40. Broomball

Dear Boomer,

            After weeks of incredibly wet weather – wet and cold that seeps right through the fur and into the bone – winter finally came.  Came with that glorious crisp cold that sends dogs leaping across the snow.  Then it came with that icy blast that makes even intrepid snow dogs like you and me wonder whether we want to go out to play.

            This is the season where Alpha likes to invite humanoids to our home.  He makes a fire in the fireplace, puts food out on the table, and cranks the music up loud.  His friends come in large numbers, bringing more food with them.  They stand around talking with one another eating pate and crackers. 

            I play my favourite game with them.  I try to hypnotize them into dropping food onto the floor.  I use my “forlorn doggie” expression.  That way, if I don’t succeed in actually hypnotizing them, then occasionally they take pity and toss me something to eat.  How I love it when Alpha invites all these humanoids to come over and play!

            In past winters, in the midst of these games, we take a break from the festivities to set off for the ice on the canal.[1]  The humanoids strap blades to their hind paws, and they skate along while I trot to keep up.  Normally they do this very late at night.  I am sure this is out of consideration for me.  They know how I love to watch the lights from the snow plows flashing along the concrete embankments of the canal.

            But this year, when it came time to take a break from my hypnotist experiments, we didn’t go to the canal after all.  Something about the ice not being thick enough to support 10,000 humanoids – so a dozen revelers and one intrepid dog were not allowed on the canal either.

            Instead, we went to Windsor Park.  The vast majority of the humanoids stayed behind at the house, warning Alpha that he was crazy to go out on such a cold night.  I went with him, worrying that I might have to rescue the whole group of them from the arctic winds. 

            They brought broomsticks with them, and a largish black ball that, in the cold dark winter night, was hard as a rock.[2]  On the ice where they usually glide about with the blades on their feet, they floundered about in their winter boots, laughing and whooping as they chased this ball back and forth, up and down the ice. 

            The object seemed to be to hit the ball so that it passed between two pylons.  But for these poor ungainly two-legged creatures, the only way to accomplish this was to slide and flounder and fall flat on their backsides.

            Believe me, with our four legs and our tails for balance, you and I would have accomplished the task with much more elegance.  But would they let me play?  No, they would not!  I was relegated to the sidelines, watching from the boards, and whimpering whenever I thought I could do a better job.

            They played until the ball shattered in the cold.  They returned to our house with the frozen shards of the ball, and proceeded to pour mulled wine into the largest piece, as if it were a cup.  They took turns drinking the hot wine from the broken piece of rubber, vowing that this would be turned into the victory cup for next year’s tournament. 

            Humanoids.  Go figure.

            All this I report to you, beagle buddy, even though the adult humanoid members of your pack were at our house that night as well.  They may have already told you the story.

            And today, Alpha, the Pup and I came to visit you at your house.  You didn’t have your usual energy and enthusiasm, little friend.  But you summoned up the strength to come over to greet us at the door.  It looked like this was a herculean task for you, and you went back to lie down again soon after, while I went off to explore the smells of your home. 

            I must say, it looks like they treat you like a queen, with your bed there in the middle of the living room, your Management administering to your every desire, and your Pup coming over to pat you.  My Pup went over and lay down beside you on your bed -- which he often does at our house.  But he seemed so concerned about you, and so sad.

            I do hope you feel better soon.  I miss having you romp up to me in the park – frolicking as if you were a young pup’s heart and soul inside an old dog’s fur and bones. 

         When the spring comes, and you feel up to going outside again, we’ll go to the park.  We will howl together.  I have never mastered your talent for the beagle bugle howl, but you will teach me.  Then we will chase squirrels together.  I will let you play with my favourite ball.  And when the time comes, we’ll sit in the shade of the trees together and watch the world go by.[3]

                                                            Running after rabbits over the snow in our dreams,



[1] The Rideau Canal opens each winter as the world’s largest skating rink. 

[2] Broomball games were more popular on the rinks of Old Ottawa South in Zoscha’s time than they are today.

[3] Quentin Malak, “The Generations of Windsor,” Carleton University Review, March 2009, estimates that Zoscha’s companion, Boomer must have been 18 years old when this article was written.  She had been predeceased by her companion, Jasper, (See “Dog Party,” Windsor Chronicles 36, Sept 2003).