Here in the Finger Lakes, winters are long, gray, cold, snowy, gray, icy, windy, gray... You get the idea. Most years, I feel a bit of dread, knowing that the short cold days are upon us.
That changed a bit for me last year. In June of 2020, my family adopted Beanie, a 40-pound Mississippi mutt, as we affectionately think of her. She came from an unspecified "bad" situation, and her body told some of the tale: she has a cloudy eye and nicked ear from some old injury. Most of her teeth are broken. She had every worm there is when she was taken to the rescue, including heartworm. X-rays revealed buckshot and bullets (!!) embedded in her. She was pretty terrified when we adopted her, afraid to approach us even when we held out tempting treats. Still, we could see her sweetness and how she blossomed when she was outdoors in the fields.
For the last year and a half, we've done everything we could to get her through whatever trauma she suffered before we knew her. She needed a second round of heartworm treatment, unfortunately. Without it, no doubt her heart and lungs would have been devastated. We taught her that coming inside was ok, that regular walks were fun, that she and our two cats could be friends (she was terrified of them at first!). I took her tracking weekly for months, because she sees the world through her nose and I hoped it would build her confidence. She started out terrified of leashes, brooms, getting in the car, going upstairs, and so much more. When we would reach out to pet her, she would cower and it broke my heart.
Here we are, a year and a half on, and nearly all of that is gone. She's relaxed, she's happy, we can pet her, hold her, run with her. She sleeps upstairs, in my kid's room every night. Maybe it's because the last of the heartworm is finally gone, but a month or so ago, she just became more energetic, more outgoing, and even walks up and politely snoofles random people in line at the coffee shop.
So why does that change my winter? Well, last year, Ms. Beanie and I clocked a lot of walking miles in the dark mornings, evenings, and weekends. All that fresh air and exercise (and maybe a hint of Vitamin D) kept a lot of the winter blues at bay. At least until February, when I'd pretty much had enough, exercise or no.
This year, with Beanie more energetic, I'm thinking of ramping it up a notch and trying some cross country skiing with her. I'm really interested in the hybrid snowshoe/skis I've see, like the short, wide Altai Hok. We could definitely do some backcountry trails with those. We could both get more exercise, stay fit, and keep the winter blues at bay.
Having Beanie as a companion makes me (almost!) look forward to literally breaking new trails through the woods this winter, keeping her healthy and happy and definitely doing the same for me. She may not know it, but I think she has rescued me from the winter blues!