Mammal Mondays: Seasonal Walking

Walking with The Shermanator is a treat and a joy in the warmer months. We trek all over the place, him trotting gleefully beside me while I bop along to whatever is on my iPod. Here is a photo from one such walk, taken in happier times:

Crossing the river on a perfect July morning.
Crossing the river on a perfect July morning. 

Sadly, the season of gleeful walks has ended and winter has swallowed the province in his frosty jaws. If you don’t believe me, check the weather channel: we’ve had well over a foot of snow in the last 72 hours. Ick.

Preparing to walk the dog in the decent months has no more than four steps.

Step One: Apply bug spray and/or sunscreen if required.

Step Two: Dog goes out to pee (human stays in to pee.)

Step Three: Don shoes and grab iPod.

Step Four: Depart from the dollhouse.


These days, preparing to walk the dog has many additional steps.

Step One: Check Environment Canada website for temperature and windchill warnings.

Step Two: Dog goes out to pee (human stays in to pee, thank God.)

Step Three: Wiggle into long johns and put on thicker socks.

Step Four: Slip into snow pants.

Step Five: Put on parka; insert iPod headphones before ensuring hood is snugly fastened.

Step Six: Yank winter boots onto feet.

Step Seven: Don mittens and possibly scarf, depending on outcome of Step One.

Step Eight: Upon walking outside into the cold, realize human female probably needs to pee again.

Step Nine: Repeat steps 3-7 in reverse order from the original execution.

Step Ten: Repeat steps 3-7 in original order.

Step Eleven: Depart the dollhouse.

Okay, so I probably don’t actually remove my boots to get that last sneaky pee taken care of, and I probably track snow through my kitchen, but those suckers are really hard to get off my feet. It’s easy enough to blame the tracks on the dog, since he has twice as many feet as I do.

In the summer we walk where we feel like walking, and we walk until we feel we’ve exercised adequately. In the winter, however, we walk wherever we can while keeping the wind off our faces, and we walk as long as we can stand the cold. That’s not typically very long. I’ve never claimed to be tough about the weather. In fact, I’ll readily admit to being a big wimp about the subzero temperatures. I don’t know if it’s poor body thermoregulation, or just a total lack of the ability to cope with being cold, but I find being outside miserable, even totally bundled up in my wintery gear. My hands also lock when they get cold, creating two largely immobile, claw-like fixtures that would be better suited to a Tim Burton movie than just about anything else.

Maybe my discomfort is partially a visual perception thing. I’m very much interested in colour, and in the summer there is lots to look at between the flowers and the grass and all the splendors of nature. By the time winter rolls around again, we are awash in a monochromatic landscape of whites and greys. After a little while, the sand on the roads adds some browns to the mix, but it’s hardly a thrilling seasonal palette. No, the flashing orange lights on top of the snow ploughs don’t actually count as a colour. Neither does that slightly blue rock salt folks sprinkle on their sidewalks. If it’s a cloudy day, the whole scene feels like the moment in an apocalypse film before they roll the final credits.

For his part, Sherman is no sled dog. He’s happy to come for a walk if we’re offering to take him, but he certainly isn’t the type of creature who relishes the feel of diving into a fresh snow drift. On the colder days, at least on the ones that still qualify as simply “cold” before we get to the point where skin freezes in minutes and being outside is unsafe, Sherm walks diligently along for a while but soon tries to turn back toward the dollhouse at every corner. His fur “coat” is barely a windbreaker, so I don’t blame the guy.

As the stages of grief go, I’m probably still firmly lodged at “anger.” Hey, at least I’ve moved on from denying winter is going to come and it’s going to be ugly. I’m doing the best I can, and considering they have forecast a low of -24 for tomorrow, I think I’m doing reasonably well.

Also, considering I waited 45 minutes in the cold for a bus that didn’t come after work tonight (not my fault) without mittens (completely my fault) I’m not feeling all that friendly toward the great outdoors. I am, however, feeling grateful for a husband who dropped everything to pick me up when it became clear transit was not going to come through and for my long coat that at least kept most of me warmish. I’m just really, really missing summer this week and pouting about it. We have a long, long five months until spring.

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