I have noticed something about myself in the past couple of weeks. When the weather outside is frigid, I fight with myself to go outdoors for a walk. This is so unusual for me because I love the outside.

Somehow, the novelty of getting dressed in all of my specialty outdoor clothes has worn off. I think it’s because it takes so many layers to stay warm when there is a below zero windchill.

When the windchill is minus ‘anything’, I feel like I am donning a space suit to go outside. There are base layers and wool sox to put on, there are shoes with yaktrax to assemble. I need my etip gloves covered by my insulated mittens, a scarf to cover my exposed facial skin and wrap up my neck. When all of this is in place, I am finally ready to securely flip up my hood, cover my head, and march out the door. Honestly, this takes me about 15 minutes – including item location (where did I leave that…?) and assembling the outfit. It’s a workout in itself!

Once I am outside it’s as if my friendly planet has changed. I have to be so vigilant on the extreme and harsh surface. In the cold silence, there is ice, everywhere. Cratered under the snow, frozen in big mounds here and there, even the surface snow is frozen to a crunchy hardness demanding exact foot placement so as not to lose my balance. My mile times are moving towards 20 minutes.  If only there was no gravity, and I could effortlessly leap about!

As I consider all of this, I begin to think “I’ll just stay inside today” – maybe use a walk video, or I’ll go to the track. My mood improves having made a decision. I start to look forward to donning shorts and a t-shirt until “the face” appears.

“The face” belongs to my winter-loving, immune to frigid cold, loves the outdoors even more than me – Saint Bernard, Phoebe.

Phoebe’s petition for a walk begins with her gently placing her enormous head in my lap. If that doesn’t get my attention, she will look up at me, batting her lash covered chocolate eyeballs, imploring me to “look deeply into her eyes to know what she wants”. Phoebe is one of those Saint Bernard’s who are especially good at looking sad when they want to, I think it’s all of her droopy  facial skin. Her ‘droopy sad but kind of infectious, excited look’ melts me. I know she is telling me she wants a walk, and Bam! there go all of my negative thoughts for going outside! How can I resist when I know how playful she will get when she is out there. It fills me with happiness.

With a change of heart, I smile at her and say “just a couple of minutes more”. She will use her big black tennis ball sized nose to nuzzle my arm as if to say “you can do it, you can stop sipping, reading, typing, talking and take me.”

“Yes we’ll go”  I respond and as I look at her she decisively places her big mitt of a paw on my lap, wanting me to “shake”, as if it will seal the deal.

“Just one last minute” and with a slightly pitiful and softly muffled groan she will lay her warm gigantic self down, on my feet, as if to say “alright, but when you are done, I’ve got your feet, they’re mine, and they are taking me for a walk.”

Dogs are awesome. Phoebe and “the face” guarantee me a one mile walk everyday.

When we finally get outside and into the walk, Phoebe has a ritual. She will follow a trail with her nose, exploring her world to find the perfect spot. Once found, she will dive headfirst onto the frozen surface and slide without a care for a couple of feet. When she finally comes to a stop, she will happily wiggle about on her back for a couple of moments as if she is making a snow angel. Without missing a beat, she then flips herself up into an army crawl, gazing around the park like a puppy ready to play!

I can never resist seeing such happiness and I think “lucky me” – even when it means putting on my spacesuit!

phoebe in


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