Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Putting the "NO!" in Snow

Lesson Number Eleven: There’s No Business Like Snow Business

Bijoux was two years old by the time she experienced her first snowfall. She was not frightened or confused; rather, she was just curious. We exploited her tennis ball-catching talent and helped her develop it into a flair for snowball-catching. We had a great time outside during the winter. Bijoux made the drudgery of shoveling seem to fly by, because we spent part of the time tossing snowballs in her direction. She got very excited when one of us started to pack snow into a little ball, and she ran right over to catch it. Oftentimes, the snow was too powdery and dry to pack, but she still tried to catch the handfuls of loose particles as if it were the most fun activity she’d ever taken part in. The pattern of her play involved trying to catch the snow that was thrown to her, and then running a lap or two (or three) all the way around the house as fast as she could go, barely dodging us as she passed us each time.

Her love for the snow was also, unfortunately, the cause of much drama later on in her life (what else would you expect from a Princess?). The northern winters were often harsh, with temperatures falling below zero and wind chills in the negative 20’s and 30’s. On occasion, she would refuse to go outside to urinate unless we physically pushed her out the door. Other times, she would willingly go out, following an odiferous trail all the way to the back of the yard. (These times, by the way, almost always happened when Jim and I were only in a robe, with bare feet) As she sniffed her way around outside, the cold eventually attacked her feet and she would stop dead in her tracks, looking at us looking at her through the door. She picked one paw up out of the snow, held it up for a moment, and then put it back down, only to lift another one up. Her feet were freezing and she wasn’t able to (or didn’t feel like?) get herself back to the door. Jim or I had to rush around to get completely dressed to go outside in the yard and rescue our big baby before frostbite set in (Did I mention that she had to be carried?).

One year I got smart. I went to the pet store to check on the cost of boots for dogs. They were outrageously priced, and I stood in front of the display for a minute or two, mentally sifting through my options. In a flash of brilliance, I hurried out to my car and drove to Target, where I purchased several pairs of baby socks. Waterproof? No. However, we didn’t have a sleddin’ dog and for the amount of time that she was actually outside, I determined that if I put two socks on each paw, she’d be fine.

I’m still not sure if the $40 I saved was worth it; the ordeal we had to go through each time she wanted to go outside was sort of tedious. We ended up having to loosely place my hair rubberbands around the socks to keep them on her feet. She was a new dog though, trekking around outside like it was spring. Her “Shnoh Shnocks”, as we called them, saved us many trips outside for several years after that discovery.

In January of 1998, Bijoux’s excitement for the winter had catastrophic consequences. I had been shoveling snow while the kids played close by, and Bijoux was begging for snowballs, as usual. The snow was easy to pack that afternoon; the morning temperature had been slightly warmer than normal, but cooled down again as the day went on, producing a thin layer of ice on top of the snow in the yard. As I tossed snowballs for her, she took off on some laps around the house each time, just like always. Suddenly she appeared from the side yard, but she was limping. Figuring that her paws were just too cold, I took her inside the house and sat down on the floor with her. I checked between the pads on her paws for ice and found none. It seemed like she was holding one of her back legs in a strange way, so I closed my hand over her back paw to warm it up. I then went to the kitchen and filled a small bowl with warm water. I brought it back to her and dipped her paw in it. She made no sound but the look on her face told me that she was having some discomfort.

Jim arrived home and, after I apprised him of the situation, offered to take her to the vet for a quick check. When he returned over an hour later without her, I started to get upset. The vet discovered that in running around like she had been, she tore her meniscus. Jim was told that if we didn’t put her through knee surgery immediately, not only would she would never walk correctly again, but she could also have chronic pain in that leg.

As we told friends and family what had happened, we joked about the expense of the surgery and how we just couldn’t believe that we were putting our dog through this, but in actuality we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Needless to say, Bijoux’s days of doing laps around the house in the snow were over. She would try to run around many times after she had long recovered from her surgery, but the thought of her injuring herself again made me squeamish, and I made her stop.