Remember the comedy series “Seinfeld,” often described as a show about nothing? Well, this is a column about nothing in case you want to stop right here.
My dog, Rabia, was born in Cabot, Vermont when we had the good fortune to live there in what they call the Northeast Kingdom. It is a spectacularly beautiful northern region marked by mountains with sharp ridges, valleys with powerful creeks and rivers emptying into “ponds” that anywhere else would be called lakes. The NEK borders Quebec and in addition to its beauty, is cold.
I moved there from Buffalo so I knew about cold, and would often check the temperature difference between the two. Ten degrees in Buffalo could be zero in Newport where I lived. Five degrees in Buffalo would be minus-five in Newport. There were nights, plenty of them, when it was minus-ten when I walked Rabia and she didn’t care. It would take me five minutes to get bundled up enough to take her out but she would just prance through the snow and not want to return.
Rabia still loves the snow and acts like a puppy with even half-an-inch on the ground. She will be ten in four months, and still runs crazy-eights like a maniac when given the chance. Still fast, too. But I see her age creeping in.
Dogs get white hair too, around the eyes and muzzle. While she is blonde everywhere else, the white is now showing. But where I notice her aging the most is when she shivers from the cold. I’m not talking ten or ten-below but a measly thirty degrees she would have laughed at in Vermont.
Most days we share a bench by the lake, and in all kinds of weather too. Light rain, heavy snow, fierce wind, heat or cold — the joy is in experiencing the lake and its denizens in all kinds of weather. Like watching a gull fly straight into the teeth of a bitter north wind and it’s strategies for making progress. Likewise, trying to identify fish as they break the surface of glassy calm water or witnessing an osprey or hawk gracefully dive and strafe the lake then pull one up in its talons. Even little things, like which leaves drop first or in the spring, which seedpods get blown off the trees first. The behavior of worms, the lunking flight of heron, or what humans leave behind — all of it is the best kind of theater regardless of the weather.
But now Rabia shivers in the cold, or moderate cold. She doesn’t want for a thick coat, our vacuum cleaner is proof of that. She is a bit on the skinny side but nothing we do to fatten her up has ever worked. I think it is just her aging — like I mentioned last week about myself. So I broke down and bought her a coat and she looks silly in it. She knew she looked silly too, the first time she wore it, like a dog with the cone of shame around it’s neck looks sheepish. But now, now she wears it like a fur, grinning and so pleased in her fashionable drape. So now, when the wind and waves roar or the temperature drops, we can sit there without her shivering and me feeling like her bad human.