The Cold That Snapped

Why do they call it a cold snap? It’s very misleading. Firstly, a snap sounds quick, like it’ll be over in a split second, not days or weeks. It should be called a cold long and onerous. Secondly, a snap implies inconsequential, no biggee, not weather that can freeze your parts or even kill you. Dramatic maybe, but true. When it’s -30 and the wind comes up, shit be freezing. It’s why we horses who live in this climate need to have shelter from the wind. We’re very resilient when it comes to weather but, left exposed in extreme conditions, horses have lost ears (and ended up looking like the two cranky mares in the photo below 😂).

Tempers can get a little short when the weather is cold.

It got cold last weekend. We felt the change coming, and had it confirmed when T put Nevada’s blanket on him while he was getting his afternoon feed. I was hoping she’d stop there, because it would mean it was going to be cold but not holy-crap cold. At twenty-nine, he’s not as muscled or fleshy as he used to be and he chills more easily than the rest of us. Judy came for a visit and Gidget’s blanket went on. But she’s in her twenties too, so, still no need to panic.

Judy and Gidget dressed for the weather.

Then it was Rosa’s turn. Oh-oh. There was going to be wind chill. But I hadn’t lost hope. Although Rosa’s pretty tough for a girl, she doesn’t grow a lot of hair for a Canadian-born horse, and she appreciates the extra insulation when the wind comes up.

When I saw my blanket come out of the barn, I knew we were in for a doozy. Thing is, at this time of year, when I have my full winter hair coat, I really don’t need clothing for any weather. As long as I can get out of the wind, I’m good. If it snows on me, I just have more insulation that I can remove with a roll if I choose. I have rolled so many times this week but this stupid blanket will just not come off.

Coated up and ready.

The rolling itself hasn’t removed the blanket but I think my rolling around like I’m on fire has convinced T that I don’t need extra clothing in the depths of winter. At least I hope it has. If only I could talk! No, thank you, I appreciate the thought, but I really hate wearing those things. If it comes down to it, I’d rather be cold. And I won’t be. I’m part Yeti.

The barn cats don’t need coats, they have “Meowi.”

She never used to put blankets on any of us unless there was a spring or fall storm, when we’d already shed some of our winter hair or not grown it yet. That out-of-season weather is the toughest, and when even I appreciate a little extra protection. Last year I got a new blanket and when winter weather arrived in October, before I had my full winter coat, I was happy to wear it. Itchy but happy. Things changed when Nevada got old and T started to blanket him more often. I think she felt bad leaving Rosa and I undressed in cold weather while our blankets hung in the barn.

She means well and always puts us first, in any weather.

I guess I’m just a natural kind of guy, a bit like Chico who also hates man-made clothing. He took a branch to the face yesterday while vigorously attempting to remove his coat in a lilac shrub, a branch that drew blood. Gotta give the guy credit for clear communication. I’m guessing he’ll be coat-free (and probably shivering) this afternoon when I see him.

Chico and his dreaded jacket.

Even if my please-don’t-blanket-me message has gotten through to T, she won’t remove it until things warm up a little. The blanket has flattened my coat to a point that it won’t keep me warm until it has some time to refluff. Our winter coats work a little like a down jacket, the insulation is in the warm air that gets trapped inside. So, I’ll suck it up for a few more days, try to appreciate the thought behind it, and pray for warm, coat-removing weather soon. And she did pull it off and give me a full body scratch yesterday that helped.

Feeling happier after my full-body scratch and a chance to clean up Nevada’s leftovers.

On the glass-half-full side, the best way for us to stay warm in this weather is to be given unlimited access to forage, and we’ve been scarfing down a round bale since last Saturday afternoon. I’m ashamed to say it but we’re a messy bunch of eaters. If you went to a restaurant and there was a guy sitting in the middle of the buffet table with his shoes on, stuffing food in his mouth and tossing to the floor all but the best, he’d be expressing his inner horse. T comes every afternoon and tidies up, trying to preserve some of the hay we toss aside that we’ll settle for when the bale is gone.

The pile on the left is our bale four days later.

The forecast says blanket-free weather by Sunday or Monday. Hooves crossed.

The Canadian Marathon

We’ve had a few false starts this year, going way back to September, but this time the onset of winter feels more convincing. The signs are there … the ground’s gotten harder, the wind has a serious bite, the horses look like leggy bears, and Sid has been moved to the parking spot in front of the house.

Snow dump at the end of September.

In March, when we hauled Sid out to the Cypress Hills for a ski getaway, he was frozen to the ground and the truck just spun all four wheels on the ice. The whole rig—truck and trailer—had to be pulled with the tractor. Kind of funny, yes, but Nollind was not impressed. He doesn’t like doing things that have the potential to break something. Luckily, all went well on that occasion.

Releasing Sid from the ice in March.

So, this past week, in preparation for a journey south at some point, Nollind moved Sid from his regular, somewhat low parking spot in the grass, to the asphalt near the house. The trailer was stuck already, but not so seriously that the Dodge couldn’t pull him free.

I can’t say I don’t like winter because I love to roll in the snow and I enjoy staying cool and having a little snow to eat on a long walk. But, boy, once you’ve spent a winter in the deserts of the southwest, it’s hard to appreciate Canadian winter from start to finish, partly because those two things are so far apart. As I mentioned, we had our first little blast of winter in September and we could easily have snow and cold into April, even early May.

Nothing like a roll in the snow. Although grass is a pretty close second.

Winter in Canada is a marathon. There are a few areas of our country where winter is shorter and milder but, generally speaking, winter here is serious business. Lucky for me, I was adopted by people that believe dogs are part of the family and should therefore live with the family, not be left outdoors all the time. The down side is that I get pretty soft as a house dog and, unless I keep moving on a cold day, I get serious shivers and my feet don’t like to stay on the frozen ground.

Couch dog extraordinaire!

It was about -13°C (9°F) today with a wind-chill taking it down to -23°C (-9°F). T tried to put a jacket on me but, when I insisted on scraping myself through the caragana and lilac shrubs, she took it off before I destroyed the nylon outer shell. It worked! I’d rather be cold than have to wear clothes … although I do make an exception when it’s hot tub time. I can lie on the deck much more comfortably in a jacket.

Snowy walks can be pretty nice.

Today was only the first of many days of cold paws, shivering, and the resulting jackets and, God help me, boots (I’d rather lose my toes to frostbite than wear boots). But Sid parked in front of the house gives me hope, hope that winter will be cut short this year by journeying a few days to the south. Sunshine, sand, sunsets, and Sid. The stuff of dreams.

Boondocking at Dome Rock BLM near Quartzsite.

Arizona Dreamin’

I was totally on board with T and Nollind’s staying-home-for-the-winter adventure.  Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, winter camping, making snow angels, and a healthy dose of cozy, indoor cuddle time all sounded like a good winter to me, but then the weather turned frigid. I enjoy snoozing in my dog bed as much as the next 10-year-old pooch but, two weeks later, cabin fever is setting in.

The good old days of December … snow + mild = fun.

When I enjoy this weather least is during my first-thing-in-the-morning constitutional, when I’m all warm and sleepy from bed and hit that minus-a-billion air that freezes my nostrils shut and makes me wonder how long I can hold it if I turn around and run back inside. The cats used to have an indoor bathroom but the peeps have never installed one for me. Pretty sure I’d figure out how to use it when the weather is cold like this.

So, I’ve been dreaming … about the desert, about long walks on bare earth, about lying in the Arizona sun, about Sid time. I didn’t think I’d miss it so much but I’ve realized that being outdoors is crucial to my feeling-goodness and there’s not nearly the outdoor time here in winter that we have when we’re snowbirding.

The picture of outdoor feeling-goodness.

That old expression, “There’s no bad weather just inappropriate clothing” has some truth to it, but the theory doesn’t really work for a dog who dislikes wearing clothing. My replacement would be something like, “There’s no bad weather just inappropriate planning.” In other words, there’s no winter weather two or three days of driving can’t fix.

Warmer … but I still hate clothes.

In case you’ve never been to Arizona in winter, and are wondering what I’m talking about, here is a little side-by-side photo comparison…

Below left: Feb 2018 = Sleeping just outside the door, luxuriating in the sun.
Below right: Feb 2019 = Sleeping just inside the door, sulking because it’s cold.

Below left: Feb 2018 = Where are we going today?!
Below right: Feb 2019 = Can I just stay in bed?

Below left: Feb 2018 = A hug because she loves me.
Below right: Feb 2019 = A hug because I was shivering and lifting my paws.

Below left: Feb 2018 = Appropriate clothing and looking happy.
Below right: Feb 2019 = Appropriate clothing and … well … apparently, clothing isn’t everything.

I’m going to hang onto this last pair of pics and start posting them around the house in the fall, just in case they get any crazy ideas about not going to the desert next winter!