Winter Weather

In the car on the way to dog agility class late Monday afternoon, Fellow was snuffling and chuffing, pressing his nose onto the car window in the way-back. I asked him what he was doing. He didn’t answer. I guess he wishes he could smell things as we pass by. I had heard some news about another storm rolling in, but it hadn’t started by the time we left for class and I didn’t give it much thought. What I did think about was windshield wipers on the inside of the car windows, for dog slobber and nose prints.

The light came on my dashboard saying I needed wiper fluid.

After class, we left as we always do, one owner at a time, minimizing the dangerous chaos of leashed dogs on the stairs, and each of us took turns finding out that the flight of stairs which had been dry when we arrived was now perfectly coated in a very fine layer of almost invisible ice. We dropped our leashes and let the dogs figure it out on their own. The heedless dogs innocently continued down a few steps, slipped, stumbled and fell down the rest of the way, landing surprised but unhurt.  Then we owners made our way down, sideways, clinging to the rail and trying to keep our footing. Of the people, only the instructor actually fell, slipping on the last step before the landing.

Freezing rain is a betrayal. It flies in the face of reason. Here we are, the supposed big-brained, ass-kicking hominid, with a solid grasp of the freezing temperature of water. Freezing rain is a slap in the face of my understanding of when it should snow and when it shouldn’t. It was more than cold enough to snow, and it was raining. I don’t mind driving in snow. I object strongly to driving in freeing rain.

It was 29F and the raindrops were fine, like drizzle, but not gentle like mist. Sprayed. Or blasted. It wasn’t so much as falling as enclosing the early evening in a thick cloak of trouble. Everywhere the pavement  was a slippery beyond slick.

Out on the freeway, everyone was keeping to themselves, going slower than usual, resisting the urge to take the empty left lane. My windshield wipers smeared the rain in two neat, persistent arcs. Keeping the roads salted and plowed is a responsibility local and state government takes seriously in New York, and the drive was reassuringly quiet and straightforward all the way home. Once there, I rolled the garbage cans out for pickup the next morning, and found in a single step that my own driveway was too slick to walk on.

The next day the sun came out and the temperature climbed steadily, hitting 48F in the afternoon. I went to town to try to get some windshield wiper fluid, but went home empty-handed because everyone had beaten me to it.

Captain enjoying a nap on a winter afternoon

We have so much snow on the ground from that big storm a few weeks ago, and two additional significant snowfalls since, that a weirdly warm day clears the pavement and changes the texture of the packed snow without melting it away. I went out in the back yard with the dogs after dark as everything commenced re-freezing. My snowshoeing path along the fence line was hard and uneven and difficult to walk on; the untrodden snow was passable, though soft and wet and noisy to traverse in boots.

Tuesday night

Overnight, the temperatures dropped and the snow froze again. Another storm was expected Thursday. Meanwhile, on Twitter, some of my Texas friends complained of their abnormally cold, snowy disaster. Others, without power or heat or water simply disappeared from the timeline.

Thursday morning the sky was gray but bright–a sky that warned of snow. Snow began to fall in Bedhead Hills about 10 am.

When you live someplace that regularly gets snow, you make arrangements in the fall for someone to come plow the snow off your driveway or acquire the tools for doing it yourself. You chat with friends about the dangers of icicles, the best kind of dog-safe snow-melt and snow shovels. You develop habits like keeping pasta and bacon and eggs and frozen peas on hand so you can make spaghetti carbonara the way you like it and without any notice. You know that your town salted the roads before the storm, and will have the roads cleared of snow as soon as they can. You try to have your furnace serviced once a year. You make plans but you don’t apologize when you have to cancel appointments because of the weather.

Multitasking Fellow watching the bird feeder and having a bone at the same time

I changed from my pajamas into long underwear and snowpants and put on my insulated boots. I wrestled both of the younger dogs into their parkas and tossed my snowshoes out onto the back steps. Fellow barked at me while I monkeyed with the straps.

I opened the gate and the dogs rushed out and down the hill into our woods. They followed the trail for a bit and then plunged into the brush, taking great leaps through the snow. When they disappeared, I called them back, and they came eagerly. I gave them each a small dog treat from my pocket, and sent them off again.

About a month ago, Eggi found a dead snake in the woods. Back then, winter was predicted to be wet but relatively warm, and therefore snowless. She showed me today that she found the snake again, under the snow. Dogs are not wrong: the woods are better than the highway; you can smell more.

Then, Eggi alerted me to the presence of a man, walking alone on the road at the edge of our property. I yelled at her to come, but it was hard to convince her to return to me, and harder still when Fellow chose to back her up and join in the barking. The man stopped walking, probably alarmed by the dogs or the volume and tone of my yelling, and then Fellow turned towards me. My shouts of praise and encouragement brought him all the way in. I gave him more of the dog treats in my pocket and made a big fuss over him. Then I called Eggi again and she gave up her scolding of the stranger.

Eggi and her nose

As the afternoon unfolds, the snow continues to fall. The dogs begin lobbying for an early dinner.

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