One of the things I worried most about, when getting a dog in the fall was the fact that, in very short order, I would be trudging through slush and sleet and freezing rain. I might live in Canada, but the city I live in doesn’t get much snow. The area I live in, right near a great lake, gets even less snow – warmer in the winter and colder in the summer than the rest of the city due to lake effects. So, in my picturing winter, I had in my mind, memories of last winter – nearly constant wind, icy rain and hail that cut your cheeks, and general misery that sent everyone huddled into their collars, leaning into the wind as they rushed to get inside again. The times I did see people out with their dogs, it was hard to choose which was the more pathetic of the pair – the people bundled up in winter gear, turtling their heads further into the collar of their coats, or the dogs shivering and shifting their feet as the awful freezing rain pelted at their faces and soaked into their fur. I would definitely say ‘the people’ now, since, from what I can tell, my dog really doesn’t care what kind of weather it is, or how cold he’ll get while outside, he still wants to go out. Luckily for me, he isn’t a huge fan of rain (I think it’s because it takes him so long to dry out afterwards), so our walks in my least favourite weather (cold and windy and rainy) are shorter.
The brief moments I thought about how snow would make my walk didn’t bring all that much concern – as I said, we don’t get much here. I figured, it’ll be less awful than rain or sleet or extreme cold, but more awful than the usual pre-dawn walk with none of those complaints. Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve woken up to thick fluffy snow in the morning since Dog and I began taking daily morning treks through our neighbourhood together. But this time, I was expecting so much worse. All the previous day, there were severe weather warnings – people in my office making plans to work from home tomorrow to avoid the terrible driving conditions, people predicting over 30 cm of snow by morning. That didn’t sound like a huge amount, to me, but I figured this kind of fuss must be for a purpose. This morning, my clock-radio burst to life at its usual godforsaken hour just in time for me to be plunked down into the middle of the weather report – high winds, hail, lightning and thunder… I leapt into action to switch off the radio – no need to hear how awful it is outside, it might shake my determination to go out there – as I rummaged on the floor for the sweatpants I had on yesterday, and groped across the bed for the wool sweater I knew was there somewhere. At the moment, my room is rather like a minefield, so I minced and stumbled my way out of my room in the dark, and, without my glasses, glanced up at the skylight – can’t see anything through there, wow it must be awful. Glanced out the bathroom window – grey and opaque, can’t see anything out, wow it must be awful. Finished the necessary ablutions before heading downstairs to free Dog from his crate (and the Cone of Shame… poor guy is out of the ball-game now), finally take a moment to look out the back door with glasses on – not so bad… not even snowing. There’s snow on the ground for sure, but where is the Snowmageddon? snowpocalypse? snowmygod?… snowlycow? snowgasbord? Not even a snowgasbord? I’ll admit it, that one was not very good or creative… and not very clear either… smorgasbord (Scandinavian meal served buffet-style with multiple dishes of various foods on a table, so says Wikipedia). The news outlets and weather network couldn’t possibly be so mistaken, I think, pulling on snowpants (over my sweatpants, which are over my pj pants), and failing to find a balaclava. I pull on a neck-tube, wrap a heavy scarf around that for additional protection, and put on a hat and a headband. The schoolboards in the entire area are closed, and my father, the man who has had fewer sick days in his entire working career than I had in one year of elementary school, is staying home.
I wrestle the booties onto the long-suffering Dog, and stuff my own feet into my heavy duty winter boots. It must be extremely cold out there to warrant the snowmageddon predictions – the road in to work will be so terrible, but that probably won’t be a problem, since it is doubtful that I will survive the gale-force winds that must be blowing just outside my door. Hopefully I tightened the dog booties enough – once out of my yard, I bet there are white-out conditions that will prevent me from even being able to see the ground, let alone find a lost bootie! I will be strong, though, and fight through this – the dog must be walked.
Silly me, I forgot to multiply Snowpocalypse by the over-reaction coefficient (.5), and the GTA-crazy coefficient (.1)… the snowpocalypse is more like an extrava-snow-za – just enough snow to make walking a bit tougher, not enough that you need to shovel the driveway before leaving for work. By the time I reach the end of our street, I am roasting from my over-dressed-ness. Dog is bounding around like a jackrabbit, shoving his head into every snow bank we pass until his beard is white and snowy as Santa Clause’s, crispy as Jack Frost’s. One street is ploughed, but the salting trucks haven’t been out yet – clearly Dog didn’t need the boots to protect his feet from salt – there isn’t any. And the cold? Not that cold! Especially for a dog wearing a half-foot of fur.
I’m disappointed by the lack of extreme weather, but at the same time, it feels like my entire morning has been vastly improved – the traffic will still be horrible, because driving conditions don’t get multiplied by either reduction coefficients, and do get multiplied by the ‘Creative Drivers of Canada who have no memory of how to drive in the snow’ coefficient of 2.75 – but the snow is fluffy, the streets are quiet, and everything is magical and white and sparkly. The snow reflects every slight bit of light, so that it seems more like proper morning, rather than the barely past dawn that I know it is. I passed people shovelling both sides of a shared driveway, when usually the dividing line between the properties is razor-exact. I help someone set his neighbour’s recycling bins back upright (clearly there were, at one point in the night, strong enough winds to knock over 5 foot tall full bins), and the few people I pass are all in such a good mood that it’s contagious. It’s like the snow mutes all the trouble and stress of the day ahead. Streets that I walk down on a regular basis are pristine – not a tread mark, not a footprint, not a discarded coffee cup, no signs of life. How could I resist letting Dog off leash as I wander down the center of a pristine street? It is hard to think of the cold or the busy schedule for the day when you have a fluffy spring-loaded dog pranci
ng around you in a full-out snow-frolic of joy. He looks like Snoopy doing the happy-dance. Most winters, by the time February rolls around, all I want is the quickest route to spring, but there is no better way to remember the upside of winter than walking through a winter wonderland.