And it will be a matter of mere weeks before the Chef and I will have dusted off our little bistro table and matching chairs and set them up on the front porch. And like we do most evenings during the warmest months, we’ll come home from work, summon Scout-the-Goldapeake-Retriever to join us, and we’ll sit on those chairs and unpack our workdays while we watch the neighborhood go by. One of us will block Scoutie’s egress at the top of the porch steps so he can’t dart off after squirrels (we learned from experience last summer, Scout is cunning and quick), and Scout will make his peace with simply surveying the bird-squirrel-chipmunk activity all around him instead of instigating trouble; when the occasional dog walker passes by he’ll stand up and wag his tail enthusiastically, before he settles again into his sphinxlike down/stay with his front paws crossed like a gentleman, and his chin resting on the lower porch railing between a pair of balusters. The Chef will drink a tonic and I’ll have some wine while we sketch out the summer’s home improvement plans. And for just a little while, time will stand still.
Here is a surprising thing: on Friday it was sunny and 67 degrees; not far from us, over in Albany, the mercury hit 72. Warm and balmy in the middle of March in New England. I heard exactly nobody complaining about this; to the contrary, every person whose path I crossed on Friday seemed positively giddy. The technician who came by the house to fix a problem with our alarm system wore shirt sleeves and grinned ear to ear talking about his day while he worked; he could not recall a break in winter’s grip like this one, ever, he said. All the kids who routinely walk up and down our street, going to and from the nearby rec center, were dressed in shorts. I saw a pair of teenage girls in spaghetti-strap tops and flip-flops: that is perhaps a tad optimistic for 67 degrees, but this is Vermont, where the first day that feels so good is cause for celebration. If there is a singular type of footwear that suggests celebration, especially if you are a teenager, it is the flip-flop. Bring on the flip-flops.
And then winter returned and handed us a cold, gray Saturday with blustery wind, as we knew it would. So we’ll tuck away our T-shirts and flip-flops, pull on our down parkas again, and remind our pale, vitamin D-deprived selves to be patient for a little while longer.
Last week at work we had employee reviews, and a certain dog-who-goes-to-work did not score high marks in ‘works and plays well with others.’ In fact, he was handed a pink slip. Scout is a complicated dog, does not possess the warm and effusive demeanor of a typical Lab, perhaps owing to what his vet deemed a healthy dose of Chessie genes, and thus a reserved Chessie disposition. He is a shy and skittish little guy, prone to startling at loud noises or sudden movements—a book shifting on a shelf, a blanket sliding off the sofa, a door slamming—these kinds of things upset our sensorial mystery dog, make him come out of his skin. For the last few months his habit of growling at newcomers to the office—and even a few oldcomers—has reached a high pitch, and the ‘A’ word has now popped up in the same sentence with ‘Scout.’ Would he react to a person with more than a growl? Probably not. Can I guarantee that? I’m not willing to sign off on it, especially if these proclivities are signaling fear aggression in our beloved Scout. So he’ll pass his days at home, effective immediately. It’s not the life we planned or anticipated for him when we invited him into our family. We’re scrambling now, trying to think of inventive ways to keep him happy and engaged. Soon he’ll try a full day at dog camp, instead of the half day he attends now. And I’ll change around the one day each week I work from home. So that will buy him two days of bumper-to-bumper companionship. And when our lengthening Vermont days gain just a little more early-morning light, I’ll start running with him first thing before I head to work, to help him feel settled while we’re away.
It’s a new world order for all of us, one that will test our patience and Scout’s. But dogs are resilient, and forgiving, and we’re hopeful he’ll adapt just fine. And anyway, did I mention it is almost spring? Springtime in Vermont—a season filled with hope.