My first winter here, my husband was deployed. We had one dog, Tula, she of the crooked teeth and dubious breeding (we got her from the animal shelter). We had no fence around our yard. So every morning I got up 30 minutes early in order to layer on, over pajamas, the following: snow overalls, fleece scarf, fleece jacket, puffy ski jacket, hat with ear flaps (lined with fleece), $40 North Face ski mittens, and fur-lined snow boots...all so I could walk Tula to town. Upon returning from a day teaching college, I put all the same on over my work clothes and walked her to town again -- before dinner, which if you know my Hobbit eating habits, is a huge sacrifice. In the middle of the day, a dog walker came and walked her again. She was in good shape.
But I always felt bad that our little dog was only ever outside on a leash. (For Tula runs away and does not come back when called. Or chased.) And, we thought, it would be so nice to just let the dogs out in the morning instead of having to walk them before breakfast. So, just before he came home, we had a fence put up around the yard -- and, in the meantime, got a dog for Tula, Nikki -- a Tibetan spaniel also from the shelter, whose teeth and breeding are even more questionable than hers.
Thus it was that when the next winter came, we could -- and did -- just let the dogs out in the mornings...and, after awhile, also sometimes in the evenings when we just didn't feel like going outside after working all day.
You know where this is going: Even though my dogs are AWFUL to walk, I miss the walks. I miss knowing the snow levels and how many ice fishermen are on the frozen lake. I miss the orange streetlight glow on the snow. I miss the moon sparkling on it. I miss knowing its sound. I miss knowing whether the cold that day will take my breath away or just feel fresh and clean.
We walked the dogs this evening, and I hope to get back into the pattern of walking them. It's better for them, and of course, us also. I'm going to start with the evening walks for a few weeks and just do the morning one when I feel like it. I know myself: If it feels like punishment or an unnecessary obligation, I won't do it. After awhile, I'll add the morning walk back in regularly and see how that goes. I did it before, so surely I can manage it again. And my little dogs will feel more like dogs, perhaps. My lungs will feel more like lungs. My winter will feel longer, bigger, colder, closer.