Maxed Out 

Dog days and dumps in the winter of ’07

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Zippy the Dog is in dog heaven. No, not the mythological, grief-salving dog heaven we like to think our dogs ascend to when they’ve finished living their all-too-short dog lives, the dog heaven of endless rolling fields, belly rubs, treat trees and guiltless snoozes on unblanketed couches. No, I’m talking about the heaven-on-Earth so many of our dogs enjoy every single day around here. Whistler in the winter of 2006-2007 is Zippy’s version of heaven.

Zippy loves cold weather. Cold weather ranks, well, not first in his dog heart but certainly in the top five, falling somewhere just below breakfast and dinner, treats, human leftovers, sleeping on the sofa, chasing balls and playing tug-of-war with anything he can hold between his teeth and any human he can sucker into trying to pull it out. Okay, so it at least breaks the top 10.

In this Windy Winter of deep snows, Zippy is beside himself with glee, an emotional state he shares with everyone in town who enjoys skiing or riding or playing in the snow, which is to say almost everyone. The world from just outside our backdoor to everywhere familiar and unfamiliar has become a perfect playground for a dog who has never seen a snowflake he doesn’t love. Well, almost perfect.

The only moment of panic in Zippy’s idyllic winter life — quite possibly the genesis of his whimpering, leg-twitching dog nightmares, though that word hardly begins to capture the essence of interruptions that visit his daytime as well as nighttime sleep — revolves around his most unusual personality quirk. Zippy is, um, modest. Perhaps I’m guilty of anthropomorphizing deviant dog behaviour. I’m certain animal experts would argue modesty is a trait unknown to animals who will happily roll in carrion one moment and on your very valuable silk Qom rug the next, who will shamelessly beg scraps from anyone eating on Dusty’s patio only to be distracted in mid-beg by an irresistible opportunity to fornicate in public.

Whatever. Zippy is a modest dog. He does not care to do his “business” in the gaze of the public eye. Were he an urban dog, he would die, perhaps of shame or chronic sepsis. Fortunately, his journeys into urban landscapes are rare. Having once chosen the perimeter of a crowded, lunchtime, sidewalk café on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to heed the unstoppable call of nature — admittedly with a look of shame, embarrassment and anger at having been subjected to such an indignity — I am loathe to take him anywhere big trees and dense bush do not grow in abundance. Curb your dog is, to his way of thinking, cruel and unusual punishment.

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