Walking (Toby) In A Winter Wonderland
I am outside and the app on my phone tells me it’s only 20 degrees. I haven’t had any coffee yet and I forgot one of my gloves, or maybe it’s lost; I lose a lot of gloves.
The commuters sprint by, hoping to make it to the streetcar before it pulls away, lest they be stuck like me, standing with my shoulders hiked up to my ears, exhaling steam and shivering.
I am outside in the cold most winter mornings, un-caffeinated and losing the feeling in my fingers and toes, because I have a dog.
Thankfully, Toby — a 15-pound mixed-breed/terrier rescue — isn’t thrilled about being outside in this weather, either. But he has an appointment with nature, which means I do, too.
I have no one to blame for this situation but myself. Had it been up to my husband, I wouldn’t be out in the cold with the commuters, the gonzo die-hard runners and my neighbors who are also holding leashes and poop bags.
My husband loves dogs. He loves this one, too, but I’m the one who can’t live without a canine anti-depressant. So unless I have proof of a fever or am out of town, I am on morning duty — and about 85 percent of the rest of the day, too.
It sounds like I’m complaining, but there are important compensations for this inconvenience. For example, walking the dog is about three-quarters of my exercise regime.
Also, dogs are a wonderful social lubricant. Strangers smile at my pooch (who is undeniably adorable, you must agree.) People stop and ask about his breed, his age and where I got him. They tell me their dog stories — from childhood or last week. Some parents ask if they can introduce their toddlers to Toby, and I reassure them that my little guy is as gentle and nonthreatening as he appears. And since I work at home alone, Toby isn’t just good company, he’s my social director.
But on mornings when the temperature is below 25 degrees — even if it’s sunny, dry and what New Englanders like to call “brisk” — pedestrians rush by heads down, eyes narrowed and we are invisible. And when the wind howls, snow swirls and the schools close, we often have the morning to ourselves, like ghosts who materialize briefly and vanish from the hushed, white world.
Getting out of the house on winter mornings is a production: thick socks, boots, heavy coat, hat, gloves, and keys, which are never where I should have left them. Toby — being small and skinny — gets a coat and goo on his paws so they don’t freeze. The time required for all of these preparations is sometimes greater than the time we spend outside.
Once we finally do get outside, the air slaps me awake and with that first breath, I feel a fresh air high. Around the corner, sometimes there is birdsong in the trees overhead and I remember to be grateful that I am healthy and ambulatory.
Once we’re back inside, that cup of coffee is the best I ever tasted.