Outdoor Epiphany

Learning to be a winter bitch in Bozeman.

A few years ago, my boyfriend and I moved into a new home that, to our delight, came with a dog door. His beloved canine had spent the first six years of her life waiting for someone with thumbs to set her free during her most desperate moments. One of the first things we crossed off our to-do list was to teach our loyal companion how to go through her little plastic flap. It seemed very easy at first: each of us stood on either side of her exit and gave her a treat for getting from the inside to the outside and vice versa.

The problem? She never really got the hang of it, and still waited for permission to go outside. If we slept in, she would sit by the door and cry. If we were late getting home, she would sit by the door and cry. I was astounded. Freedom was as accessible as it could be, and still she waited for the sacred nod from my hard-working man-friend before she embarked on any sort of adventure.

I began to wonder, “Where in my life do I have this habit? How often do I sit around and feel sorry for myself when the antidote to my suffering is right in front of me?”

Three weeks after our move, snow was falling on the green-leaved trees in Bozeman. I mourned my garden. I grieved sunshine on my shoulders. The dog sat down next to me, laid her head on her paw, and exhaled loudly. Then she looked at the door and raised an eyebrow as if to ask my amazing thumbs and me to give her access to the backyard.

Suddenly, white light shone from the sky onto my thick noggin, and everything became clear. How could I have voluntarily moved to a winter wonderland and decided that green grass was more rewarding than cold smoke? I turned back to the outside world, attempting to see it from my new, empowered perspective. What my grandmother used to call “white crap” could actually be quite pleasurable, assuming one didn’t view it as something to scrape off your windshield (or your shoe). So I grabbed some running shoes, shoe spikes, and the dog, and out our respective doors we went.

She ran ahead and rolled in the snow. I moved at a comfortable pace and sniffed the air. She tried to catch a squirrel, and I tried to catch my breath. By the time we got back to our warm winter home, we were both ready for naps. As I curled up under my comforter, with a delicious cup of hot tea, I realized that I was as content as I had ever been. My dog breathed a satisfied sigh, and I knew she was as happy as I was to be a winter bitch in Bozeman.