The Bichon Frise of Snows: Enjoy, then Beware!

Three days ago we had more snow in Northern Virginia.  We were treated to the Bichon Frise of snowfalls:  pretty, petite, very fluffy, and generally non-threatening.

It frosted tree branches and fence railings with crystals of sparkly white.

Accumulation was minimal, only about two inches, so clearing walkways was an easy task.  No snow blowers required.

At my mother’s house, the fluffy white of the tree branches anticipates the cherry blossoms that should bloom in a few months.

When I walked Kiko on Tuesday evening, the snow had ceased and the temperature remained pleasantly frosty.

But the bitter cold was on its way.  The polar vortex, which has relentlessly gripped the middle of the country in its icy iron fists, has extended its reach to the east coast.  On Wednesday, temperatures were falling.  The TV weather people talked breathlessly about the extreme “feels like” temperatures we were to expect, due to wind chill.  And sure enough, the wind was soon rattling the windows of our old house and making ghost-like moans, such as can be heard in Scooby-Doo episodes.  As Kiko and I walked that afternoon, the wind caught up the fine dry snow and tossed it along the road, looking like white sand whipping across a Florida Panhandle boardwalk before a thunderstorm.

Even on grassy areas, the snow looked like beach sand carved by a fierce wind.

Kiko glanced up anxiously each time a car passed, slowly negotiating the frozen surface.  The sounds made by tires shattering glass-like ice chunks were improbably loud, akin to fireworks or gunshots.  The sweet little Bichon that appeared on Tuesday is turning mean.  Seeking revenge for being left out in the cold, maybe?

Wednesday morning, when we walked around 8 AM, the wind had died down, but the temperature was 3.  Of course, that’s balmy compared to the sub-zero deep freeze that the mid-west has been experiencing.  (No need here yet to set the train tracks on fire as they’ve been doing in Chicago.)  I wore my dog-walking layers and several creatively tied wool scarves.  (My hair actively rebels against every cold-weather hat I’ve ever tried.)  Kiko’s lush, cashmere-like undercoat has grown back after his summer molt.  This year my senior dog has become content with a shorter walk when the weather is less comfortable.  On days like today I’m grateful that he is no longer compelled to traverse the entire neighborhood on frigid mornings.  Until recently, we put in at least a couple of miles no matter what the weather.  (See Baby, It’s Cold Outside! from January 7, 2014.)

This morning, a light snow is falling again.  The temperature has warmed up considerably, to 17.  I let Kiko persuade me to venture out of our immediate neighborhood to the stretch of old country road where we begin our usual walks with the pack in decent weather (when schools aren’t delayed or canceled, as they’ve been much of this week.)  The roads didn’t look particularly threatening, and there would be less traffic with no school.  But before long, I realized our error.  Kiko slipped on an icy patch hidden by new snow.  He recovered quickly and didn’t appear to be hurt.  His preference is to walk in the street, and it’s always a struggle to keep him safely on the grassy shoulder.  Today it was an absolute necessity.  Several times I almost went down.  Kiko knows what it means when I yell “Slow! Slow!” in my most authoritative pack leader voice.  He doesn’t like it, but he understands, and he even obeys.  He lives in the moment, so I kept up the commands each time we were forced to cross a street or driveway.  Under great emotional duress, we made it to Kiko’s favorite nearby park and back without physical mishap.  It was, to say the least, not an enjoyable outing for either of us.  It’s also an understatement to say that I had dressed far too warmly.

A reminder to everyone this winter:  beware the worst threat of the cold:  ice lurking beneath fresh powder.  The lesson of the Bichon Frise of snows is this:  enjoy its congenial, lap-dog charm.  Bask in its pure white fluffiness.  But don’t be surprised when, a few days later, it turns nasty.  It will still look beautiful and easy-going.  You’ll think it’s your old familiar friend.  But without warning, it may have unleashed the ice-veined coyote-hyena hybrid that dwells within.

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For an earlier post about adventures on snow-covered ice, see Before the Blizzard, A Treacherous Drive, February 4, 2016. 

 

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