It is a typical Saturday. I’m up early as always and the excitement and anticipation builds in the faces of the two dogs who share our lives. They know that on the days I don’t go to work, they get to jump in the magic box and are transported to the magical world outside the yard where there are sights and sounds and all kinds of stimulation. I’ve let them outside once and they must know it is cold but it doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm.
For a minute, I consider staying in but it is a small sacrifice on my part that brings them such joy so how can I refuse. I dress in as many layers as I can find and I get the hand warmers ready. I long for the freedom of summer when shorts and a t-shirt are all that is required. The dogs watch as I put on the various layers. I know they have no idea why I need all this. All they know is that it is keeping them from their happy place and they jump around to implore me to hurry as if the park will disappear if we don’t get there RIGHT NOW.
Finally, I’m as ready as I can be and they are loaded into the magic box and we are off. With seat warmers at full and the heater going, I am comfortable and can try to forget about the chill waiting for me. But my car is equipped with a display that tells me the temperature is in single digits outside. As if I really needed to know that.
We reach the park and flush three deer. I wonder if they ever get confused as to why we humans would venture out on days like this. They have to be out in the elements. We don’t.
I see a group of joggers preparing for a run. You can either admire their persistence or question their intelligence. I realize they could say the same about me as I am the only dog walker in sight.
Enough stalling, it is time to leave the artificial comfort of the car and experience the outside world. The cold instantly attacks the part of my body that aren’t covered or where the layering is insufficient. A small breeze kicks in which only adds to the discomfort as it feels like icy needles where it hits my face and cuts through my pants and shoes.
I manage to get the dogs on their leashes which is hard to do with thick gloves but taking them off is not an option as I know my right hand is going to suffer even with a glove and hand warmer since it must remain out to hold the leashes. Keeping it covered will delay the effect but only just a bit.
We are off as they roam and sniff and pee (they are dogs and this is what they do). The same deer we saw in the parking lot cross our path again and this creates a mini frenzy as my one thinks he can capture them. He settles for some intense sniffing of where they were but we are soon off to the next interesting place to smell.
The joggers pass me and I’m thinking that this isn’t so bad. I plan to go up to the first natural turn around place. In warmer weather, we go farther. The smart thing to do would be to turn around but I’ve convinced myself that this small act of defiance of the cold is important and I must push forward. Besides, it doesn’t feel so bad.
This of course is just nonsense. The cold simply deadens you and when you do realize the impact, it is almost too late. I’m vaguely aware that I can’t really feel the fingers on my right hand. My older dog is lagging behind and I finally realize that even though they want to be outside, the cold is still tough on them and it is my job to be the leader who packs it in and so we turn to go back to the safety and warmth of the car.
The way back seems to take longer. The sun has broken over the horizon and is now directly in my face but it offers no warmth just light. There are two birds that sing but, other than that, the woods are quiet and still. The wind picks up just a bit and my eyes start to water. I keep looking up and the end of the path still seems so far away. My legs feel dead but we keep moving. Finally, we break through the woods and head back to the car. I load them in and start it up to fire up the heater, rip off my glove and grab both hand warmers with my right hand as the fingers start to recover.
On the drive back, I’m overtaken with a sad thought. Both of my dogs were strays and I have a thought for all the unwanted and homeless dogs who have to struggle to survive in this cold. I wish I could wave a wand and give them all a warm home with a family to love them but I know I can’t. I have to settle for the small consolation that I have improved the lives of at least two dogs. As if sensing my thoughts, my male leans over and puts his head on my shoulder.
Soon, we are back in the comfort of home. They get their cookies and my older one goes off to find a bed where I know she will now nap for several hours. I must face the cold again as there are certain things that must get done on Saturdays.
The weather calls for single digit temperatures again tomorrow so I will get up and do this again. It is a small price to pay though because the dogs do bring so much to my life. It isn’t asking much for me to endure the cold to do something that brings them such pleasure. Still, I can’t wait for the cold to be gone.