We made it through hunting season in November and I don’t have to walk around looking like a pumpkin with legs anymore, and now we’re well into December and it all comes back to me, the things to love and the things to, well, not so much.
I like the snow and as I write this we’re expecting a decent dump starting late tonight. I’m a night person so I often do a preliminary shovelling of my sidewalk (is it the only one here in Monroe? Might be.) so that I don’t have to move huge amounts at any one time. Snow falling is magic and December is usually about the first snows that everyone enjoys. The snow in April is enjoyed by far fewer folks.
That co-dependant holiday is just around the corner and the millions who do the obligatory gifting are crowding the venues. A bit closer to the day and you might wonder if no one ever eats except two times a year if you dare the grocery store. It took me a couple of times but if you live in Canada and go to someone’s house for Christmas dinner you still need to shop before the holiday anyway, because ALL the grocery stores are closed on Boxing Day. Weird.
But my real love/not-so-much with December stems from my life with Mr. Ever-Vigilant/ Scourge of the Forest, Murphy.
The temperature is cold enough that he has lots of energy to patrol and bark which it is in his nature to do. The leaves are gone from the trees and the air is crisp and a good barking rhythm can carry across the valley quite nicely, reminding all residents of the woods that they might better avoid this particular stretch.
Until there is a good amount of snow on the ground to make the excessive (in my mind) patrolling difficult, nearly every day it is possible that Murphy will not return from our afternoon foray up the hill and instead will move back and forth barking. I would take him in the truck to Northern Pond and do our walk there so he would have to finish with me but in December the ice is not necessarily frozen enough and I do not want to repeat the Reverse Lassie. (See my post, The Thanksgiving Song: https://garbethegoddess.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/the-thanksgiving-song/ for that story.)
Usually he waits for me to at least start the walk with him but today when I came out he was already in full voice. I started up the hill directly because he was already too close to the neighbour who doesn’t like him patrolling and never forgets an infraction. I try to get ahead of where he is going so that we can meet in the woods but Murphy was already across the right of way and in the woods on the other side. There is a loop trail on the neighbour’s property where we used to walk with permission until permission was revoked. One too many times Murph opted to return in his own time and swing through their dooryard for a friendly chase of a cat if possible, alas.
So today I ran down the snow-covered upper part of the loop to get ahead of him. I was just looking for the place where we used to cross a little stream when Murphy can running full tilt toward me. He was all, hey! cool to meet you here! and I was all, what a surprise to find you here too! I gave him a couple of cookies from my pocket and hooked him up. He thoughtfully chose to backtrack my trail since it’s good not to go right by the neighbour’s house and give her more fuel for the stories. ( She never forgets an episode and still uses as an example something he did when he was a juvenile.)
Across the right-of-way we followed my trail up the hill above our garage. With the little bit of snow it’s hard to see the lay of the ground but traction is not too bad because the moisture from the ground has frozen so some steps are into eight or so inches of ice crystals which gives some traction. Still there are rocks and piles of branches and some ice so it’s good for the balance to walk such uneven terrain.
So far, I’ve managed to bring him home every time he’s gone on barkabout, but it interrupts my work and I worry that he might get shot by one of those Maine hunters who feel entitled to the deer and erroneously think Murphy threatens that or that he might end up in a trap somewhere where I can’t find him.
Note, the day after: The perfect winter storm started late last night. We woke up to 8 inches and I shovelled my way out to the driveway, then barefooted (no snowshoes) down the unploughed driveway with dog and shovel to clear a walkway for my neighbour who has a dodgy heart. ( Her heart’s in the right place, it’s just not up to heavy physical exertion .) We walked down the road that the snowplough had done already and the reason I didn’t wear snowshoes.
So it’s all good now. Murphy and I love to run downhill in the snow, me with snowshoes. He steals my mitten and flips it into the air, a playful moment for a usually serious guard dog. Snowshoes were needed for the walk up the hill but not so much that Murphy couldn’t offer to break trail for me, but just enough that he came home from the walk and now is out on his long lead, letting the nearby world know that this hill is guarded, go elsewhere if you are a ne’er-do-well. Today December is good.