Chapter 74 Cold, Snow, Sleet, Freezing Rain –And Dogs



Greta in snow First came Valentine's Day snowthe bitter cold.  When the outdoor sensor  of the indoor/outdoor thermometer reads 5 degrees below zero, that’s cold.  Then there was the moderate snow, and then the ice storm that weighted down branches that fell across power lines, darkening and chilling thousands of homes.  Then there was the  ice, followed by heavy, wet snow that grounded airplanes and left additional thousands without electricity.

          None of it was good news for dogs or their walkers.  Dogs are very good at accepting what is and not obsessing over the weather.  And they need their exercise, need to jump and chase toys and run free in the park   But when the temperature falls into the negative digits  and/or the driveway stones are glazed to a fine shine and/or the snow is 24 inches high, their human makes executive decisions.  No park. They are lucky to get a walk around the subdivision.

          We know, to those who live in the American West,  -50 degree temperatures are no excuse for staying indoors and two feet of snow isn’t a good start on winter.  But, important point:  they’re used to it.  Blizzards are no big deal in South Dakota, and the average winter temperature in Wyoming is 15 degrees.  In Maryland, the average winter temperatures is 34.7 degrees.  Those extra 19.7 degrees make a difference.

          So, on January mornings this year when the thermometer hovered on either side of  zero,  Rusty didn’t go out until his sweater slid over his head,  topped by his jacket. On the worst days, Greta reluctantly stuck her paws through the armholes of an  old sleeveless top of mine.  And we didn’t stay out more than 30 minutes.

Temperatures eased a little when the ice hit.  But when Greta and Rusty  emerged to find the driveway stones glazed, even they slid a little on the way out to the street.  Their walker slid more than a little.

Again, the park was not an option.

          I don’t know if they understood.  It seems easier to navigate icy streets if you’ve got four feet to put down rather than two.  On the other hand, if you’re not wearing boots and road crews have salted the roads to mushy slush, you’re going to get that stuff between your toes.  When it refreezes as you play in the snow, it will hurt.

          Neither Rusty nor Greta has boots.  Tried a pair for Rusty, couldn’t get them on his feet.  Took the boots back to store.  So far, the best answer seems to be  wax that can be rubbed on the dog’s pads.  It helps keep the salty slush from forming painful little frozen balls between the dog’s toes.

          The ice storm devastated trees.  The subdivision filled with gunshot-like pops as large limbs crashed to the ground.   Throughout the area, the homeowners who saw huge limbs land across lawns and driveways were the lucky ones.  Others had limbs crashing through plate glass windows or onto the roofs of cars.  We walked around and saw our familiar neighborhood altered by the storm.  Weeks later, piles of brush would remain,  mute reminders of its impact.

          We did not walk  on the day of the two-foot snow.  The dogs were safe in the kennel, their owner stuck in the Miami airport, trying to get home amid thousands of cancelled flights.  Anything you want to know about Concourse D at Miami International, just ask.  We had time to see every store, every restaurant.  Saw all the liquor and cigarettes the duty-free shop could hold.  Saw the colorful fish display on one wall.  Saw the escalators, the tram, the restrooms.

          The good news:  by the afternoon of Valentine’s Day, we made it back to BWI and to our car.  The better news: my sister and a neighbor had shoveled enough of the driveway to pull the car off the road, and the kennel operator used her four-wheel drive to bring the dogs to the paved road.  The driveway was flanked by huge snowbanks, and the park still was inaccessible.

          But the dogs and I were home, we were together, and we didn’t have to spend the night in the Miami airport.  Snow can be moved, and it melts, eventually.

And it’s beautiful when it falls.  A little less of it would be okay.

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