Early in the morning, the day of the first snow, I pushed my nose against my ‘doggie door.’ Nothing moved. So I pushed with my head. But again it wouldn’t budge. So I waited patiently until my Master came downstairs and tried his hand at opening the backdoor leading out to the deck. He pushed and pushed, but it gave way only a few inches. I could hardly believe my eyes. The snow, which was flush with the door frame, rose up about three feet, if not more. From my lowly perspective, all I could see was the sky!
I suspect that this is what a bear experiences when he comes out of hibernation. Assessing the situation, he looks around, sees piles and piles of snow, and then returns inside. This is, of course, a reasonable strategy. But need I remind you, I am not a bear. Oh, I may be cuddly, and my fur is thick and silky black. But while a bear sleeps, I have work to do. For example, my job is to keep tabs on the local neighborhood, watching people go by, determining who is a friend or foe, and–of course–barking when I deem it appropriate. When on a walk, I also parole a much larger area, first checking the bushes and fire hydrants for pungent messages left by my friends and enemies, and then leaving my own mark to bound my territory. This signaling system can get quite complex, as my mistress would say. Of course, my favorite task is barking ferociously at the mailman until he drops his ‘loot,’ and I chase him away. Unfortunately, the postal service–not withstanding its motto: in all kinds of weather–failed us, as did the garbage men, during the Big Snow, or as President Obama said, “snowmaggedon.”.
Our social life only recommenced with the shoveling of snow. Having overcome their awe at the situation, all of the neighbors, and of course their dogs, converged in our street to shovel the snow, and clear a path for cars and pedestrians alike. I finally got to engage with my friends Carla and Roxy, who live across the street. With the streets passable, we could take our walks again. But it wasn’t quite the same.Walking through a narrow passage way, with the snow on the side piled many feet high, I could smell the dogs across the street–especially my nemesis, the chocolate poodle named Bosco–but I could not see him much less growl at him. But the more fundamental problem was: ‘how to do my duty,’ The snow was like quick sand; when I climbed up on top of it, I sank down almost above my shoulders, and when my mistress came to my rescue, she fell in too.
Notwithstanding all of the communication technology in our house, I have come to think my Mistress also found our imposed enclosure somewhat stressful. In particular, I think that she is missing her classes. While she often tells me to “stay, sit, and come”, she rarely lectures me about intellectual matters. These days, however, as she walks with me through the snow, she tells me about the ‘social capital,’ that is being developed as neighbors join together to shovel. Noting the people who don’t shovel their walks, but who shovel out their cars, she references Langdon Winner‘s account in the Whale and the Reactor of how the pedestrian and the auto driver perceive the world differently. As we slip and slide across the ice, she asks me what Langdon Winner might say about people who fail to shovel their sidewalks. And of course, as we meander in and out of the snowbanks, looking for a crossway, she talks about the importance of architecture and how the snow has restructured our interactions.
Yesterday, we saw the ground. Hope springs eternal, as they say.