58. Snow Time Like the Present

Dear Tera,

It’s that wonderful time of year once more.  That time when the humanoids bring trees into the house.  That time when stockings are hung by the chimney with care.  That time when the fire flickers and glows in the hearth.  It’s a time of dog treats and toboggan runs, when there’s almost as many humanoid pups in the park as there are doggies.  That time when you can tell where our friends have been by the yellow stains in the snow, the yellum.

A time when we resurrect the vocabulary for snow that has lain forgotten in the back of our brains over the hot summer months.

So far we’ve had some wonderful punder – the snow that humanoids toss up in the air with their snow shovels.  There’s not yet enough base to have pluff – the punder-like snow that lies on top of a hidden crust of closely packed snow.  There’s been gloog on the roads – slushy and soft from road salt – and there’s been repper in our front hallway – the snow that humanoids track in on their boots, and melts into puddles of ice water and grit.

This winter, I’m teaching my friend Lily about the different kinds of snow and how a smart dog can use it to advantage.  She learns, for example, that when walking on the sidewalk after a snowfall, it is much more comfortable on the paws to walk where the snow has not yet been melted by the salt.  Punder is kinder to the paws than gloog.

Lily and I have been spending a lot of quality time together lately.  In fact, I think we’ve lost our rivalry over the affections of Big Murph, the Staffordshire down the street. At the end of the day, it turns out the friendships between us girls can be more powerful than even the attraction of a hottie like Murphy.

Lily and I often spend the days together, hanging out in the kitchen while Alpha taps away at his computer upstairs.  She brings out the pup in me, and we wrestle and play on the floor in a way that I haven’t done in years.  When Alpha takes us to the park, he tries to teach her to leap over the hockey boards the way I used to.  But Lily is not interested.  She would rather find a stick and parade it around the park in a victory lap.

Sometimes she spends the day with us alone; sometimes she even stays for a sleepover. 

Lily comes with a support network.  In these festive times of tree-decorating and sit-down dinners, Lily is often accompanied by her entourage, the three female humanoids who form her pack.  There’s the mother and the two pups – the younger one is just a bit younger than my Pup, and the other one a couple of years older.  Altogether they are a very welcome addition to the pack at our house.  The female humanoids tend to be much less exuberant than my Pup – gentle enough that I’ll even let them scratch my belly.

Most days, the mother will bring the two young ones to our house early in the morning before leaving for whatever it is adult humanoids do in the daylight hours.  My Pup and the two girls will loll on the sofa for an hour while Lily and I play in the kitchen.  Then they’ll put their snowsuits on and take us out to the back yard and throw snowballs.

Then it’s time to parade up to the pup kennel where the humanoids and their pups congregate before a bell sends their pups scurrying inside.  We return home with Alpha, sometimes with a side-trip to Windsor Park.  Being a young dog, Lily hasn’t acquired the discipline to walk off leash.  I, of course, can proceed at my own pace, leash-less and collarless, thereby proving my superior place in the pack.

Having a larger pack creates a whole different dynamic in our household.  Much more to keep one entertained.  And, on the nights of sit-down dinners, much more opportunity to pick up scraps dropped accidentally from the table.  I also think that Alpha cooks much more interesting meals when there are five humanoids at the table, than when there’s just two – or just himself.

I don’t know whether this new lifestyle is a permanent feature, or whether it’s just a seasonal variation of a pattern started with the mother and her two female pups stayed with us at the cottage last summer.  But I’m curious to see where it all will lead.

And to you and your pack, from us in our extended pack, we wish the happiest of the season of long nights and short days of bright sun and long shadows. 

Looking for all good things in 2006,