I am not a fair-weather dogwalker. I am hard core. Unless conditions are somehow detrimental to the dogs, nothing weather-related can really keep me home. We’re out in mud, snow, frost, fog, sunshine, cloud cover, and cold. I’ve even been known to strap on a pair of ice cleats and step out on the glassy roads after freezing rain.
I do walk in winter. It’s not always pleasant, but the pros do outweigh the cons.
For one thing, no one else is out. Kids are in school, parents are at work, and retired folks are, well, intelligent enough to recognize a good season to stay indoors. That means the dogs and I have the roads largely to ourselves. There are no other walkers, no yard warriors working on their properties, and interestingly enough, way less traffic passing us than normal. It isn’t unusual for us to tramp six or seven miles and only meet two or three cars in all that time. I love it. Less stress for me, more safety for the dogs.
For another thing, as much as I might whine and fuss about the cold, most of the time the dogs thrive in it. Long walks in the cold are much easier than even shorter walks in warmer weather. Even Banner, who you would think would activate his couch potato switch in frigid temperatures, bounds out the front gate with no hesitation – at least, provided he has a thick, fleece jacket buckled on.
The dogs run harder and faster in nippy weather, and of course, that means they come home more tired and more satisfied.
If I had to choose, fall would probably be my favorite season to walk. But, as hard as it might be to admit, I’d say winter is a close second.
So, the pack and I head out this morning for the last walk of the year. It’s a long one this time. We log about seven miles roundtrip. The dogs are wound up and wild, racing and rocketing far out into the brush and fields. Even Meg, who is now almost fourteen and weak on her right side thanks to a stroke back in May, gallops like a racehorse. Banner, in full whippet glory, tears through the fields like power and poetry personified. I can’t see him run, but I can feel it. The drumming of their hard, steely feet on the hard, frozen roads, and the sharp tinkling and jangling of their bells is, for a few moments, the only sound in the wide world.
Then I remember my own slow, heavy feet, clomping and crunching over the gravel. A lonely plane traces overhead, its engines a frosty and distant roar. A crow hacks and caws out in the barren woods.
As slow and clomping as I may be, I think how lucky I am to be here, keeping this company on the last day of the entire year. And as we turn around and head for home, I think about all the things that I’m glad I’m leaving behind, and of all the things I hope I’m walking into.
The dogs pelt past me, leaving me in winter dust. Even little Cinder is a bolting blur of speed and energy and joy. Running hard. Walking strong. Ready for more in 2024.