This is the second winter of Willie’s life.
The last one came on quick.
Born in central Louisiana, that young little rescue mutt arrived in the Hudson Valley in early November with no concept of the snow and ice and road salt to come. Willie toughed it out, as we all must. But when walking with me on those bitterly cold days, he often began limping or walking on three legs, a signal that the little pink pads of his feet were just too damn cold. That’s when I’d pick him up, unzip my coat, and tuck him inside for the walk home.
At other times, even while wearing his uber-cool Billy Wolf reversible canvas coat — a gift from friends — Willie would begin to shiver and tremble – another signal that he was too damn cold and needed me to pick him up, unzip my coat, and tuck him inside for the walk home.
Deep and heavy snow presents other challenges for this twelve-pound dog not much bigger than a housecat. I opened the back door yesterday morning after the snow had been falling all night to let Willie out to “do his business.” But by then we’d already received nearly a foot of accumulation, putting all of Willie’s “business” beneath the surface of the snow. While he hopped around trying to develop some sort of strategy to relieve himself, I pulled on my coat and boots and went outside to join him with a snow shovel.
Willie stayed right behind me as I dug a path from the door to the bird feeders, then from the bird feeders into the garden, its borders defined by boxwood and leafless privet. From the garden, I continued digging this trench to the side door, then backtracked to a spot just west of the bird feeders where I cleared a patch of earth maybe six feet square – an area I thought of as the latrine. Willie immediately adopted this spot as his own, sniffing and marking the few patches of green and brown grass poking up from beneath the snow.
I shoveled for a bit more then came back in the house, slightly out of breath, with Willie no longer at my heels. From the sunroom, warming my hands with a hot mug of tea, I watched Willie trot back and forth, exploring the entire length of this new trench. The snow continued to fall, but Willie was not too cold, and he did not want to come back inside. And when I opened the door and called his name, he simply sat down to survey the new white landscape that surrounded him.