International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners


by Joan Froling

It is highly unusual to be plagued with snow in Michigan before Thanksgiving. But a few nights ago, - lucky us - a snowstorm hit.

My Samoyeds were too excited to wait for me to wake up naturally, so they came bouncing into the bedroom at sunrise to roust me from my warm bed, their dark eyes shining with a queer maddened glee. One of them had the unmitigated gall to jump up on the bed without being formally invited. When I snarled at him to get off, he did not obey. He pranced around, rocking the mattress so I couldn't fall back asleep. He was very full of himself, as if he'd just won a million bucks and didn't need me to buy dog food anymore. The other one used guttural whines and yodeling to communicate his impatience, shoving his cold wet nose into my face and slurping me with his tongue. Yuck!

I grumpily decided one of them must be sick and desperate to get outside to go potty, so I'd better get up and let them out. The only other time they had interrupted my sleep, some months back, it was for that reason.

As my motorized chair turned the corner to enter the living room - the shortest route to the sliding glass door - my sleep blurred vision was startled by the red and yellow spots all over the light beige carpet. I fumbled for my glasses and put them on. Gasped. My retired service dog, Nikki and my new successor dog, Dakota, are normally very trustworthy while I'm sleeping. On the day of the first snowfall, however, these mature paragons of virtue joyfully celebrated the premature onset of winter by tossing out the rulebook. I couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't believe their nerve! They had obviously raided my kitchen cupboard -- a cupboard door being no obstacle whatsoever to a service dog -- and stole two boxes of Vanilla Wafers. After feasting on the contents, they had gleefully shredded the bright red and yellow cardboard containers, strewing pieces all over the house. That was just the beginning of their crime spree, by the looks of it. They'd tipped over a wastebasket full of junk mail and played tug of war with its contents. It was soon obvious they'd gotten into the dog food too.

Samoyeds never show the slightest sign of remorse, making one wonder if it is an exercise in futility to scold them. That particular morning they didn't even have the grace to pay attention as I waxed eloquent about the crimes they had committed. They flung themselves at the glass door with eager whines, then dashed back to me with impertinent demanding barks, ignoring my tirade. I didn't get it until I finally got so fed up, I decided it would be better if I banished them from the house before I lost my temper. I went to the sliding glass door, pulled back the heavy blinds and did a double take. Heavy snow, not merely flurries, had been dumped on the Detroit area overnight. Not a blade of grass was visible. The huge Arborvitaes that line the yard sagged under the weight of the white crystals amassed on their branches, very little green showing through. My spirits sagged too. I dread the onset of winter.

Nikki and Dakota sobbed in frustration, their dark eyes pleading with me to have mercy.

"You want to go Outside?" I asked.

They groaned in agony.

"Are you sure you want to go Outside?"

Dakota stared at me as if his very life depended on getting outdoors in the next five seconds. Nikki let out a howl that was worthy of a tundra wolf dying in a hunter's trap.

I knew just how to get even with these delinquents, now! How to make them suffer. But being a decent sort of owner, of course I relented. Opened up the sliding glass door to release them from captivity.

It was a beautiful sight to watch. Samoyeds gracefully taking to the air, sailing off the wooden deck to the white blanketed lawn below, seemingly on wings for their leaps carried them so far out into the yard. Landing light as a feather, they ecstatically flung themselves to the ground to kiss the Earth. Then they were on their feet again, racing back up to the deck so they could bound across it and set sail off the other set of steps out into the virgin snow awaiting their imprint. Side by side, as brothers, not rivals, they decided to run the length of the yard, a three quarter acre run, the old one forgetting his pain, the young one forgetting his need to be first and foremost. At the finish-line they touched noses and commenced a playful dance, a timeless primitive ballet of homage to the Lord of Winter. A dance that defied gravity and radiated pure happiness. They delighted in the feel of the cold snow crystals in their fur, the bracing winter air, the sheer ecstacy of being a Samoyed on the Day of the First Snowfall.

I remembered how Nikki put up with scalding pavement and the ferocious desert sun in Las Vegas last year, where it reached 105 degrees by day, so I could attend an important conference. I remembered how Dakota had gamely pulled my wheelchair through the confusing maze of streets around the Texas Medical Center a few months back, enduring the suffocating 90 degree heat wave for what seemed like hours after a taxi dumped us off at the wrong end of the hospital complex. Never a complaint from either that such weather is unbearable for Samoyeds. Not when they were in harness and on duty. I blinked back the tears that suddenly smarted my eyes. I let go of the blinds and left them to their revelries.

So we have a new holiday in our household. First Snowfall Day. They earned it.

They really pushed their luck, though, when I called them in four hours later so I could take a nap. I woke up to discover their holiday wasn't over yet....not to their way of thinking. Unbelievably, they had raided the kitchen cupboard again, bringing in a box of crackers for a leisurely snack in front of the TV set. When I pointed to the evidence, sputtering with indignation, they acted as if they'd never seen those empty cellophane bags before and couldn't understand why there was a box in the same room with them with the top half chewed off.

They have been as good as gold ever since. Perfect manners. Back on the "honor system" when it comes to food that isn't in their bowls. Absolute angels. They look like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. My worry this would be more than a one day Leave of Absence from civilized behavior proved to be groundless.

In retrospect, their little crime spree might even be considered cute. But I still can't completely relax. When you have one dog, it's a dog; when you have two, it's a pack. I wonder how a Samoyed pack celebrates the first day of Spring?

Are there any other holidays they haven't told me about yet?

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