The closer it gets to Halloween, the closer it gets to our first big snowfall of the year. This year our last snow, in the city, fell in mid-May. That means, five whole months without snow. Five months without running the snowblower in the yard, sliding to work in my far-from-green boat, the only vehicle on the road that is still rear wheel drive. And five months without wearing a heavy coat and waterproof shoes. Snow around here also signals the end to the dog show season. The Southern Colorado Kennel Club’s show will be held in November and that will be the last AKC event in our state. We will have a long wait until our show season starts again in February. We are approaching the one year anniversary of the departure of Mr. Leonard. And though it was a lighter winter in the city than some years, his passing seemed to spawn a cold wind that blew through our lives leaving a dreariness that lingered.
On the last Wednesday of October a not so gentle reminder of the change of season came calling. Heavy, wet snow, the kind usually reserved for the Wichita weekend in April, fell until nearly ten inches had piled up. Running the snowblower seems the acknowledgement of defeat. A last acquiescence that our most beautiful fall in many years has given up and the blacken trees of winter are only days away. If the monster who has slept in the leaky shed in one corner of the yard for five months, must now make an appearance, then winter is nearing. Dreading trudging around the yard with the dogs, we gird ourselves in boots, jackets and hats. First to exit the house is the puppy. His first snow. A great photo-op. One taken by every person who has ever owned a puppy and lived in a snowy climate. The puppy has no hair and didn’t appreciate the wonder of what had transformed his yard. He soldiered on, but couldn’t wait to re-enter the house and resume customizing each room. The rescue dog has seen this many times before in her nearly eleven years. Including the two winters she spent feral in rural Douglas County. She endured the spraying of her snow encrusted legs in the tub and the drying and returned to her place on the end of the couch. Only two more to go. Eva and Peyton. Both of the soft coated variety and both sure to take up a lot more time and effort getting the early winter out of their coats.
There was no way to put if off any longer. They had to go out and I was there to supervise. Already that morning I had shoveled the outside walks, front and back, and cleaned off the cars. Me on the outside, my mom on the inside. It used to be my father on the outside, plodding around with the dogs, shouting at them to quit eating snow and get on with the pooping. My mom has waited patiently to dry and de-snowball dogs in the morning for decades. Our family tradition. I opened the door and let Eva, the Kerry, out first. She ran to the door, stopped short and looked out. Gamely, she trotted outside and turned on the walk to wait for Peyton, her Bedlington friend. I noticed she stood just a little more to the side of the door than usual. What did she know that I didn’t?
The cold air was filling the kennel room and when I reached Peyton’s area I saw he was facing the door air-scenting into the breeze. His jewel tone eyes seemed to sparkle and if a dog could smile he was already grinning. I let him out and felt the wire door fly out of my hand, banging back on the side of his run. He was gone. Racing past Eva, exploding out into the yard at break neck speed. By the time he had reached the shed, and began a turn down the long back stretch of the yard he was running full-out. Tassels flying and tail like a rudder out behind him. He lapped the yard many times. Up over the rock wall, down the steps, around the cage faster and faster with each pass. The puppy seemed transfixed as he watched his mentor from the cage. Eva came to stand by me and I caught a glimpse of my mom watching too, from inside the house. It had been five long months of heat and rain and boredom. Snow was back and it was Peyton’s season. Maybe it’s his Swedish heritage or that he was born in late Winter in Pennsylvania where snow is a frequent visitor, too. But the little lamb dog ran in his yard on this first snow day until the balls of snow on his legs made it impossible for him to continue.
It took about 45 minutes to remove the snow and dry out his coat. He would have run again if we had let him. I fired up the snowblower later that afternoon and felt guilty that I was going to carve up the yard into tracks the dogs would stay on to make our lives easier. Peyton would run in the yard three more times that day and once again in the dead of night when he came into the house to spend time with us before his bedtime. In our state, the sun shines nearly 300 days a year on average. The temperature, though in the teens over night, had been warm before the snow and with the sun’s help would melt what had fallen in a couple of days. A last respite to rake up leaves, winterize the house and cars and enjoy a few more days outside wearing only sweaters.