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Since the wee hours of Friday morning and this Sunday morning we have gotten more snow than we did last winter. It is sad not to be happy to see drought relief. It is the lack of snow that underlay the fire that consumed our home and now it is the presence of snow that delays our new house.

For us, there is tension between being glad to see the snow and being sad to see the snow. We have always reveled in winter. We have a family joke that the only place we ever lived that we were glad to see the spring was Alaska. We were both professional ski patrolers when we were young. We spent long days and nights outside in the cold snow sometimes being on skis for 7 or 8 or 9 hours out of an 8 or 12 hour shift. Even after that we chased the snow. When our ski season was over we would pack up and follow the snow-line upwards as spring made her steady advance from the valley floors. We started at Jackson Hole and when it closed went to Summit County, Colorado seeking ski areas with increasingly higher elevation. Each year we reluctantly ended our ski season at Copper Canyon which has a base elevation of 9,712 feet and rises to 12,313 feet at its peak. In our older less-athletic years snowshoeing has replaced skiing in our hearts. We are not so enthusiastic as we were about s but we like it very much.

On Friday when the snow started to accumulate in more than just a skiff, I let myself enjoy the snow for what it was and not for what it might prevent. It was also when I realized we had no snow shoes because thy were in the basement of our house that is no more. They are no more. I was face to face with the stark, gut wrenching, soul challenge of yet another thing that we did not have.Today it was coiled with concern over not having a house.

We were outside waiting for a delivery truck. As we were standing in the yard waiting for the truck to see us on its third pass by our temporary house, Sophie pranced around with the giddy delight of a school child on a snow day. She was smelling this and fluffing up that. We call her a “snow nose” since she has her face in the snow so much that even after she comes in she has a little crest of snow on the top of her nose that looks like a crested rooster. Funny how everything smells different based on the amount of moisture it in it. Snow must make dirt smell delectable. To Sophie, all smells are worthy. Smells made fragrant by snow are sublime.

Sophie is a connoisseur of smell. She is a hound. She does not play ball or catch a Frisbee  or haul around sticks. The only time I ever saw her hauling around what looked like a stick it turned out to be a deer leg bone. Sophie likes to have you toss toys for her but one of her ideas is to run up and get you to go get the toy. Perfect Houndness. I will find it for you and you come get it. Sometimes playing with her is confusing. It took us a while to learn her play style. It is fun but no tennis balls for her.

We used to go snowshoeing often. A few years ago we had stopped to balance on an old fence while we ate our lunch on a snowshoeing trek. The snow was so light and deep that we could not move without sinking to our hips without our snowshoes on. We were tired and needed a rest so we propped ourselves on the fallen down fence and drank our tea and ate our snacks. Sophie had her usual “quarter bag” of her dinner-sized serving of kibbles. On big days she gets one or two quarter bags in addition to her usual meals. We were enjoying the sun and rest. I noticed snow fly up into the air. I looked at Sophie and she was digging furiously tossing snow with the precision of a Toro snow blower.

dog in snow with backpacks face in snow sniffing

Sophie never found a bit of now that she did not want to sniff.

We both watched her with some trepidation since we were not sure what she was going after after something specific it for this was not pure investigation. She was digging some thing up. As we watched the snow fly and our dog go lower and lower into the deep snow, we wondered what she might dig up. With that much effort it always makes you wonder if it is a deer or a skunk (one time it was a skunk) or worse yet, a body.

We are trained by all of the murder mystery shows to expect to find bodies now and again. We did not want it to be that day. Suddenly Sophie popped up out of the snow with a yellow tennis ball in her mouth. We were shocked. To our even greater astonishment she carried the ball for an hour, all the way back down the hill to the car. We discussed whether or not our dog would learn to play ball like a real dog. She was carrying a tennis ball, after all. She kept the ball on the back seat of the now-deceased Subaru. When we arrived home she picked the ball up and hopped out of the car. We were looking at each other thinking that the world might be coming to an end.

The ball ended up outside in her play area and was promptly ignored. I tried to get her interested in it several times. She was back to her Sophie-Self. “No tennis balls, thank you, I am a hound.” When her golden retriever cousin-dog Alice came to visit I thought Sophie might join her or at least learn about playing with tennis balls. Sophie clearly got the point but did not want to go chasing after the tennis ball. “Mom, I know you think it is fun to go get that ball but you don’t expect me to? Don’t you understand? I found it. That is all I needed to do. That is my job. I am a hound. I find things. I found it. It is not fun once it is found.”

I have always imagined that she could smell the dog who had lost the tennis ball and that it was a yummy smell for a while. Once the ball was extracted from the snow and dried out the smell dissipated and the ball was no longer interesting.

I am not sure what happened to the tennis ball. Alice left it in the yard and the grass grew over it. There is no grass now. There is no tennis ball. There are no snowshoes and there is no house. Winter is not yet fun this year.

1970s photo of couple lolling after skiing

This is a photo taken in the 1970s in the Jackson Hole Hostel. We were very tired.