At 2:30 we headed out for what I thought might be a short amble. By the time we got to the bridge, breaking through drifts on sidewalks that hadn't been shoveled, my spirits had improved considerably and I wasn't tired anymore. All I had to do was look at Zoe. It was impossible not to smile.
Zoe loves winter. She loves winter because she loves snow. She loves to eat it, roll in it, wear it, pee in it, chase other dogs in it, or just sit in it and stare off at the river and trees exuding soulful wolfy mojo.
We haven't had much snow this winter, only ice. In the woods we were breaking our own trail in drifts nearly a foot deep. It felt good to work up a sweat while snow fell around me and Zoe leaped and rolled and panted with joy.
Out on the other side of these woods Zoe pointed in the direction of her friend Cooper's house. From the street I got out my cell phone and called his person, Pat, and she invited us to come right over.
While Pat got ready to join our walk, I went to her back yard and watched the dogs race each other down the steep embankment to the river and then back up. This is the steepest hill Zoe's been on since she became a tripod, and she bounded up nimbly through deep drifts. When Zoe peed--she's a little alpha with Cooper and likes to spray her graffiti, her "Zoe was here" in his territory--he leaned his head on her neck companionably. Then the two dogs kissed. It's a little tap on the nose, snout to snout. Like our version of cheek kisses, or a high-five.
Why, why, why didn't I have my camera with me?
And on we went, the four of us, back through the woods and up into the campus. Pat and Cooper showed us where a fire had erupted in the chemistry lab and blew out several windows and sent smoke careening clear across the river to our street. The campus had to be evacuated for a week while crews cleaned up the damage. We shared stories about our own days in chemistry lab. In high school, I teamed up with Bob Fitzer, who was the smartest boy in our class. He did the science, and I wrote up the reports. It was a great system as far as I was concerned, but you'd have to ask him if he agreed. Our teacher, Mr. Leahy, never stuck around long to supervise. He was reportedly off drinking with the janitors when he left us alone in the classroom to cook up whatever we could cook up in an hour over our bunsen burners.
We thought about the mysterious properties of incendiary chemistry, which made me think about good chemistry: about what makes two dogs click. When Zoe and Cooper walk together, we are always on the alert for what we call the lean-in. That's when they match each other's strides and Cooper leans into Zoe as they run.
We also enjoy the way they come together to sniff the same shrub, then part ways briefly to pursue their own interests. It's like a conversation with pauses that no one feels anxious to fill.
For 90 minutes I watched my dog run through snow drifts, roll around, stick her snout in almost to her eyes, and listen to the call of the wild. All the stress of the previous day melted away.
When we got to a hill where some children were sledding, Zoe even had the temerity to yell at the kids' dog. She said, I am queen of this hill.
I rarely feel as frazzled as I did this weekend after driving in a winter storm on unplowed roads in a car I didn't truly know how to stop. I thought it was going to require everything in my medicinal repertoire to get my balance back: a long bath, extra meditation, good wine, yoga, multiple naps, and a Downton Abbey marathon.
But after this walk with Zoe, I'm in love with winter again. And if you still love winter in the North Country in late February, life is pretty sweet.