A Spinone in Wonderland

-> Pictures at the end! – Oz.

We are all, to a lesser or greater extent, creatures of habit. This suits our Italian Spinone, who is definitely a creature of habit. He does not need clever modern technology to tell him when it is time for his next meal, or next walk, or the school run. Although he handles change of routine pretty well, and positively enjoys trips to new places, most of the time things are routine.  I think this applies to most dogs and their owners. We tend to take our dogs out for walks at the same times, and usually to the same places.  This means that on our routine walks we often meet the same dogs and their owners, all out on their routine walks. This gives all concerned a chance for some social interaction.

Ozzie is lucky that our routine walk is a walk out into the countryside, although we often seem to go over the same ground. Of course the walk is different with the changing seasons, but those are mostly gradual changes.

In the last two weeks, however, the same old walk has been transformed, first by snowfall, and today by a hoar frost.  This dramatic weather transforms familiar landmarks into exotic places, and even changes the textures of the walk. One section has been very muddy for several weeks; progress through it has been sticky and slippery, and usually worth a two-bucket wash. Lately, with daytime temperatures staying at or below freezing for several days at a time, this section has been sculpted into contorted ankle-turning iron. Elsewhere, the spongy carpet of fallen leaves has turned crisp, creaking and crackling as we pass. These unexpected high-frequency noises often make Ozzie jump away, startled. Or a paw, or boot, breaks through the hard crust into a strange substrate.

Particularly puzzling for an inquisitive dog is the water, now frozen into glass. There are icicles where water should be flowing. Ozzie cautiously edges out onto the surface of drainage ditches, which creak and protest, threatening to dump him unceremoniously into freezing water, whilst we try to call him off. The edge of the river is frozen, too, and his usual drinking spot is ice-bound. He watches, head cocked on one side, as a piece of driftwood slides along under the ice, beneath his paws. Moorhens skitter about on, not in, the river. Everything is at once familiar, but changed.

Whilst nothing can quite equal the impact of a fresh layer of pristine snow (and the fun that can be had charging about in it, nose for a snow plough) for sheer ethereal beauty, a hoar frost is hard to beat. The previous night we were subjected to a thick freezing fog, and woke to clearing skies and every available surface encrusted with gleaming ice. With temperatures staying well below freezing all day, even a rotary washing line was transformed into something magical. I am not sure that the dogs, out on their routine walks today, fully appreciated the beauty of their surroundings, but I know that we owners certainly did.

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