Tonight is the coldest night of our lives here so far. And the dogs still have to be walked. The wind is vicious and I can still hear it howling, but their evening walk is not optional. So we put the coats on the girls and the booties (minus one of Layla’s that was lost on day 1) on all the dogs, and off we went.
Charlie was missing a booty immediately, but we didn’t realize it fell off in the room until we returned. As soon as we walked outside, we were nearly blown away (quite literally). The dogs failed to notice this; in fact, the became so energized they started running immediately. Charlie even gave Bambi a run for his money with an epic run-and-slide move I won’t soon forget. I laughed out loud at the sight, because it didn’t deter him in the slightest. He was truly in his element- running amok, letting the wind whip his collie mane and standing on a mound of snow as if he were in an ad for the latest Lassie movie. I would definitely come to regret laughing at him.
After stepping inside to warm up for a moment after the pups did most of their business, we ventured back out because they enjoyed it so much. We took them along a long stretch of empty field we often visit, bordered on one side by trees still missing their leaves. We were running up and down the packed snow trail we and others have created. We’d decided to go back and I was jogging behind Charlie, the leash pulled taut, as he is in much better running condition than I am.
I moved from the packed snow, which is slick as ice, to run in the fresh snow and avoid mirroring Charlie’s earlier maneuver. To say my plan backfired would be an understatement. I was happily jogging along behind when my boot caught in an the thin layer of ice that settles over the snow when it’s this cold out. I fell face-first in the snow….and Charlie kept running.
Snow and -10 air on a bare stomach is not pleasant. My jeans were wet with snow and it felt like thousands of tiny icicles were stabbing my legs simultaneously. And Charlie kept running.
I held on to his leash, aware the road leading to our hotel was close enough I’d rather be drug through the snow (despite the fact that it isn’t very busy, people often drive too fast on it) than let go. He finally realized he was pulling dead weight and reluctantly stopped. We walked the rest of the way to our hotel and our room.
Thawing is worse than being pulled through icy snow in negative temperatures. My legs felt as if every muscle strand had frozen and was slowly thawing from the outside in. I kept thinking water was running down my legs, only to find them dry (and still very cold). If you’ve ever washed dishes by hand in too hot of water, you’ll understand the shade of deep red my legs had. After returning to the room I quickly shed my wet jeans and crawled under the covers. It took about 2 hours, but they finally returned to their normal temperature (however, they are still pinker than usual).
While face down in the snow, I realized why and how those sled dogs run so fast and look so happy doing it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Charlie as happy as I saw him tonight. The girls, too. They ran about, chasing and playing with tongues lolling out of their mouths and looking happy as could be. It made it very difficult to come inside, frozen legs or not.
Although it’s the cold that shocks and can take the breath right out of you, it’s that same cold that gives dogs- our dogs, sled dogs, probably all dogs– that incredible, happy energy we saw in our dogs tonight.
If only I didn’t have to end up with a face full of snow to come to that conclusion.
Another conclusion I came to? We seriously need to get a dog sled and harness this crazy energy that Alaska gives our dogs. That way when I get dragged through snow, at least I’m getting somewhere (and not frozen in the process!).