Yes, technically, I know, the “dog days” fall in the summertime, when Sirius, the dog star, rises at the same time as the sun, and long days of steamy, sticky heat cause lethargy, inactivity, or indolence. Dog star aside, this long, cold and snowy winter has brought the same result. I am frustrated, and so are my dogs, Darla and Rosa Parks.
The dogs wake up eager to go outside but, after seeing what is out there, often decide to wait. It could be another extremely cold, below zero day, of which we’ve had several. It could be high winds, sending ice crystals swirling and making me shiver when I open the door. Or snow, more snow, coming down in large wet flakes that pile up everywhere, obstructing views and slowing travel.
Still, the dogs look expectantly at me, even when they can’t bring themselves to step outside. To acknowledge them for having made the effort, I’ve initiated a new reward category. In addition to giving treats for going outside and back in, for sitting when told to sit, or staying when told to stay, there is now a small treat given just for checking the weather.
Our walks this winter are dependent on the conditions, and have been often foiled by extremes of ice, snow or cold. Darla always starts out strong and, other than on the very coldest days, has the most endurance. She usually dips her head in disappointment when I make the call to turn back toward home. Rosa Parks has no interest in walking this winter. She has to be coaxed down the driveway, and bribed to continue down the road. She’s the first, always, to decide we’ve gone far enough.
Rosa Parks loves snow, so I’m not sure what the problem is. She’s a small dog, so the high banks of snow on the roadsides offer her no view except straight ahead. She has lost her vision in one eye; perhaps that makes her more timid. Maybe, understandably, she’s just tired of winter.
Back inside the house, both dogs look discouraged. “Oh, that was it?” their expressions ask, and their disappointment is clear. On good days, I bundle up again, and set out once more through the weather. Two or three walks are better than just one, even if they’re all short. Other times, I opt for a rousing game of “Sit, Stay, Give me Paw.”
As I move on to my own activities, the dogs settle in nearby. They show varying levels of interest in what I’m doing, depending on whether or not it involves food. Sometimes, movement outside, whether bird, chipmunk or road truck, will set them off into frenzied barking at the front window. There are plenty of brief treks outside and in, or simply putting their nose outside to check the weather. Mostly, they sprawl.
Near the warmth of the heater and close to me, they flop down on rugs and cushions that are plentiful in my living space. When I see them laying there, eyes wide open, with furrowed brows, I feel my own frustration reflected in their body language. And I recognize these days, without a doubt, as the dog days of winter.