Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going Bushy

At this point in the Winter season, I prefer to think we are over the worst of it. Certainly, there will be more Storms; yet, I can feel Spring's soft breath just behind each angry late blast of Winter.

It is the time of year when, I've heard, people go 'bushy', meaning, I believe, cabin fever. It has been a long Winter; there has been much Snow. But I believe my dose of bushiness, if there is such a term, will come when Air is soft...and the ground will yet be covered by feet of Snow.

I still won't be able to feel and smell the musky,  fecund and moist Earth. There might be some bushy behaviour going on then.

On the other hand, I must remember I have not seen Snow melt as quickly as it does here, when a fresh South West Wind blows its secrets from Ocean...

This being my first dose of a Cariboo Winter, I wondered at the outset how I would do, not without a little apprehension.  I find I have days where the need to go for a long walk overtakes me, where the requirement to stretch my legs in the clear Wintery Sunshine makes me attempt it...

In the awesome cold, I find a short walk will do.

Our dogs, however, are not so sanguine. They have developed some strange behaviours which defy explanation.

Our Natey, a black lab/terrier cross, has been the owner of a red Kong which he can't or won't destroy...since we moved here.  A year ago or so, for Nate.

He loves his Ball; he will chase it for hours, as Labs will do. When Snow arrived, a chase after his Ball also involved some vigorous digging. He learned to repeatedly throw it into Snowbanks, thereby increasing his delight in the game.

Imagine our surprise, when, as the Season of Winter moved on, our Natey could not seem to urinate unless he had his Ball in his mouth. And imagine our horror when, after he threw his Ball into a Snowbank...he couldn't find it!

It was a Thursday; I underestimated this dog's perseverance and attachment to his Ball. I dug; he dug...and Lucky, our Retriever/Airedale cross, became more and more anxious, as no Ball turned up in the all-encompassing field of Snow.

But I believed, erroneously as it turned out, Nature would take its course and he would urinate without it.

Uh, uh. No. Dribs and drabbles is what appeared, when he attempted it. There was much whining and sorrow along with the whole thing. Perhaps some pain, as well, since Nate is well-known for his everlasting urinations.

By now, stores were closed for the weekend. I could only hope I would be able to replace the red Kong ball on Monday. All other balls had been lost during the first Snow storm, and are now under many feet of Snow. 

And while we waited, we threw Nate pop bottles, old oranges...even Snowballs (which really confused him, as he couldn't begin to find it, in the deep Snow) all to help him heed Nature's call.

After searching through three stores, I found only one Kong ball like his.  I was filled with gratitude at seeing it; in the meantime, I had already bought other kinds of balls in case they were required.

My eyes filled with tears at Nate's reaction to seeing the red Kong ball. He had been consistently digging after his old one; he had never stopped his search. This alone was heart-rending.

He seemed confused at first, anxiously whining as I unwrapped the Ball. And then, when I gave it to him, when he had it in his mouth, he almost overturned himself with joy. I could feel his tense energy disappearing, as he raced around, shaking his head, and wiggling his rear end with delight.

He's a big, black, mostly Labrador-appearing dog; but the terrier's dance will out...

You can imagine the relief he felt when I threw it for him.  He found it quickly...and then, there was enormous pleasure as he urinated...and urinated...and urinated...

Ah, well...we all have our peccadilloes.

Lucky, on the other hand, has been highly-strung and a little neurotic since the day he came into my life. This behaviour has accelerated, during this long Winter. A lack of exercise has built up energy which rarely gets released, as much as he requires.  He is a is a pleasure to watch him gracefully go full out around the yard, in more clement months.

He's hated the sight and smell and sound of cans of furniture polish, since he was a pup.  But the other day (after much commotion and confusion which occurred during the days we repainted and refloored the office), I wanted to clean and polish the office furniture.

I took the can out of the cupboard.

Lucky, already very anxious from the sounds of construction, went into a full-blown panic attack. Tail tucked, ears down...his whole body showed his misery.

I put the can away, I threw the dustcloth into the laundry basket...but Lucky could not be consoled.

There was a Snow storm that day.  Flakes fell quickly, forming waving, twirling figures with the help of a strong Northwesterly Wind.

Lucky wanted out of this house, where the evil can of Pledge lurked in dark cupboards.  He literally threw himself against the closed door; the very picture of anxious misery.

I let him outside and he ran from the door.  I watched as he dug himself a huge hole in a bank of Snow against the fence, and huddled there, with flakes of Snow quickly covering him...

It's rare for me to be at a loss regarding helping my animals in distress, but I certainly was this day.

I could have dragged him in, since he would not come when called. But in the house is where his fear lay and he was not able to overcome or face it with its smells all around him, ever fuelling...

It was -7C...not as cold as it has been. I decided to leave him be, denned up in his Snow cave for awhile. Lucky has an unerring sense of what is needed to help and aid others...was he perhaps healing himself, as the gentle flakes of Snow completely covered his red-haired, wiry coat?

He emerged, on his own, finally...just as I had decided enough was enough.  I was worried over the cold. 

He looked like a small Snow bear as he trundled along the fence line.  The over-anxious energy that had defined him for the last couple of days was gone. He still did not look like the happy eager dog he usually is; he still carried a bit of the World on his shoulders, shown by his demeanour. 

And yet, as I left him, watching his progress back to a balanced state, I could feel the worst of his panic attack was over. 

He returned to the door, completely spent but far more relaxed...and very, very cold.  I rubbed him dry, and let him sleep in front of the fire for the rest of the day.

I believe our Lucky went bushy for a few hours.

And the human equivalent to going bushy? 

Staying in bed with the covers pulled over one's head, I suppose, might be one way. 

But just maybe, revisiting with my old friends Patience and Acceptance might be a better way...


  1. Marion, you have done it again! Well written, your story carried me away. I could not help but smile about Nate and the red ball. My dog Annie will not do her business without her "stogie" - a rawhide bone clenched between her teeth, lips curled up around it as it hangs from one corner of her mouth in such a way one can't help but conjure up images of Winston Churchill smoking a cigar.
    As for going "bushy?" Well, I must say I do that myself every year, usually when the first winter thaw hits. From that point on my mind is on motorcycling. Even though physically I am well past the point of being able to ride the open road as I once did, I can';t help but dream and hope of doing it at least once more...

  2. Hello Marion,

    You have painted a vivid picture of your household and the quirks of its two leggeds and four leggeds.

    Very charming, lovable dogs. They say you can tell a master by her dog and a dog by her master. :D

    Thanks for telling this story, a wonderful wintry reprieve. BTW we are still fluctuating between freezing and 9 degrees here. We had a bit of snow two days ago, yet I am still out in the garden when it warms up to 5 degrees.

  3. How funny. Your dogs certainly have you well trained, I giggled all the way through this. I shouldn't complain now when my dogs get bushy.

  4. Just a lovely post. :)

    Sweet doggies!!!! My mother had a really neurotic schnauzer and he used to go "bushy" quite frequently.

  5. Joe,

    Graham owned a motorcycle. I loved to ride and I remember one in particular...a spectacular ride to Denman and Hornby Islands.Touring those Islands by motorbike gave me a totally different insight...a really serene and peaceful way to approach an area. It became apparent, however, my body could no longer take it. So, now I remember how that ride felt and I can still bring back the feeling...just as you do.

    Somehow, someway, I hope with all my heart you will be able to take that last ride.

    Can your dog go pee without the 'stogie'? Or is it also very important, like Nate's?


    I remember days in the garden on the Coast in February. I couldn't keep away from it, either. Give me a pair of gum boots and a couple of layers of sweaters, and I'm off to prune and clean and uncover...that was me in the old days, lol!

    5C would be balmy to me, now (bodies grow accustomed to the cold, I've discovered)...probably sweatshirt weather if I had a garden to work in. The greenhouse, next to the woodworking shop, should be built this I will have it ready next winter.I am anticipating it already!


    You're not kidding they have me trained. Since I've decided they need more exercise, I walked them this morning. I'm rewarded with two very well-behaved dogs this afternoon! The dogs are snoozing by the fire, and I'm doing housework...something wrong here!


    How did my parents. In fact, I have their schnauzer figurine, which I use as a doorstop. Hee. Their schnauzers, and they had many of them, were always unbelievably spoiled.

    Thankfully, I had left home by then, lol.

  6. Marion,
    Every time I read your posts I am transported to another dimension. I feel as if you have captured the thoughts that we all have and the feelings and joy and of life and given us a chance to climb into our own mirror and see life from the other side.

    Thank You

  7. Hi Marion
    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a nice comment about my latest post. I can tell how much you love your four footed friends and enjoyed hearing about their antics. Dogs are so heartful and devoted. -Wonderful beings.

  8. So glad Nate is able to do his business properly. Dogs, like people, can be strange. Thank goodness for that!

  9. Dave,

    Thank you for recognizing that much of my writing comes from another side. Some of the subjects I write about are subjects which only come up when I put my fingers on the keyboard.


    Writing about the behaviour of my dogs makes sure I won't forget how funny they were, in later years. They both really lighten the atmosphere with their humourous adventures.


    Nate doesn't yet love his new ball as much as the old one...he is still searching for it and I suppose he'll find it when the Snow melts. In the meantime, the new ball is doing what it was meant to do, for Nate...he is going to the bathroom, once again.

  10. Perhaps lucky needs a charm similar to the ball that natey uses. Our two dogs stay outside (in a straw-bale shelter I built on the deck) so they can separate themselves from the "bushy" which affects me. I am not surprised by your dogs' actions. They live in a different world and can come up with the weirdest coping mechanisms. I can't get our lab to chase a ball, or a frisbee. And cannot get him into our lake lest I carry him!
    Now I ask you: is this a lab??

  11. Goatman,

    Lucky had his fluffy bunny, when he and I lived alone. He would mouth it gently, it would sleep with him, and the bunny would comfort him when he required it. But then Nate, who was Graham's dog, came along. And fluffy bunnies, to Nate, were meant to be torn apart. And so he did.

    Lucky, after this, would take no replacement. I have tried to give him a softy now, as Nate is older and would not now take it from Lucky, but Lucky will have nothing to do with it.

    I agree with you...dogs come up with coping skills far removed from human ways. I was of the opinion that labs loved water as well, but my previous lab would not swim, no matter how hot he got. Putting his feet in the water was as far as he went!

    I wondered if he was truly a lab as well!