Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dog Days of March

March is not my favorite month in Maine, this admission from a man whose devotion to the state invokes wonder and snickers among his friends and family. March is cold, yet inconstant; icy and muddy simultaneously; has maddeningly brief hints of spring; boasts rain and snow and sleet and thunder and fog often on the same day. Further south one assumes that any lapse into winter will be brief; in Maine one assumes nothing, ever.

This brings me to the dog. She spent a number of days in Owls Head this month, and hated it even more than usual. Her tenth year has featured a ever-strengthening fear of the car; so 200 miles and some 3 hours means much trembling and panting in anticipation of the horrors to come. Once arrived, she combats the usual odors of predators, i.e., other dogs; from vantage points at the French doors and the top of the couch she keeps watch for deer and UFOs; she complains about the little weird red squirrels and the territorial crows. But the ultimate horror is the twice-daily walk. Not only do fearsome dogs bark at her from inside their houses, or even affront her dignity and personal space by sometimes appearing outside. Not only does she stop and look back every 20 feet, hoping for rescue. Not only does she dislike cold and rain and the harsh north wind that blows her ears straight back like ropes. But also there is ice!

Cryophobia has been building for some years. In the past I might slip a bit on a patch and she would notice and look slightly concerned before continuing to sniff whatever minute particle of news she was currently being distracted with. (I should have understood the depth of her neurosis when she would remember with a worried look the very spot of that slip for months to come.) But now, in Maine, in March, the dirt lanes have thawed and frozen several times and the ice is thick and one stretch of our walk is at least a hundred yards of hell. She stops and cowers and her tail is so far between her legs that she could almost chew it. To make any progress at all I have to coax and simper and yell and yank.

It's both pathetic and touching, this concern for my safety, this fear for her dignity. But then she's a pure-bred, nothing startling for us royals, please, let's just do the same safe thing every day, preferably in balmy, summery Massachusetts; while I am a half-breed, insisting in spite of my official address that the wilds of Maine are good for the soul. So winter battles spring, man battles dog, country battles city, and we all hope for August.

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