Saturday, December 8, 2007

Snow Day!


The storm arrived sometime after midnight. As the pre-dawn light began to grow, Ari rose from her dog nest, gave her tags a good shake, and trotted to the bedroom window. There she remained, sentry-like, cataloguing each flake as it landed on the sill.

Meanwhile, Greg and I feigned sleep—hoping to buy a few more minutes of still warmth before joining the day. The clock radio had clicked on several minutes earlier, and we lay quietly as we listened to the round voice of the announcer making his way through the school closings: A Hug-a-Day-Daycare, Creative Kids, Little Lambs Christian Academy, Messalonski High, Mt. View. With each pronouncement, I pictured little throngs of Dickensonian children tossing top hats into the air and shouting at the thrill of their unexpected vacation. And, as they did, Greg and I were both transported back to our own childhood, as we not-so-secretly pined for a day of sanctioned truancy.

Ari had little patience for this waiting game. Before the radio voice had reached his Ps and Qs, she left her post and leapt upon the bed, bleating a wake-up call. I pretended not to hear. The bleat became a high-pitched, short bark: Get up! When I still didn’t answer, she picked her way across our bed hummocks and stretched long across my torso, tapping my nose with her paw. Get up!! Get up NOW—there’s SNOW out there!

Do huskies and other cold-weather dogs have a genetic connection to snow? They’ve certainly been bred to love the stuff. As soon as we step onto the front porch, Ari reaches the height of frenzied pleasure. She dashes through the powder, sending up plumes of white. She porpoises from deepest drift to deepest drift, pausing only long enough to bury her snout or burrow deep into a mound of crystalline white. When that no longer suffices as an expression of her joy, she springs high into the air, attempting a half-gainer and landing, belly-up, in the biggest pile of snow she can find. There, she wiggles and schooches and insinuates herself into every edge and crevice. This is no snow angel: this is a fallen creature, made drunk on its own hedonism. She shimmies deeper into the pile, snorting and wagging, until only a single foot and thick tawny tail are visible in the snow.

A muted chortle comes out from under the drift: Wahh-wahh-wahh-wahhnn.

Find me, this gurgle of a bark seems to say. It’s a game!

It’s a good day for games. I dig down, pulling back armfuls of snow until I am met by a sugar-coated snout and steely blue eyes. She yips with pleasure. I bend down closer. Grinning, she tosses a husky-sized paw of snow into my face. Ha! Ha ha!

She flattens her ears and smiles, politely averting her eyes. Has she gone too far, so brazenly starting a winter battle? She pats her tail, still mostly submerged. I'm friendly, the tail pulse says. No offense intended.

I laugh, shaking away the melting snow from my eye lashes and nose. This noise is all the confirmation she needs: our relationship, if not our feet, is still on terra firma. She rises, and flicks more snow, grinning widely as it cascades down my jacket and gets caught in my hair. I can’t resist. Before I know it, I’m in an all-out snowball fight with this juvenile dog—and I’m losing. Badly. I haven’t felt this triumphant all year.

7 comments:

PattieC said...

I really love reading about Ari! Thanks for sharing these stories.

Holli said...

A delightful account! Kathryn writes with the affection of a dog-lover and the shrewdness of the most observant naturalist—providing a fresh style that both celebrates the companionships forged between humans and pet and also redefines them. Kathryn's connection with Ari reflects a not-so-new ecology—that shared between woman and domesticated animal—but her vivid use of language and sincere storylines add another dimension to such age-old, and timeless, relationships. I look forward to more…

Raven said...

While reading about Ari's morning ritual I feel a tug at something deep in my being. You write so beautifully about the old, old relationship between canines and us. You have caused me to think about how dogs instruct people in our right relationship with nature. I look forward to reading your next essays.

Joshua said...

Hmm, if I show "Snow Day" to my cat I wonder if he'll be tempted to go out and play with me in the snow like Ari? Doubt it, but at least I have vicarious access to this energetic, fondly-recounted canine experience. Looking forward to more postings!

sportsdoc said...

What an entertaining piece. It was better than "Cats". In all honesty, this seems like a great idea, I would really enjoy reading more.

sunrisesmiles said...

Ari seems like quite the dog! As a person who isn't so fond of snow, I wonder what types of games she can play in warmer weather. It sounds like she would be full of energy regardless of the season.

Trojan_Llama said...

I doubt that huskies would have been selectively bred to love snow, but they were bred to survive cold conditions, and they do LOVE adventure! Wolfy has only seen a little snow, and didn't seem to bothered nor interested in it. But he loves any kind of activities where he can get out, explore, meet other dogs, see prey (better, chase and kill prey), etc.