It is snowing hard as I write this, and Angus could not be happier. Of all the dogs we have ever had, he is the most thoroughly a winter dog.
Summer makes him anxious. He develops allergies, and he bites and scratches at his legs until they are bald. He licks his speckled white paws so relentlessly that they turn a bright cherry red. (This looks more alarming than it is — the redness is caused by enzymes.)
We bring him in for allergy shots, but each time they work a little less well and for a shorter amount of time.
In summer, insects torment him; they buzz around his neck and face and he bats at them and whimpers. The heat leaves him lethargic. And in warm weather, of course, there are more people, squirrels, dogs and rabbits along our walking route — all the things that get him wound up.
But winter! Ah, winter, when it is cold and snowy and dark and there are only a few hardy souls around, winter is when Angus comes into his own. His fur grows in glossy and thick. There are no bugs. He stops licking.
It doesn’t matter what the temperature is; he cannot wait to go outside. (Though truth be told, anything chillier than 10 below and he is lifting up his paws from the cold surface of the snow like any other dog. We do not walk much when it is that cold.)
He sniffs every footprint and paw print and mouse track he encounters, races in figure eights around the yard, sending the snow up around him like a slalom skier.
He begs me, when I am shoveling, to toss a shovelful at him. And when I do, he leaps into the air and tries to grab the snow with his mouth.
In winter, Angus is the perfect walking companion. He never gets tired, never gets cold, just trots along steadily, snuffling at footprints and tree trunks and occasionally scanning the horizon for squirrels. When we turn back, it is because of me — my chin is cold or my eyeballs are starting to frost over. But Angus could go on forever.
Today I went out to do the first round of shoveling. The dogs followed me. Angus and Rosie chased each other around our backyard trees and leapt through the snow, bumping chests and pretend-growling until they were both soaked.
And then Rosie — our summer dog, for sure (she can lie in the hot sun all afternoon) — ran up the porch steps and I let her into the house. Angus watched her go with that appalled-but-dejected look that I know so well.
I returned to the task of clearing the sidewalk, and Angus watched me. And then he ran up and executed the most beautiful play bow — not to me, but to the shovel.
What else could I do? I scooped up a load and flung the snow right at him.
He leapt in the air and tried to bite it.
By the time we went back into the house, my black-and-white dog was mostly white. And very wet. And very happy.
Winter, says Angus, can stick around as long as it likes.
Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books for the Star Tribune. She has been writing here about her rescue puppy, Angus, since he was two months old. Read all of Angus’ adventures at startribune.com/puppy.