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Butterfly’s Ice Rink

 

This past Tuesday, New York was hit by a massive east coast storm that was supposed to bury us in snow, but halfway through, the snow turned to sleet and the world froze. I slid across the walkways in the dark, when the dogs had to go out to pee. The next morning, the maintenance guys came back and salted the sidewalks and broke up the ice in the parking lot, but they left the backyard as it was and we have had an ice rink ever since. Butterfly is in love. Cricket may be a snow bunny, but Butterfly, it turns out, is an ice skater. Her ice rink is bumpy and often runs uphill, and she has to skate around various impediments, but that only seems to make it more of an adventure.

Girls at the door

Surveying the territory

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Testing the ice

onward

Going on an adventure

Back from adventure

and returning

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Happy.

Cricket has been more circumspect about the whole thing. She has found it impossible to dig into this strange version of snow, and has had no luck removing leaves from their icy casings. She sniffs huge clumps of snow for signs of pee and birdseed, but she spends most of her time on the edges of the ice, ready to return to solid ground at any moment. But every once in a while, she lets loose, jumping and spinning and leaping across the ice, while her sister placidly skates along nearby. They meet up to check in, sniffing each other’s noses and ears, before going their own ways again.

girls meet up

“What is this stuff?”

flying cricket 2

“Wheee!”

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“Whoohooo!”

sliding cricket

“And a two-footed landing!”

But it’s Butterfly who is loving this new ice world. No matter how far out she goes, and no matter how high she climbs, she leaves no foot prints, and I’m realizing that, for years, she must have felt unsteady walking on the grass, and now, with ice under her feet, she finally feels secure.

 

Butterfly on ice

Butterfly, in her own world.

My Snow Day

 

Up until the middle of this week, I was working on a post about how little snow we’ve gotten on Long Island this winter. It is therefore possible that Thursday’s massive Thunder-snow-bomb-aggedon was my fault.

The thing is, I like snow. Even more than that, I like snow days, when the whole world seems to be at home watching the same news shows, and not a word of politics is spoken. Theoretically. I love zipping up my tall boots and taking the dogs out for picture time. I love watching Cricket hop through the snow searching for treasures (a leaf!!!!!). And I even like trying to console Butterfly about the weird texture of the ground under her paws.

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“I see something!!!!!!!”

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“Now I see it over there!”

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“Mommy, why can’t I feel my toes?”

We were having all of the negatives of winter: the severe cold, the biting wind, the gloomy lighting, and every kind of cold and flu imaginable, without the benefit of snowball fights and hot cocoa to lighten the load. Even Cricket and Butterfly had to suffer through the short daylight hours, and even shorter walks, and the plinking rain on their heads, with no reward.

We had one day, recently, when the air was full of snowflakes that blurred the world, but added up to almost nothing on the ground. I had to drive carefully, and wear a warm jacket, scarf, and gloves, but I still had to go to work. I felt cheated.

Summer will come along too soon, and it will be relentlessly hot and humid and full of smog and sweat and swarms of bugs. I just wanted a few snow days in my memory bank, to shore me up for those long months of heat, when I would barely be able to go outside and would have to sit with my head right up against the air conditioner just to be able to think.

It’s not that I’m thrilled with having to shovel my car out of the deep snow. I would actually like to have a magical shovel that removes the snow without any help from me. And I could do without the black ice on the roads, and the slippery walkways, and the bad headache that inevitably comes with extreme changes in air pressure. But the snowstorm was a relief just the same. I could turn on the TV and watch weather for as long as I wanted to, with only short breaks to hear about the national political dramas. Every local newsperson was out in the snow, wearing silly hats, and asking random snow-covered strangers some very silly questions. My local government officials were all too busy keeping people safe, and making sure the snow was getting removed from the roads, to cause trouble. One mayor was even driving the snow plow himself, with a reporter along for the ride to make sure the event was recorded for posterity.

I need days like that. I need a few days each year when all of the pain and disorder are muted under Mother Nature’s snowy blanket. Now if only we could convince her to lift up the blanket of snow again once we’ve rested, and not leave it to me to remove pounds of wet snow with my non-magical shovel, then I wouldn’t need three days in bed to recover from my beautiful snow day.

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“We’re going back inside now, Cricket.”

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“I can’t go inside yet, Butterfly. There’s still a leaf under here. I’m sure of it!”

The Rains Came

 

The rains came this week and washed away most of the snow, leaving ice bergs every five to ten feet across the backyard. Cricket took it as her duty to explore each little island of snow. She climbed up to the highest point of each one and seemed to be contemplating names for the new nations, given the amount of time she spent inspecting each crevice, deep in thought. This one I shall name Mathilda, for my Australian friends who have never seen snow. This other one I shall name Pluto, because it is so much smaller than all the others that it may not even be a real ice berg.

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The new nations.

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“What shall I name this new nation?”

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“Shall I poop here?”

Cricket took her job very seriously, but then she was distracted when she reached the one remaining snow bank up against the retaining wall, because there, over yonder, was a pile of cat poop that had not yet been claimed. Ahoy!

The endless variations in landscape that come across Cricket’s yard keep her enthralled – from the autumn leaf piles, to the desiccated brown grass over the summer, to the variations on the theme of snow. She could write a treatise on the magical world of her backyard, if she could only figure out how to type on the computer, one key at a time. Weqjhrgweop.

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“Mine!!!!”

For Butterfly, the rain meant that she could get closer to the bird seed that our neighbor spreads on the lawn each day. Our downstairs neighbor likes to feed the birds every day, so that they will congregate on the snow in front of her apartment and she can see some life in the midst of the cold and icy winter. When I look out the window there is always a line of birdseed on top of the snow and a huge squirrel stealing the food brazenly from the tiny birds. Butterfly would like to line up with the cardinal, and the mourning doves, and the squirrel, and at least sniff communally, but they seem to think she looks too much like Cricket and do not yet trust her intentions.

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The leftover smell of little bird feet still fascinates her, though.

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Bird feet smell so good!

As the snow melts, both dogs help me find the rocks of cat poop that solidified over the winter and now dot the landscape. This is not my favorite task, but the girls enjoy it immensely.

If the groundhog was right, and winter has only a few more weeks left, then the backyard will soon transform again, into its green-shoots phase, and then its over-come-with-weeds phase, which is Cricket’s favorite. She loves to help Grandma pull up weeds, and drag them around like trophies, and then lovingly chew them down to nothing.

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“Yum!.”

It is truly a wonderful world.

My Senior Snow Dog

 

Winter finally kicked in a few weeks ago with more than two feet of snow in one day. I think the Great Snow Planner in the Sky was trying to make all subsequent snowstorms seem puny, so we’d feel shamed into going out, even in eight inches of snow.

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The big snow!

For some reason, this year, Butterfly loves the snow. In the past she’s been uncomfortable with the snow swirling in her face, and the ice crunching and sliding under her feet, and she could never understand Cricket’s fascination with climbing to the top of Snow Mountain to poop. But this year, with the snow piled up over her head, she changed her mind.

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“What is this fluffy stuff?”

This is a dog who does not try to climb up on the couch, and hesitates each time she sees a stairway looming, but she saw a two foot wall of snow and decided not only to try to climb it, but to pull herself up and over, and walk along the iced over top. She went out onto the tundra of the backyard, like a lone explorer, sniffing for squirrels and birds and cat poop. (It didn’t hurt that one of our neighbors had tossed huge chunks of French bread out into the snow for the birds to choke on, again.)

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“I think I can, I think I can…”

Butterfly came home three and a half years ago as an eight year old dog, with a long puppy mill history and a heart problem. She had to learn how to poop outside, and climb stairs, and bark at strangers, and generally be a dog, and we figured, at a certain point, that she was finished catching up. She was running and barking and begging for food, just like Cricket, and really, who expects an eleven year old senior citizen to learn new tricks? But here she is, learning to love the snow. She loves when the snow hardens and she can walk on top of it, she loves sticking her toes into the rain-softened snow and trying to keep her balance as her legs fall out from under her. She loves the way the snow keeps smells fresh for days and days, and she can revisit an old message twenty more times. She even managed to pass the scary corner of the building, because the snow made her forget her fear of the outside world, for a little while.

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“Whoo hoo!”

Cricket has always loved the snow. In the snow, even Cricket can go leash-less, for a moment, and run and play like a puppy. I throw snowballs for her to catch and she buries her head in the snow to find them. She would stay outside for hours, except that snowballs accumulate on her fur and she starts to look like a Yeti who can’t move very well. She tried to chew off the snowballs herself one day, but, since she needed a bath anyway, I tossed her into the tub and melted off the snowballs with the shower attachment. She was not a fan of this experience.

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Cricket, headless.

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Grandma’s magic camera captured Cricket in action.

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“Grrrrrrrr!”

Butterfly didn’t get quite as covered as Cricket, because she’s still a newbie with this snow business. She likes how the snow feels on her toes, and maybe up to her ankles, but once it reaches her chest she starts to shiver. Her favorite thing is to run in the light powdery snow and leave a trail of paw prints in her wake.

cricket & Butterfly

 

The Snow Opera

 

When we are expecting a blizzard or snowpocalypse, the news shows start to take over the airwaves, covering each snowflake as it falls from the sky. And it’s exciting! It’s as if we’re all in the middle of a soap opera, waiting for each new drama to pop up. It makes me feel important when what’s going on outside my window has made national news. It’s something like what would happen if aliens invaded the earth. The level of drama and rhetorical hysteria is pretty similar.

The subways have stopped!

Don’t leave your house!

All of the bread is gone!

It's snowing!!!!!

It’s snowing!!!!!

Mom’s favorite thing about snowy days is the opportunity to watch our neighbors through the blinds of the living room windows. We can see the maintenance guys plowing the parking lot with their little golf cart, and neighbors shoveling their cars out with what look like plastic beach shovels. There’s a lot of yelling, from the louder of the two maintenance men, because people dare to walk on the walkways before they’ve been shoveled and salted, or try to drive to work before the parking lot is completely cleaned.

 

Butterfly is flying!

Butterfly is flying!

Because Cricket is coming after her!

Because Cricket is coming after her!

Mom finds it all very entertaining. There was the night when one of our neighbors shoveled out her car, for hours, even though it was expected to snow two times as much over night and her car was buried again by morning. Then there’s the woman who thinks that as long as she bundles up, she should be able to walk to the library in any blizzard. Some of the men help with the shoveling. One even has a plow on the front of his pickup truck and helps out when they need him. Then there are the alcoholics. We don’t see much of them in the winter.

Cricket, dressed up for the snow party.

Cricket, dressed up for the snow party.

The first snow day of the season was exciting. The whole world was planning to shut down for a day or two, and mayors and governors were on the news, with dramatic sign language interpreter’s doing modern dance routines at their sides. Suddenly, I had to make chicken soup, and bread, and cookies. I wasn’t even that hungry, but it reminded me of weather events from my childhood, spent in the kitchen with my mother and brother, drinking hot cocoa after building an igloo on the front lawn. Of course the food outlasted the snow by days.

"Where's the rest of the snow?"

“Where’s the rest of the snow?”

I remember a book called Smilla’s Sense of Snow, a mystery, I think, but what I remembered most were all of the different words for snow in Smilla’s mother’s language. So far this winter there’s been: a heavy, wet snow that comes from a rain/snow mix, and makes each shovel full almost impossible to lift; there’s been icy rain that lands in hard pellets on my head and then creates black ice within seconds so I can’t figure out where to put my feet; there’s been soft, powdery snow; and snow that develops a hard crack surface, so that the dogs seem to be breaking pieces of candy with each step; we’ve had tall, hard piles of snow; and lacy, bumpy layers of ice; and then there’s the slush, where it feels like someone poured their sorbet onto the sidewalk and it’s turning into soup as I walk through it.

Cricket has discovered a wonderful new game this winter – it is the cat poop treasure hunt. One of the feral cats has taken to climbing onto the snow mountains in the backyard, pooping, and then burying the poop with a little extra pile of snow. Cricket, with her very effective sniffer, discovered the first of these magic pellets before I knew anything about it. She came in from a walk with Grandma, jumped up onto my bed to wake me up, and pawed my face with cat pooped paws. It certainly woke me up – and then shocked her, because she landed in the bathtub immediately, along with my bed linens and pajamas. She was horrified, and confused. Here she’d brought me this wonderful gift and I was angry? Why?

Hershey, placing the treasure.

Hershey, placing the treasure,

and burying it.

and burying it.

Each time we go outside now, I watch Cricket carefully, and if that nose gets too interested in one spot or another, yank goes the leash. She tries to jump up onto the snow mountains herself, and then falls down the side when her paws fail to grip. She’s tried to poop on top of the cat poop, but she doesn’t think to hide her poop, and anyway, I’m always watching, and ruining her fun, removing her poop before she can bury it and create her own treasure hunt for later.

Someone tossed birdseed onto the back lawn one day and then it snowed, just a dusting, and you could see hundreds of bird footsteps in the snow, and now Cricket can’t stop sniffing. Those little feet must smell good.

The most upsetting thing this winter has been when they’ve promised me a snowmageddon, and it ends up being a little bit of rain. Rain?! What happened to all of that promised snow? I feel bereft. Now what am I going to do for entertainment?

"What's next?"

“What’s next?”

 

Cricket Loves the Snow

Cricket loves snow!

Cricket loves snow!

 

 

            Cricket was waiting all winter for a good snow day. She loves to jump and trip and poop in the snow. She loves getting snowballs up and down her legs and watching me freak out and try to melt her in the sink. She loves watching me brush snow off the car while shovels full of snow fly over her head. She loves to eat snow and catch snow with her face. She even loves to slip and slide on the ice, though I do not.

One winter when we had huge piles of snow, she discovered the joy of climbing to the top of a hard packed snow mountain to poop from there. Even when the snow was deep and hard crackle topped, she climbed like a hiker with steel toed boots to deposit her treasure. She couldn’t care less that I had to follow her up there and dig through the snow with the poopie bag.

Butterfly had only experienced light snows of at most an inch so far, and she barely seemed to notice the change in temperature or texture of the ground. Until the blizzard.

The snow started Friday morning and the girls ran out to collect snow flakes on their tongues and in their hair. By late afternoon I was throwing snowballs for Cricket, because her sticks were already invisible under the snow. By the last pee trip of the day, I had to shovel us out of the house and Butterfly was struggling to move through the thickness while Cricket climbed to the top of the snow to deposit one last poop for the day.

Cricket and Butterfly in their snow poses.

Cricket and Butterfly in their snow poses.

When Butterfly woke me up Saturday morning she’d forgotten all about the weather. She was hopping and thumping her tail and twirling in her usual morning dance to get outside. The front door was tough to open because the snow had gathered on the porch and blocked the door. We pushed our way through and with Butterfly under my right arm and the shovel under my left arm I tried to make a path for us. Cricket ran ahead, but Butterfly and I fell into two feet of snow. I picked myself up, but Butterfly couldn’t move her short legs. She had to be air lifted, or Mommy lifted, out of the snow bank and back behind me while I shoveled us forward.

I did fifteen minute shifts of snow shoveling throughout the day, while the dogs ventured out with Grandma and barked at snow blowers and begged treats from neighbors. It took me until three o’clock in the afternoon to shovel the car out of its igloo and I was exhausted, but Cricket was ready for more adventure. She climbed and jumped and did a face plant into the snow. Butterfly got snow on her nose and compulsively tried to shake it off ten times.

We took a long, well deserved nap to recover from our day.

By Sunday morning, the snow had hardened and Cricket had mountains of rock-like snow to climb. She’s an explorer discovering new territory on every expedition. Butterfly watches her sister with awe, but prefers to search for new and exciting pee spots on the solid, flat ground.

I’m with her.

Butterfly is a bit befuddled

Butterfly