Week Two – Day 3: Dusty’s First Snow

Stats: Duchess Dustine von Bahm (“Dusty”)

9 wk. female German shepherd, black and silver

14 pounds

Feeding schedule: I/D prescription diet gastrointestinal health mixed with Nutrisource puppy dry food soaked in water for 10-15 minutes 4x daily,  20 minutes in Bailey chair after. Water in meals and Knox Blocks for hydration.

Medications: 1/2 tab Pepcid AC morning and night, along with NuVet nutrient supplement, 1/2 tab, once daily


Emotionally and physically exhausted, running on very little sleep and all cried out, Joe and I left my mom’s house in Punxsutawney. The wind was bitter cold, and I had Dusty wrapped in a blanket to stop her constant shivering. Smokey ran around my mom’s front yard while we loaded the car. He loves this weather. He becomes a different dog in it.

By the time we hit 322 East, desperately following signs that said “Philadelphia – 183 miles”, we started to notice a strange phenomenon. White powder lined the tops of the houses we passed, “It’s snow.” Joe pointed out the window, and I looked and said, “No, can’t be.” But then it started appearing on the sides of the roads, down in the woods. “Maybe sand bags from the flooding?”

Joe shook his head, “No, definitely snow.”

A few more miles and there was no more doubt. Clearfield and the surrounding areas were covered in a good inch of the wet, white stuff. We passed a rest stop where the pavilions, picnic tables, port-a-potties and ground were coated, the grass barely visible underneath.

Two minutes went by, then Joe said, “We should have stopped and let Dusty see it.”

I nodded, “Yeah, we don’t know if she will get the chance again.”

Joe pulled off to the side of the road and did a power slide, swinging the back-end of my Mustang out behind us, so we were facing the other direction. I looked over to him, about to remind him that it was my car he was driving, but he grinned like a little boy, the first real smile I’d seen in days. Behind the smile, I saw desperation, so I shut my mouth, “Didn’t feel like doing a three-point turn.”

I nodded, and he we headed back west a few miles, back the rest stop we’d passed. The whole time, I felt knots form in my stomach. I knew it was irrational, but I was terrified that all the snow would melt by the time we backtracked the five or so miles, and we would have missed our opportunity. We knew that it wasn’t safe for Dusty to be at a rest stop, what with her not being fully vaccinated yet, and rest stops not being the most hygienic of places, but the snow there was untouched, and we needed her to see it, to love it, the way Smokey did.

We put the dogs’ leashes on and got out of the car. Dusty jumped down into a wet, cold puddle and shook her feet while she walked like a cat. “Little Princess,” I jested, and Joe laughed and lobbed a snow ball at her rump. She jumped back and shook her fur then went bounding into the snow. As soon as her feet touched it, she stopped and stood still, pointing with her front left paw. Smokey shoved his whole face in the cold, solid rain and snorted loudly. He trotted over to Dusty and tapped her belly with his snow-covered nose. She sprung to life, and I dropped the leash, letting her run through the snow, while Joe and Smokey kicked it up at each other.

Joe formed a snow ball and held it up to Dusty, who wagged her tail eagerly, “Go get it girl!” he threw it a few yards away, and she tore off after it, shoving her nose in the snow to find just what group of this stuff smelled like Daddy. Finally, she found it and chomped down on it like she would a stick. It dissolved in her mouth, and she snorted and ran back to us. A good old-fashioned game of “Find the snowball” began.

We played for about half an hour before Dusty really began to shake, and even Smokey was ready to get back in the car. As soon as we got back to the car, we put the pups in the back seat, wrapped Dusty up in Joe’s coat and turned the heat on high. In ten miles (back east again), Dusty was curled under Smokey’s head, sleeping soundly, growling slightly in her dream. I imagine she was dreaming about chasing snowballs.

When I got home, I was scolded by various people about various things about Dusty’s first snow, mainly because I couldn’t resist putting the pictures on Facebook. Granted, they weren’t good pictures, but there was snow and there was Dusty, all in the same place. I was told that I shouldn’t stop at rest stops, because she wasn’t fully vaccinated, and she could get sick. I was told that she shouldn’t be allowed to eat the snow, because who knows what chemicals could be in it. I was told that she shouldn’t even be allowed to play in the snow, because it was wet and cold, and it could bring on aspiration pneumonia.

I started to feel like the bad guy. And then I stopped and thought about it. And you know what? My dog is going to die. Young. And it’s going to be awful. But I am not going to prevent her from being a dog. I’m not going to let her sit by and watch Smokey do fun, doggy things and not be able to join in herself. Life isn’t just about breathing, it’s about how you spend the limited breaths you take. And I’m not going to let Dusty waste hers. I would rather have her for a year, and it be the happiest year of her life, than have her live for ten years and never let her experience any of the joys life has to offer.

If I were making the decision for myself, I would play in the snow.