Monday, January 31, 2011

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Last week we had a major icy snowstorm. Or a major snowy icestorm. Either way it hosed up things pretty badly in the greater Washington, DC area. It's kind of hard to exercise a dog when the weather is so bad. It's not the getting wet and cold part, it's the staying on your feet part that's hard. But we adapt.
Yesterday, it was almost 40 degrees. The snow and ice were a slushy mess but it was the weekend and it has become part of our routine to walk around the lake on the weekend. So Gregg and I and Ray headed to the lake for a walk. Gregg quickly identified a nice, stout, fallen tree limb to use as a walking stick and I did the same a short time later. There were lots of downed trees from the storm, but we chose sticks that were nicely weathered and mostly stripped of bark. The walk was a tougher go than usual but uneventful.
This morning, it was below freezing. I checked the weather report to see if it was going to warm up during the day, but that did not appear to be the case. Usually, when I'm not working, I'll head to the dogpark to give Ray a run but with the thaw from the day before and the current frozen conditions, I knew the park would be frozen, slippery, and kind of dangerous for a gangly dog on the run. So I decided to take Ray back to the lake for a morning hike. I strapped him into his sniffing sweater, bundled him into the car, made sure that I still had my stick from the day before, and we set off.
The slushy paths from the day before were sheets of ice where they had been firmly trampled, and crunchy ice where there hadn't been quite as much foot traffic. It was cold and quiet and if it hadn't been for the houses circling the lake, I would have thought we were miles from everything. We met few people on the way around, a (crazy!) runner, a hiker (also with a walking stick), and an elderly couple that were gingerly picking their way down the path.
Ray and I were about half-way-round the lake when he stopped and gave a short, low growl. I looked at him, suprised. He's never growled on a walk before.
"What's wrong, Ray?" I asked. He didn't answer. I could tell that the hackles on his back were up, even though they were covered by the sweater. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up too.
Ray's lifted his nose in the air; it was twitching furiously. I looked around nervously and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. A flash of red against the white snow. It was a fox slipping through the backyard of the house ahead of us. I planted my stick and held on for dear life. Ray started thrashing back and forth on the end of his leash, pulling this way and that, trying to identify the exact direction he should take off in the event that I should let him off his leash to chase his prey.
I watched as the fox got further and further away. Ray realized that he wasn't going to be allowed to have any fun and calmed down. I unstuck my stick from the snow and we continued on around the frozen landscape.

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