When I look out the window and see the barrage of snow falling, I am reminded of some of the winters Buddy and I enjoyed together. I never dreamed a black Lab mix with short legs from the Arabian Gulf would enjoy the snow. I was leery of it myself after ten years away but Buddy proved to be more than adaptable.
A Fresh Look at Winter
Home never seemed like exotic foreign soil before.
Then again, I never walked with my best friend through a wooded landscape in the winter, experiencing every phase of snow that came with it. It was as if I were experiencing everything for the first time — the look and feel of the trees, the array of sounds emanating from the many branches, the beauty of the deer, even the occasional screech I swore came from a hawk. Not that I’d know what a hawk sounded like. But I always go for the exotic, and hawks definitely seemed exotic when tramping through the woods in Pennsylvania.I found serenity in the borders of those woodlands.
Before I ever ventured out, I had to prepare myself.
I dressed warmly – ha! Like I’d never lived in a cold climate before! I put on long johns (my sister bought me several extra pairs that first Christmas home) and blue jeans or snow pants. Maybe I should refer to them as ‘ski pants’ to sound more grown up. But they looked just like kids’ snow pants only in a larger size. I never worried about getting too wet or cold when I wore them. Then I had an “inner” scarf I wound around my neck. Once the ends of that were tucked in securely, I’d slip on a warm parka (that might be a British word; I think they call it a ski jacket here. I’d throw on an old pink hat, one that Buddy chewed holes in that first winter when I unknowingly dropped it on the floor. It didn’t matter since my hood came up over that. Next, I wrapped my “outer” scarf around my hooded neck, the ends covering my mouth. I wore heavy brown leather gloves I had purchased for a trip to Morocco one year.
Guess what? Sometimes I’d take a book with me. When we were nearly home, I liked to let Buddy explore what I called his favorite “fort.”
I removed his leash and let him burrow in the snow-covered bushes and wade through tunnels he forged through them.
I would sit on the edge of the snow bank wearing my handy-dandy waterproof snow pants and go between reading the book and watching him play. I stayed alert because once in awhile a little red car or one particular station wagon or one of the many large trucks heading for the Garbage Disposal plant would roll past us. Most of the time Buddy was too immersed in his exploring to notice. But once or twice he chased one of the vehicles. I would run after him frantically calling his name, waving his leash and hoping he wouldn’t get too close to the tires. But those chases were rare and I couldn’t stay too angry.
Those first winters, especially when Buddy was younger, were filled with adventure. We went out on three-hour walks sometimes. Each time we left the house gave us a new experience. We usually ended up at the baseball diamond or the Boro park. I’d let him run until he tired and came to me for a biscuit. Wherever we went, I felt as if I had been detailed out to an unfamiliar yet beautiful foreign country.
First of all, it felt like we were in our own little world as we walked. Except for the driver of the red car that passed us each morning on his route to work, we rarely encountered other people or wild creatures so we felt free to roam. When I unleashed Buddy, he leaped off the road, diving into snow banks, flying across fields, up hills and out of sight. I, too felt liberated.
I even used to lie down and make snow angels! Often, I stuck out my tongue to taste the snowflakes. Other times, I concentrated on how they felt. Light and airy, they trickled down from my eyes and cheeks numbing my face and making my nose run. A few minutes later, Buddy would race over to me, his snout wet and frost-covered. Panting, he tilted his face upward and swallowed gigantic snowflakes.
I looooved these walks we took together. Who was there to see our abandon? No one, that’s who!On our best days, especially after a big snowfall, we came across deer markings. Buddy alerted me by leaning in close to catch their scent. In deep snow, Buddy preferred to wade along the deer’s snow wake instead of venturing out on his own. As interlopers on the native (deer) territory, we lived and let live.
I went through a period of analyzing the deer tracks. I went about it exactly as I would studying a foreign language.
I figured other natives (the hunters) learned about them from an early age but I had to consciously study the length, width and shape of them and then go out and apply what I had learned. Some tracks were heart-shaped while others resembled delicate curvy quotation marks. I got to where I could predict which direction the deer were moving and if they were traveling fast or slow just from their markings.
God knew I hated the thought of coming home to a cold climate. But with Buddy as my companion, He led me to appreciate the culture of a foreign country within my own backyard. Through His extraordinary binoculars, Buddy and I saw new vistas up close. It was as if we danced under an exquisite sky of feathery white fine particles. The white-tail deer seemed as exotic to us as the snowfall was common to the people who had always lived in Pennsylvania. Well, people used to laugh at me when I explained it.
When I remember the snow caked on Buddy’s snout, our long walks and the fresh deer tracks we studied, I miss my companion more than ever. He’s been gone since Thanksgiving. Sometimes, on days when the snow never stops falling, I wish dogs lived longer and it would never stop snowing.
I can still hear the sounds of the hawk’s cry (I know, it might not have really been a hawk, but let’s say for argument’s sake it was) and the train whistling from the trestle, and also the snow dripping from the spindly branches beneath it.
I used to tell people that our walks were similar to being inside one of those glass globes, the ones people pick up to shake, making the soap flakes flutter all about.
That’s how I want to save my memories of Buddy and I trampling through the woods in northwest Pennsylvania.
Amy Bovaird is the author of two best-selling books Mobility Matters and Cane Confessions. As a speaker, she talks various topics based on life experiences to educate and inspire others. Living with progressive vision and hearing loss due to Usher Syndrome, Amy blogs about the challenges she faces yet still finds humor around almost every corner. Sign up for her newsletter below!
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