Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dogs in snowland

The day after the snow fell in a curtain, heavy and fast, flakes the size of marbles filling every empty space between the trees, Molly and I walked beneath an ocean blue sky in a world of white. The trail we have kept open all winter was obliterated in spots, the snow up to my knees as I waded through to cut the trail again. Molly walked directly behind me and when I stopped she bumped me in the leg with her nose.

“Aren’t you part Malamute?” I said, turning to look at her. “I thought you were a snow dog. Shouldn’t you be breaking the trail?” And she looked back at me along her regal German Shepherd nose with a spark in her intelligent brown eyes that seemed to say, “You’re kidding right? Why would I do all this work?”

Right, I thought as I shook my head and continued on through the snow, why would she when I am clearly capable. “I wish Murdoch was here,” I said to her over my shoulder. “He’s a trail breaker.”

The day before, we woke to a hint of snow in the air. It began to fall while I ate my breakfast, large flakes made up of smaller flakes clinging together as they sailed down to earth. We headed out, the dogs and I, to walk through the woods and the falling snow, to watch it stream past the trees and accumulate on our shoulders, to feel the magic in it before it petered out and passed away over the mountains.

But it didn’t do that. It didn’t stop. And as we walked further along our usual path through the woods the snowflakes fell more densely, filling in our trail behind us as quickly as we made it.

It’s like walking through a fairytale I thought as the dark shapes of the dogs disappeared behind the thickening curtain and the world transformed before my eyes and I was enveloped by the landscape. I followed the path of the dogs, shielding my camera the best I could with my hands as the snow piled up on top of it too.

When we returned to the house a while later, emerging from the woods that seemed entirely made of snow, the path on which we had set out was already covered in. It was as though we had never been there.

It snowed all day and in to the night. The next morning the sun revealed a flawless landscape, the trees like sculptures beneath a cloudless sky.

Molly and I re-cut our path through the woods. She skipped ahead until it got too deep, and then she let me strike out in front to make a trail for her to follow.

“Murdoch would love this,” I said to her, imagining him leaping through the fresh snow, like an otter swimming in a stream. And I hoped he wouldn’t be mad that we had gone on without him. “Poor Murds,” I said as I thought of him at the vet while we were out beneath this endless sky, the air smelling of snow; winter at its most beautiful. And I imagined what kind of trouble he was causing at that moment.

How will they sedate him? I wondered, with his explosive, manic energy and growly, grumpy attitude and his leaping, bucking, wiry strength. I shook my head, speculating how many people he’d bitten.

No, they will be able to handle him, I thought. That’s why we took him there to have the bits of stick and other detritus removed from where they had become embedded in his gums, because they have the means to handle him. He had made it quite clear he wasn’t letting us in his mouth long enough to remove what needed removing.

“We’ll save the rest of the trail for him,” I said to Molly as we turned back. “He loves this sort of thing.”

And the next day, he did.



  1. Poor Murdoch! I wish he'd stop eating those sticks and stuff! (I'm sure you wish he would, too!) Great photos!

    1. Yes, I do! He attacks sticks like they are his mortal enemies and must be destroyed at all costs. He has savagely taken apart every stick he's ever had (even tree limbs) until they are nothing but a pile of splinters. I wish he was as invincible as he thinks he is.

  2. Ow, my mouth hurts just thinking of Murdoch's mouthful of splinters. Love the snow... this has been some winter. The beauty of the white, muffled landscape after a storm always thrills me.