It's one of those days where I feel pulled in two directions.
One side wants to embrace my inner hermit and stay home where it's warm and cozy. The other wants to see all those happy faces and wagging tails.
Yes, it is so, so cold outside. But that is a reason, not an excuse. It's days like today when they need my time the most.
I pack my lunch for the road, layer up, lace up my new winter boots, say goodbye to the guilt trip faces of my own pack, grab my camera, my keys and walk out the door.
It's days like today I'm grateful for my safe, reliable vehicle with studded snow tires. She starts right up (its been sub zero for days), I crank the heat and slowly, back out of the garage.
As I merge onto the interstate I see rows of "snow birds". Retired folks making the trek south with their apartments on wheels, escaping the cold and gray days of the North Country winter.
Gray. The mountains are layers of black, gray and snow white. The sun, a hazy glowing ball floating in an abyss of white.
The hum of my studded snow tires on the asphalt is comforting. I've grown to really enjoy this 30 minute drive into the mountains. It gives me time to be in silence with my self and to focus on the beauty of where we live.
I ease off at the exit and drive the short distance to the shelter. The snow groans under the tires as I crawl down the winding drive.
I gather my gear and head inside to check in with Pam and Carla. They're both in the lobby when I walk in.
"Hi ladies! Happy New Year!"
We always begin with who has been adopted, who is out of "iso" (isolation), the progress made by some of the residents. It's all about focusing on the positive and celebrating the little victories.
"So, where do you need me today Carla?"
"Dixie and Penelope have been out, so you can just head back to adoption..."
The plan today is to keep the walks short and sweet. It's single digits and most of the resident doggos are not built for the cold. A motley crew of short coated mutts.
As I open the door I'm greeted by a canine chorus. Sparta and Brando are jumping 6 feet in the air. Rue Too is jumping even higher. All the others are barking, dancing ... hoping I pick them first.
In the midst of all this chaos, there sits Marlon. Patiently waiting. Quiet.
Oh Marlon. I have such a soft spot for this guy.
He's a big hunk of pibble love. Beautiful brindle markings. Giant blockhead. Short, stocky legs and a back you could set your coffee on. And strong. So very strong. Which is a big reason why he's still here. That, and he does NOT like other dogs. At all.
But, he adores people.
I find my favorite leash on the rack, stick a couple poo bags in one pocket, a few treats in the other and go to my boy, still patiently sitting. Tail wagging.
Once my hand touches the door to his kennel, the dance begins. He's so happy to see me, as he is any human willing to give him attention. He can't help but jump up and wiggle and dance. He picks up his favorite toy. A "bone" the size of my arm. His whole body wags with excitement.
"Whatcha got buddy? Is that your bone?!"
I crouch down and love him up a bit before beginning the game called: How long will it take to get Marlon to put the bone down so I can get him into his harness? This is always an exercise in patience and strength.
"Marlon, drop it"
It takes a couple tries... eventually, he drops the bone, accepts the harness and allows me to click the clasp in place.
"Ready boy? Let's go."
The rest of the crew is still going bonkers as Marlon pulls me to the back door. Woosh, out we go into the cold. I'm grateful there is no wind and, other than my face and fingers, I'm pretty warm.
The snow is protesting with each step. Crunch, squeak, crunch, squeak.
We are barely walking a minute before Marlon begins to sniff and mark every bit of yellow snow. Stop, start. Stop, start. Stop, start ...
"Come on man, its cold. We gotta keep moving."
The snow is falling like tiny crystals. I can feel them landing on my cheeks and dissolving instantly. The surrounding wood looks like something out of a Brother's Grimm story.
Marlon and I find a good pace, the only sound is my feet crunching the snow. He's not picking up his feet or showing any other signs of discomfort so we go to the play yard for a bit.
I close the double gates behind us, unhook the leash and Marlon makes a bee line for the toy bins.
Two big Rubbermaid style containers with lids. He grabs one by the lid and starts to pull and shake the bin around.
"Dude! What are you doing? Leave it!"
He is not allowed to have any of the play yard toys because he destroys them, with incredible speed and determination.
I try to distract him with the giant rope toy hanging over the fence but, he is not having it. If dogs could laugh ...
My only choice is to sit on the bin, gently but firmly push his mouth off and hook his leash all at the same time. Remember that part about Marlon being strong? ... This had to be funny as hell to watch.
"So much for free time you goofball." He clearly does not care.
We walk back to the warmth of the kennels. Marlon saunters right over to his "spot", thankfully ignoring the others. I let him in, unhook his harness and love him up just a little more. He can be a meathead, but, he's a good boy and will do great with he right family.
I back my way out the door and pass him a treat through the port in his kennel door.
"See you next week pal."
Sparta is next ... I made the right choice. This is way better than staying home.