Our dog, Shadow, is outside this afternoon and has been for about half an hour. The sun has reached the point where it actually shines directly on 7th Avenue for an hour or so, and she wants to take in as much of it as she can.
In the darkest part of the winter she mopes around the house until the sun finally shines again. Before we lose direct sunlight entirely in the late fall, she eagerly awaits the time of morning when it shines through the back window onto the kitchen floor, and then flops down in the sunbeam, inching with it as it moves across the floor.
Unlike the actors in that silly laundry detergent commercial we’ve been seeing lately, Shadow does not “laugh at winter”, or jump at chances to go outside and do things, no matter how cold it gets.
She’s fine today. It’s crept up to -18 in town and the sun was shining so brightly that I actually decided to wear sunglasses when I drove out to the airport, where, for a change, it was four degrees warmer than it was in town.
But, let the temperature drop below -25 and she’ll start to take ever-shorter excursions out onto our snow-covered lawn.
At -40 she’s even reluctant to answer the call of nature, but so far that just means that she has become more efficient at lower temperatures. None of this questing around to find just the right place, the way she does in the summer. In deepest winter she’s out quickly and back in just as soon as she can manage it.
The difficult thing about winter for her is that she loves her daily walk, and she loves to run. She doesn’t like booties, but she needs them when it gets really cold.
She doesn’t like her gentle leader (or Halti) either, but she’s part sled dog and part border collie, and without it she’s a puller who can wrench your arm when she decides to investigate an interesting scent or movement.
Walks are pretty short in the deepest, darkest winter. Running is harder to accommodate, but without some substitute she’ll go tearing around the inside of the house almost the way cats do sometimes, so there has to be an alternative.
There’s a trick we used to do with our first dog that we haven’t been able to use with Shadow until this year. (It’s taken this long to get her to respond to calling her name or whistling for her when she’s outside. It’s not that she’s dumb, but she’s really independent when she’s not indoors.)
This winter, once again, we tried out the perimeter run when it hit -40, and it worked just fine.
The trick is to put her out the front door, ignore her when she scrapes at the door or front window, and go to the back door and call or whistle for her. The first time it took her a few minutes to catch on, then she ran around the house to the back door and came in.
We repeated as needed.
By the third or fourth time she’d caught onto coming in the back door, she raced to the front door, ready to do it again. We did it several more times. She got faster and faster, until finally she was already at the back door by the time we got there to call her.
When she’d had enough, she stopped going to the front door, curled up on her rug in front of the television, and we knew we knew we were done for the day.
Speaking of dogs and people, in terms of local events, I write this as the Yukon Quest people are arriving in town as predicted in my February 2 column.
Further, in a week’s time we will see the second annual Myth & Medium event at the Dänojà ZhoCultural Centre, and first weekend in March, the arrival of the first 2012 Trek Over the Top.
I will have more on both of those events in my next two columns.