Thursday, December 18, 2008
Dog Walking in A Winter Wonderland
This morning when I woke up I knew, even without my contact lenses in, that something was different. There was a kind of glow coming from the window. I did not have to squint, there was snow on the rooftops! Having lived in Massachusetts for 22 years before moving here you would think that snow would not be such a big deal, but in the eight years that I have lived on Alki, here in West Seattle, we have not had a major snowstorm.
While engaging in my morning routine of feeding the animals and preparing to walk my dog, Puma, it became clear that I was going to have a snow day for the first time in a long time, as all of my clients made the decision to reschedule.
While making lists in my head of all the things I could get caught up on, such as laundry and holiday party prep, I realized that I had perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get out in the snow, have some fun, and take some photographs. Time to play a little hooky from chores!
My dog, Puma, was adopted from a shelter in Montana, and has not really seen snow since. With his snowshoe-like feet and thick winter coat (I think his parentage is Anatolian Shepherd/Alaskan Malamute but will never know for sure), he was ideally equipped for the weather, and after donning a coat I have not been able to wear since living in Massachusetts because it is so heavy, furry boots, leg warmers, scarf, hat, and fingerless gloves (for camera operation), so was I.
I also packed some all-natural beef dog treats. Today I was going to let Puma off-leash so that he could fully enjoy his time in the snow. Normally I do not do this as Puma has a tendency to not listen tome off-leash, forging ahead and leaving me behind. I think it is the sled-dog heritage, very helpful when he helps you drag out the trash, which he does with tail held high and waving, not so good otherwise.
Arriving at Schmitz Park, we had it all to ourselves, although there was evidence in the snow that others had been there before us.
Saying a prayer to Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, for all that I have learned and was now about to apply, I had Puma sit, and when he did I rewarded him with a treat. He is a smart dog, having seen me prepare the treats he could see that there were more where that one came from, and that I was the purveyor. It was my hope that that piece of knowledge would enable me to call him back when needed.
I unleashed Puma, and he was off like a shot. Charging down the path, diving off into the underbrush, he was a wild man, and then he disappeared from sight. I called his name—no response. Sigh, maybe this would not work. Taking a deep breath, I grounded and centered myself and called again. No response.
Placing my faith in Puma’s innate intelligence, I decided to simply move forward and trust that he would return. Sure enough, here he came, at top speed. I whipped out my camera and managed to get a shot before he arrived, panting and smiling. When he sat I rewarded him with a treat. From that point on, every time he would return to me I would reward him. He did not always respond immediately to my calls (and then he did not get rewarded), but he did a decent job of not making me wait too long. Long enough, I guess, to establish that I still need some work on being alpha, but not long enough that he was demonstrating that he had no respect for me. A delicate balance in dog protocol.
I got some lovely shots of him in the falling snow, my favorites are the one of him catching snowflakes on his tongue, and another where he is running down the path under the arches of snow covered branches. (You can see all the photos from our Alki adventures at my Flickr site.)
We had so much fun that we decided to check out Alki Beach and see what it was like there. By now Puma was back on leash, and back to being his usual well-behaved self. He is truly amazing. He will always stop while I am taking pictures, and if I take a moment he will sit and wait patiently until we move on.
We made a stop along the way to watch people standing around in groups talking while dogs played tag in the snow. The funniest was one golden retriever, who I swear was making snow angels while his person talked on his cell phone!
Down by Alki Beach, on the shore of Puget Sound, the wind was quite brisk, and the snow was still falling heavily. I watched pigeons struggle to make headway against it, finally managing to stay in one place while airborne, and then simply giving in, and resting as a flock, on the ground. Seagulls made hovering in gusts of wind look easy, spreading their wings wide and staying motionless, I have no idea how you do that when the wind keeps changing direction.
Watching them made me wonder how difficult it must be to find food in such weather. One seagull had it handled, however. He waited by the seawall for a crashing wave to dump whatever it carried at his feet, where he could look it over and beat any other contenders to a tasty morsel.
By this time the wind had picked up even more, and my legs were starting to feel frozen. But I kept taking pictures, trying to capture the right moment where the waves crashed against the seawall. Now my fingers were getting numb. Still, I needed to take one more set of shots, of Lady Liberty, the Statue of Liberty that was recently restored and dedicated on Alki Beach. Looking at her from her right side, her figure and garments were dusted with a blanket of snow from the midline to the front, making her appear as though she walked forward into the teeth of the snowstorm holding her torch aloft and not faltering. Unfortunately that angle also included a backdrop of trees, wires, and stores, which ruined the effect. I had to content myself with a shot of her from the front—she still looks resolute.
Puma had been really patient through all of this, and my fingers were now definitely getting harder to move, and I wondered at one point does a camera get too cold? Time to head home. We’d had our walk in our Winter Wonderland, and like any child who has been playing in the snow on a day off from school I suddenly yearned for comfort food. Calling it a day, Puma and I made our way back, and I decided that after downloading the photos, I would kick back with a cup of hot cream of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. My day off would be a day of memories to treasure—the chores could wait.
Rose De Dan
Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC
Animal and Reiki Art: www.cafepress.com/reikishamanic