Lois is a snow dog. You can see the change come over her with every flake floating to the ground. Lois sleeps on a gray day, barely getting up to get a drink of water or to change positions on the sofa. But when the snow starts she changes. Her ears perk up first. Then she lifts her head and starts looking around. Looking out the window. Pacing. Looking at me. Pacing some more. Like a child home from school due to bad weather, this child wants to go build herself a snowman.
Today I was gratefully home from work because of ice and snow. I say gratefully because work has been especially nerve-wracking lately – but that’s a subject for another post. So I was grateful for this gift of a whole snowy day for just me and my dog. Hubby went to work. Being from Buffalo and owning a car with built-in traction control, this was business as usual for him.
But today I was free. Free all morning to write, listen to the radio, drink coffee, and watch the sleet fall down like needles then the snow float down like feathers. Lois was fine all morning, but as the ground grew covered, she grew restless. It’s like she knows now there is enough snow on the ground to be worthwhile. Enough to go play.
And so we walked. And as we climbed a small hill in the road, I looked ahead to a strange sight. About 30 robins sat in the middle of the road, dipping their heads forward to sip the melted ice which lay in puddles before them. A few would fly up and swoop down and around so they looked like bats. And yes, they were all robin red-breast birds. You see one as a prelude to Spring. What does seeing 30 mean? It was magical. Lois took off chasing them, determined to make one of them her lunch. Straining against her leash, threatening to pull my arm out of its socket.
But the birds would just alight awhile and then come to rest again, a little further down the road. Sipping the melted ice. Flitting about in the gray steel-colored air, their breasts as red against the snow as a Beefeater’s coat. Red and gray. They would never touch down behind us, always in front, so it was like we were chasing them. I crunched along in the snow, the only sound except for the birds calling out to one another with playful voices. It has been so silent this winter. Hearing the sound of birds now again reminded me of Spring’s approach.
And Lois played. Rolling in the snow on her back, tongue hanging out, the top half of her going one way, the bottom half the other. Like she’s doing the twist lying down. Then she jumps up, shakes herself off, gives me a sparkling grin and wags her tail as if to say, “Can I go again Mommy?” Her favorite thing is to roll on her back down a hill. She’ll start at the top then twist herself all the way down. Then run up and do it all over again. Like 10 times in a row. Sliding down the playground slide in reverse.
In her eyes I see nothing but pure happiness as she chases the birds, follows a scent trail, slides down the hill. Leaping and bounding through the snow. She has a look in her eyes like she’s remembering something. Like she has Alzheimer’s, but for one brief shining moment she remembers everything. The dawning crosses her face and I see it. “I remember this,” she seems to say. And it makes me melancholy because I wonder what her dog memories are. She has happy memories of chasing birds, running through the snow, rolling on her back. Was it while she was alone? With no home? Or did she run with a pack and it was ruined when that dog attacked her but now she’s remembering her younger, better days. When all dogs were nice to one another and everything was free for the taking and the only important thing you had to do that day was roll in the snow? Did she have another family? Did they play with her in the snow too? Does she miss them sometimes?
Or maybe dogs don’t have memories. Maybe they just live for the moment and the expression I’m seeing is one of pure unadulterated joy at this moment, right here, right now. Who knows? But I do know I hope we get to do it all again tomorrow…