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Friday, January 13, 2012

Walking in the Snow with Ted

Over the past week winter has finally arrived in Helsinki.  Temperatures are in the 20s or teens almost all the time (one of the things I've had to get used to here is that there's almost no temperature variation between night and day even when it's sunny during the day), and there's snow on the ground.  The Finns are really right, too: the whole place does brighten up with the light reflecting off the snow.  Since we haven't really had to deal with the ice yet and I have wanted something of a "Nordic" experience, I'm actually pretty pleased to see it.

I does, however, change the experience of walking with Ted.

First of all, walking with Ted means meandering since I let him set the pace of our walks; I figure it's his big treat of the day, after all.  Since walking for Ted is all about the smells, that means our "walk" is actually lots of meandering punctuated by stops and frantic bursts to the next "fabulous" smell.  (I must admit I keep wondering what I'm missing here.)  The challenge is meandering means that I have to dress as if I'm going outside to stand around in 13 degree weather on packed-down snow with my own tendinitis but be able to pull off pieces when I get too warm from the bursts or sustained activity.  (Because of the snow Ted can walk further, so we were out for 45 minutes at a time yesterday.)

Enter Nanook of the North.  Yes, getting dressed is a process.  Because the Towers are pretty warm--I mean, I dress for inside here no more warmly than I do in SC--most of my heat is generated through outerwear.  That means that when we start on our walk I head to the entryway, get Ted harnessed up, and hook his leash on the doorknob; otherwise, Ted's bouncing up and down the whole time.  Then I change from my inside slippers to my snowboots, being careful to tuck my pants in (yes, I learned the hard way when the bottom of my pants froze and then thawed all over my socks when I got home).  Thank goodness, I bought what appear to be decent, cheap snowboots last year.  After that, it's the duvet-that-pretends-to-be-a coat where I snap the snaps only; using the zipper means it gets unbearably hot, although the snaps tend to undo when I bend down to pick up after Ted and have lots of stuff in my pockets--not wonderful when it's windy out and my hands are covered with gloves.  Then I flop the down hood that comes with the coat on my head, button up the coat, and start wrapping my longest scarf around the neck part.  Now I have to move fast or I start sweating in the coat.  Once the scarf is wrapped, I put the hood down--it goes back on outside--grab my polarfleece gloves, keys, and plastic bags, and finally get Ted's leash and head outside.  When it gets colder I know I'll have to add another scarf, a wool hat, and my good leather/cashmere gloves to the mix, but for now I just look like a giant, Burgundy linebacker. (I promise a photo at some stage, really.)

Once we're outside things generally go smoothly.  Ted, my delicate flower, has decided that he can pee in snow, so if it's really icy I won't even have to walk across the street, but for now, we trug down the walkway to the sidewalk and start across the street.

Here's where I anticipate some "fun" later.  Even when the sidewalks and park are relatively ice free, street crossings are a bit more exciting because the snow tires that all cars are required to have here churn up the snow and it refreezes at night.  Black ice on the crosswalks will be a definite test of the metal cleats I bought for my shoes.  (Yep, how's that for snow preparedness!)

Once we get to the park, it's no problem for me; my snow shoes work well on the packed snow, even if there's a little ice under it, and I'm learning the short-strided glide that I see most Finns do on the snow.  (It even seems to affect the joggers here, which makes sense but it's a jogging stride I've almost never seen before.)  This is where, though, Ted goes berserk.  Keep remembering: for Ted, walks are all about the smells.  Imagine a Golden Retriever as bloodhound.  His nose is almost constantly down, and he walk/trots with that weird waddle they get from having to compensate for balance.  The best part is his nose.  After about a minute or two, when his head goes up he has this little, tiny mustache for the rest of the walk.  (I couldn't decide which 'tash picture to choose, so you got all three of them.)

Yes, one of these days I must learn how to remove red/yellow-eye either in Photoshop or on my camera.
The first time I saw it I started cracking up, and the guy walking past me must've thought I was nuts.  Now I just giggle quietly, kind of like I do when he tries to pull the big, alert protective Golden while up to his hocks in snow.

With that in mind, I'm going to brave the snow covered ice--we've had a thaw and refreeze in the last two days since I took these pictures--and take him out.  All I can say is thank God for snowboots--and I'm hoping that, with the big down coat, I'll bounce when I fall!

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