This has been the strangest winter I can remember. Only in the past few days have we seen the blue skies and the deep snow we dogs all love.
Rather late in the year, wouldn’t you say, for soft and fluffy pluff and punder – the kind of snow that brings out the puppy in all of us. Lily bounced through the deep snow like a jackrabbit.
The Pup and the girls play out in the back yard in the morning, and Lily and I go out to join them while Alpha makes their school lunches. I swear: I don’t think I’ve seen so much action in the back yard in all the years that I’ve lived here.
The Pup and the girls and the boys down the street build snow forts, using the blue recycling boxes to make bricks of snow. Then Alpha comes out into the back yard and the fun begins – the generational snowball fight. Four kids against one graying alpha. Gotta say one thing for my Alpha: he knows how to hold his own in a snowball fight.
The humanoids, of course, think that they’re throwing snowballs at one another. Lily and I know better. The purpose of these backyard snowball wars is to give dogs something other than a ball to chase.
I like catching snowballs, actually. Much more satisfying than catching a tennis ball, though not quite so fulfilling as getting a mouthful of squirrel.
But it’s not just the late arrival of decent snow that makes this winter unusual. It’s not just the fact that Alpha has not yet ventured out onto the river on his cross-country skis, or the weather has been too warm to see much action on the skating rink.
The really weird thing about this winter is that those plastic mushrooms are out again.
Yes, in winter. Growing in the snow. In all those same different colour proliferations, and with the same predictable response from Alpha.
He doesn’t seem to like the red or the orange or the yellow-and-green plastic mushrooms, growing in peoples’ front lawns. But he tends to nurture, and has evenbeen known to plant, the blue ones.
The blue plastic mushrooms look good on the front lawns at this time of year – they match colour of the snow and the sky when the sun is out. They match the colours of the street signs, the recycling boxes, and the shadows on the snow banks.
Whenever the plastic mushroom are in season (no matter what the season), Alpha’s mannerisms become very strange. He takes us for long, long walks, and these walks do not necessarily lead to Windsor Park. In fact, we tramp up and down every street of the neighbourhood, up to every doorway, while Alpha leaves slips of paper in the mail boxes of humanoids.
Lily and I both accompany him on these perambulations. Lily must be kept on close leash, while I, being a dog of maturity and experience, and less inclined to bolt across the road into the oncoming traffic, am left to sniff around at my own pace, uncollared.
The other day, we were out for three hours. The sky had dumped about 10 inches of snow overnight, and many people had not had time yet to clear their sidewalk.
And yet, on we trudged, Alpha leading Lily on the leash, wading through the snow up to one house and down to the next, slipping paper through the mail slots and slipping on the steps, then on to the next house.
At first, I thought it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. But street after street, hour after hour, house after house, and it began to get to me. I noticed that Alpha himself was beginning to stagger with fatigue. After awhile, I waited at the street and let the two of them stomp on their own through the snow and up the steps to yet another porch.
Eventually nature had to call, of course. Alpha carries with him everywhere we go the plastic bags with which humanoids make their ritual obeisance to the dog world. And so, in one arm he carried several elastic-bound stacks of broadsheet flyers, a couple of hundred small handouts, and a hundred five-panel brochures – samples of which he dropped into the mailboxes. All in the same fetching blue as the sky and the front-yard plastic mushrooms.
In the other hand, he carried a plastic bag containing my digestive system’s contribution to the ecosystem. At one of the houses – was the plastic mushroom orange or red? – someone shoveling the walk observed that Alpha appeared to be carrying the same material in both hands. What could it all mean?
Glad that the snow is back,