A Frigid Saturday Morning Hike

At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with a projected midday high 10 degrees, Sam (is a dog) and I went for a long walk this morning. In the interest of full disclosure, a long walk on a February morning is significantly shorter than the same journey in September or November. Back then, we’d begin the day with four or five miles, heading home only when forced by my desire for oatmeal and more coffee. This morning’s walk, on the other hand, was only about two miles. In terms of discomfort inflicted, though, today’s wins hands-down.

Sam, in addition to being “is a dog,” is a boxer/lab puppy, short-haired and lean. Although he’s got a sweater, he refuses, out of vanity, to wear it. I think he thinks it makes him look fat and less dogly. His only defense against the cold is to keep moving, and since his gait is a high-stepping prance, in frigid weather he bounces down the path like a drop of water on a pancake skillet. While he’ll occasionally veer into the deeper snow of the woods, following who-knows-what scent, he typically likes to keep his underbelly well away from that damned cold white stuff.

I made up for Sam’s nakedness by wearing layer upon layer: t-shirt, Henley, sweater, vest, parka. This kept my trunk warm, and flannel-lined khakis protected my legs, and my feet were protected by the same Timberland hiking boots I’ve worn in the desert, the Grand Canyon and along Hadrian’s Wall. When it’s this cold, I don’t bother with winter boots, if that makes any sense, because nothing melts so I don’t need to worry about sogginess. Despite the main parts of my body being protected, the mittens I wore still allowed in some cold, and the knit watch cap on my head was entirely unsatisfactory—this special pleading can be called WHINING, though, since during my time at Liberty House I met dozens of folks who were living outside with only the donations we provided them.

Part of our walk always takes us past the home of Sam’s lowered companion, Boone, a black retriever mix who is allowed to run free. Boone is a good dog whose owner has no control over him, so he has developed some not-good-dog habits, primarily chasing cars, trucks and snow machines. On the one hand, the road we live on isn’t well traveled, so Boone’s chase opportunities are limited; on the other, the road we live on is narrow, icy and snow-packed, so drivers veering to avoid Boone have to fear they’ll end up in a ditch. Needless to say, Boone is not a popular dog in the neighborhood—except to Sam, and a lesser extent me.

Sam and I have reached an unspoken compromise—always a good strategy when negotiating with dogs—and if Boone follows us home at the end of our walks, he and Sam can play grab-ass to their heart’s content—if they stay in our yard. The minute Boone looks like he’s trying to lure Sam off to chase trucks or other adventures, it’s time for Sam to come inside, have some water and take a nap. These last two actions were added by Sam, for even I’m not dumb enough to try to enforce drinking or sleeping.

Luckily for me, but disappointingly for Sam, Boone wasn’t out, so I walked and Sam dance/skittered home. Sam is now watered and sleeping, and I am making oatmeal.

Life is good.

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