Despite the fact that winter has returned in full force, I’ve really been enjoying the weather, and the walking that comes with owning a dog. The ferocious storm we had on Wednesday might have cancelled our trick class, but without Gwynn, I wouldn’t have found myself out in the heart of the storm, and that would have been a shame. In heavy snow and howling winds, we walked along the spit of man-made land that protects a small harbour, frozen-over even now. The docks are empty and make ominous groaning noises as they shift and creak in the ice. Not that you can see them, with the thick snow filling the air. The waves crashing into the rocks on the outside edge of the spit were deafening and huge. Even 10 feet away from the water’s edge, we were still getting hit by the spray. When the waves got close to shore they swirled black and purple, picking up the dark silt and sand from the lake-bed.
With Don Quixote’s fervour, Gwynn attempted to battle the waves, running towards the lake with a great show of ferociousness. Luckily, he isn’t nearly as courageous as he’d like to be, and he ran equally quickly away from the lake every time a wave crashed to shore. The walk was not without some terrifying moments of me running desperately towards the spot on the rocks where I had last seen him, shrieking his name and knowing that the wind was whipping my voice away in the wrong direction. Knowing also that if he did get in the water, I’d never see him again. But there he’d be, entirely dry, on a rock just out of my line of sight (and nowhere near the scary pounding waves), grinning and sniffing at the frozen ground.
Canadian coral (a brilliant and descriptive term used by a determined man with a camera who was braving the weather with camera in hand) lay in frozen and glistening splendour along the shore. Grass and scrub perfectly outlined in clear ice, slowly built up by the spray and the wind. Did I have my camera through all this? Of course not! We attempted to bring some Canadian Coral home, but the arm-length branch was reduced to a bare stub by the time that Tall Sister and I had reached the safety of home and found the camera. I think, in her artistic mind, she was considering dragging me back out into the teeth of the storm, camera in hand, to capture it on film. However much I enjoyed my time out there, though, there wasn’t a chance in hell of me repeating that drive or that walk, when my legs were so numb that I couldn’t feel my seat when I got into the car at the end of the walk. Oh yes… we wimped out of the half-hour walk to get to the park, and settled on driving there and walking out to the spit and back as the full walk. It might have been less of a walk than usual, but I know we wouldn’t have made it out to the park if we’d tried walking all the way there. I’m now determined to bring my camera on every outing, because it is always the camera-less trips that have fantastic photographic opportunities.
With that in mind, I brought my camera this weekend, when Gwynn and I went back to this area, for a nice long walk. It was entirely different from the stormy night, with hardly any wind and a perfectly clear sky. The calm cold lake was so crystal clear that you could pick out the individual pebbles on the bottom. Everyone else had the same idea as me, but with better equipment – the real photographers were out in force, the enormous long lenses of their fantastically expensive cameras waving gently in time with their strides, and being carefully tuned as they took photos of distant ducks – photos so close up, you could count the feathers on their faces. My photos were less intense, but my subject was far more personal.
With a far less terrifying foe, Gwynn went forth into battle. He padded forward, predatory, following the bare trickle of water pulling away from shore. He danced back out of harm’s way as the water changed course and lapped back up the shore. He repeated this at various spots down the rough sand and pebble shoreline, as the water charged towards him and then retreated just as gently and abruptly. Apparently waves are not one of the things dogs instinctually understand. Then he fumbled – a hesitation that was enough to give the water an opening – before he knew it, he was wet up to his dewclaws. Skittering back a few feet from the water, he looked at me in absolute horror, as if to say, “How is this even possible?!”
With fierce determination, he ran back to the water. With lion-like courage, he smacked both front legs down, from toe to elbow, aiming for a death-blow. He smacked his forearms down where the water had been. Where it would have been, had the waves not been going out. He smacked his forearms down on the soggy sand and then danced back out of the way of the water’s immediate retaliation.
He tried this again, and again, skipping backwards less and less until he had all four feet in the water and was splashing about with gusto. The battle was begun. He spun, he clapped his paws down, he trotted and skipped and bit at the water. He lashed out with his hind legs, digging at the sand beneath the water and bounding up onto partly submerged rocks.
He didn’t get fully submerged, only soaking himself from the belly down. This made him look kind of like a furry muffin, and kind of like a very very fat dog with scrawny legs. The mighty warrior eventually grew bored of his foe, and pranced off to the grass to thoroughly shake himself off. Triumphant, he trotted home with me, his Sancho, head high and tail up and waving banner-like.