niagara Falls not far from the magnificent world wonder that still attracts millions of visitors every year.
There are amusement parks for families, from Fantasy Island to Darien Lake where Nik Wallenda is performing this summer. Boaters are cruising local waters, soaking up the sun, and looking for a nice place to dock and have a first class meal, perhaps at the famous Wilson Boat House. And Lackawanna's beautiful Botanical Gardens, the tri-domed glass conservatory designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, is there for your enjoyment.
There is life and energy all around as folks try to cram in all they can during the blessed summer months before fall arrives all too quickly and reminds us of the dreaded winter looming on the horizon.
But for now, before the football talk fills the air and the Hamburg Fair signals the summer is coming to a close, it is a time for Western New Yorkers to get all they can from the glorious summer days and cook up some memories to tide them over when the winter days inevitably come around.
There was a time not long ago when summer meant golf, but as I move into the autumn of my years the bug seems to have gone away and rather than try and recapture the old days I look for other ways to escape, including walks with my dog, Buddy, a furry Siberian Husky and a dear companion for many years.
I walked him around Buffalo's Allen-Elmwood neighborhood for years, making many friends during those excursions, two-legged and four-legged, and now you can probably catch me walking along Walck Rd. in North Tonawanda, alongside the golf course where I once completed, admiring the golfers from a distance and picking up after my dear, faithful companion.
Dog owners who read this understand what I mean when I say that dogs truly are man's best friend. No matter what goes on in your life, your dog is there for you, unconditionally, just waiting to spend quality time with you and share a meal. It doesn't matter how you are feeling, you can't help but feel a little better when your dog greets you at the door with a wag of his tale and a leg brush.
For all of you who read this and don't own a dog, I urge you to try it. There are many of them in shelters across the area looking for a companion to share their life with. They don't all look like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin, the German Sheperd World War I dog who became a film star of the 1920s. But no matter how they look, most of them will be your friend for life and look out for you when they can.
I don't think I started out this column with the idea of suggesting you add a dog to your family, but that's where I'm winding up because as I write this, my dog is sitting by my side, waiting for me to finish and pay some attention to him, reminding me that no matter what I am doing or feeling, he is there.
I would like all of you out there who might be reading this to consider rescuing a dog from a shelter and bringing him/her into your family. I've had the pleasure of sharing my life with wonderful family members and many friends, some of whom have left for good, including the four-legged kind, dogs and cats, and I can safely say that I will never forget any of them.
Are you listening to my heart, Buddy? This column is because of you, because of the joy you have given to me and my hope that somebody out there who reads this column will take a trip to a shelter and make room in their hearts for a homeless dog that needs a chance to make someone as happy as you've made me.
Here's to you, Buddy, and may you always be with me.