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Jake the dog knows about no snow relief

February 17, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

All right, two words for Mother Nature: Not funny. Everybody's stir crazy. Everybody has a couple of winter-related disasters to relate.

For me, it was a collision with a mogul on the ski slopes. I'm happy to report that the mogul came out of it OK, although my lower back less so.

Aside from the back, my own personal problem with the winter arose out of garbage. In a rare moment of thaw, about four weeks ago, runoff from the roof bled into the 30-gallon trash can, and that night froze the contents solid. The trash bags have been entombed there ever since.

This has resulted in a sort of an "Ice Man" situation, only with garbage instead of a Neanderthal. I suppose the glacier will spit them out come spring, but for now the only thing I can think to do is ram a stick into it, call it "The Garbagesicle" and sell it as modern art.

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Lest we all feel too bad about our circumstances, there is one creature in the Tri-State that has it worse than we do, that being our Jack Russell assault weapon known as Jake Biscuit.

Terriers love the land. They sniff it, burrow in it, paw it, caress it and embrace it like few other species. Unfortunately, Jake hasn't seen it in about two months because of all the frozen white stuff that he so despises.

Worse, the snow has hardened to a consistency thicker than the crust on the scrambled eggs on the breakfast bar at 10:59 a.m.

It's something you never stop to think about - that being, how much dogs depend on traction. Not big, long-loping dogs quite so much, but the smaller, higher rpm models.

Jake's legs will whirl to a blur a la Wile E Coyote, but he never gets anyplace. For a dog who has grown up thinking he knows something about speed, it is a killer. True story: We took him sledding, and I gathered him in my lap for a ride. I thought he'd freak, but instead he loved it - to feel the wind in his face and finally gain some semblance of motion.

But his day-to-day existence knows no such relief. Even one of his greatest pleasures - his daily evacuation - is of no comfort.

I don't get it, I can't explain it, but he anticipates the event in a way that is normally reserved for dauphins prior to coronation. About 45 minutes before he's ready, he will strut and preen, calling attention to himself, generally alerting the world that something great is about to transpire.

Once outside, he goes about the task of choosing the right ground with the care and consideration of a French chef choosing just the right truffle. He'll cover two acres looking for just the perfect square foot. Then he'll hunch, throw his ears back, raise his nose to the heavens and commence.

But on the ice, it is trickier. First, the snows cover the scents, so he has trouble sniffing out ground that is worthy enough for his daily blessing. And on one unfortunate day, he settled on land that had just a little too much slope.

He settled into position OK, but mid-ceremony he began to lose purchase on the ice-capped snow and slide ever so slowly down the hill. Once initiated, there was no question of stopping the procedure, so this wasn't an option. I guess to a terrier it's bad luck, or something.

There was nothing he could do as he began to pick up speed and - horrors! - spiral a lazy 360 degrees on the ice. To his credit, he held form. As he slid, he never once broke his pose, looking like a piece of statuary that someone had cut loose from the top of a ski jump.

The look of mournful indignity on his face all the while would break the heart.

He gradually slowed to a stop, but the damage had been done. Normally, on completion he will proudly paw at the ground like a race horse, sending dirt and blades of grass skyward as he demands the world acknowledge his heroism for what he has just accomplished.

He did try, but it was a failure. On his second swipe he again got no traction, his front legs went out from under him and he came down hard on his snout.

The deed was done, but he was a changed dog. Instead of sprinting back to the house for his treat, he just kind of dragged along, his head low in depression. In all, what was normally his most glorious time of day had been rendered to no better than a B-minus.

Spring can't come soon enough for Jake Biscuit.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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