The first few days of the cold snap were no problem. They were practically a novelty. December and January had been mild, and we were due some below-zero temperatures.
But then the cold just hung on and on.
We canceled the dog walkers and gave up our usual 3-mile morning and evening hikes. Instead, each day I waited until midafternoon, when the temperatures were the least-low they were going to be, and then bundled up and set out. One walk a day, Angus. That's all you get.
Walking at midday was new for us. The shadows were shorter. We saw no owls (but one day we saw three hawks). Reflected off new snow, with no leaves to diffuse it, the sunshine was blindingly bright.
And oh, it was cold. The slightest breeze seared my cheeks and forehead, and sometimes I would turn around and walk backward, to keep my face out of the wind. My hair turned white with frost. I had to blink constantly to keep my eyeballs from freezing.
But Angus never minded any of it. He just trundled onward, sniffing the snow, lifting his head at the sudden motion of a squirrel.
The only thing that slowed him down was salt: It's poured on streets and paths to melt the ice, but it stings his paws. We'd hit a patch of salt and he'd start hobbling on three legs until finally stopping, one foot raised pathetically. I brushed off his pad, and he trundled on.
Snow pushed up by plows forms rock-hard walls along the curb, and if a jogger comes huffing up the path toward us Angus and I have to scramble over the 3-foot berm to get out of the way, and I wish I had an ice ax and a rope to ensure that I make it.
Angus trots up and over it nimbly and waits for me and then trundles on.
There is a crackling beauty to bitter cold. Chimney smoke rises straight into the blue, blue sky. The shadows of tree limbs are stark gray-blue against the bright white. Snow is so cold it squeaks; it feels different underfoot — tighter, more compact. Things snap and shatter at 11 below zero. Sounds are sharper. You reach a certain temperature and weather turns into a being.
Rosie hates winter. She shivers so violently that the leash trembles and sometimes she barks, yelling at the cold to go away. She has any number of jackets and boots — polar fleece, with Velcro fastenings — but she won't wear them, dodges us when we try to get her suited up.
So Doug takes her for shorter walks, and we put both dogs in the yard for five-minute intervals throughout the day. But (I have been reminded) if you are washing dishes by hand because the line to your dishwasher is frozen solid, do not open the screen door with your bare hand; your damp skin will freeze to the metal doorknob. Use a towel.
Indoors, torpor sets in. The sun pours through the windows, fooling us all. Angus lies on the floor by my desk, or on the bed. He rolls on his back and waits for someone to happen by and rub his belly.
And when I see that the temperature is all the way up to 2 below zero, I pull on my thickest socks and my long johns and my fleece-lined pants and my wool sweater and my neck gaiter and my down coat and my big mittens and my boots with the cleats and my mad bomber hat, and I leash up Angus, and we head out.
We avoid the salt. I might occasionally walk backward, but Angus just trundles on.
Laurie Hertzel is not a pet expert, just a pet lover, chronicling the life of her reactive rescue dog, Angus. Read all of his stories at startribune.com/puppy Find her on Twitter @StribBooks.