Dogs are right about winter

This morning I had that magical experience of taking my dog outside after the first snowfall last night.

I remember my home room teacher (sorry can’t recall his name) chewed me out in grade 7 when I blurted out “it’s SNOWING.” Yes I disrupted his lecture with my the heartfelt explosion of joyful wonderment. I was all of 12 years old.

When it snows I’m 12 again. Every year I feel the same. Yet I’m a beginner compared to a canine.

This morning I took Sam outside, as we explored the first blanket of white. I let Sam off the leash (we start on the leash as a disciplinary thing, but also as a safety thing). She isn’t as agile as she was when I got this gif of her spinning in place in the snow, back in February.

It reminds me of the “spinerama” move of Montreal Canadien defenseman Serge Savard, the pirouette that got its nickname from Danny Gallivan back in the 1970s.

This morning she seemed to be teasing me, spreading her front legs to get her head a bit lower, before dashing away from me. She seemed to be goading me into chasing her.

Which I did.

So there we were, as frisky as two 12 year olds. Sam is in fact 15, but a fifteen year old dog is not as agile as a human teenager. Ah but she still outruns me, cantering today rather than galloping, fast enough to leave me in her wake.

Let me elaborate on my minority position that winter is actually the best season, using Sam as my main witness for the defense.

Snow is perhaps the first thing to talk about. It’s not winter in late November, yet here we are contemplating the white stuff on the ground. I find snow beautiful in every sense even if snowfalls may be inconvenient, snarling the traffic, necessitating cleanups and purchases of snow-melting products.

I like the exercise I get shoveling. I prefer smaller shovels full to big ones, for the simple reason it’s easier on the body. It’s easier to lift ten 5 pound weights than two 25 pound ones. What’s the hurry? I enjoy the stretching sensations, the movement of the body. Yes we need to be careful, mindful, just as we must re-think walking when the ground is icy. I used to fall once every year up until about 2010. Now I’m always a bit slower possibly because I know it’s dangerous. The fact I had a mild concussion from hitting my head also woke me up. I say “woke my up” even though i was knocked out for a bit. When I came back around, you might say, I woke up in every sense. Never mind that, we learn from our mistakes and our mishaps.

I will pause, enjoying the view, especially if I am not in a hurry to get anywhere. Here’s what we can learn from the puppies: to stop rushing about and instead, enjoy the smells and sensuous pleasures of winter. Winter, sensuous? Tell that to the dog, who sticks her snout right into the snow, enjoying how it feels on her back. I suspect it’s much harder to smell anything with freezing temperatures. So she works extra hard, probing and sniffing.

Sam with her snout in the snow

I like the way snowfalls look, encrusting the trees, covering pavement and buildings, and yes, people too.

I love the way my dog behaves in the snow. The sound of snow, stilling the cars and insulating noise around us, is glorious. Everything is brand new.

And a cold winter with its low temperatures has side-effects. It feels cleaner to have the insects and bacterias sealed under a frozen layer.

I’m conflicted about the effect, though. I like that the insects are gone. I didn’t enjoy having a tick trying to burrow its way into my leg to raise a family or merely steal my blood. I don’t hate mosquitoes but I am comfortable killing them, because they kill millions of humans via malaria without even trying.

I do regret what I’ve read, that there’s been a huge crash in the insect population. While I can hear the cheers, wait a moment. Yes we’ve noticed how our survival is intertwined with the lives of bees, worried for bee populations and loving the little guys who pollinate our plants.

And the murder hornets? Not so much.

But without insects, what will the robins and larks and finches eat? We’re connected to the food chain, until such time as it’s all artificially germinated and grown.


“Oh what can ail thee knight at arms, alone and palely loitering. The sedge is withered from the lake and no bird sing.” Pardon the Keatsean digression, but that line always moved me, sometimes close to tears, the deadly stillness of “no birds sing”.

Fewer bugs means fewer birds.

So while my neighbours may glare at me for leaving leaves on the lawn (ah who am I kidding, nobody glares, I have the nicest kindest neighbours on Larwood, truly), I believe in leaving the leaves in place, as a refuge for the bugs.

Hey isn’t that why we call them leaves? They’re not called “pick me up”. No I’m not lazy. It’s actually a mindful choice.

My nervousness about climate change and ecological disaster has winter as a kind of primal root, in my childhood. When the ice cube in your drink has melted, how are you going to keep it cool? Our planetary ice cube is melting, melting, melting. The warmer temperature of the great lakes likely signals a winter of lake-effect snows.

Meanwhile, Sam loves winter. No she isn’t intellectualizing it like I am. But she’s looking younger today than she has in awhile. Whether inside or outside winter is a good thing for my dog, and for me when I watch her responses. She’s a great teacher.

I feel rejuvenated.

If she could talk she might say “it’s snowing”.

This entry was posted in Animals, domestic & wild, Food, Health and Nutrition, Personal ruminations & essays. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dogs are right about winter

  1. Helen says:

    Leaves are compost and feed the soil with fertilizer. The bacteria and fungi do the work for us with no pesticides. This will allow bugs to survive to feed birds and mice and voles and fox and possums etc.

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