Buster the polar bear

There was a break in the rain on Sunday afternoon (and the football game was a boring blowout) so I loaded up the pups and headed for Thousand Acres park.  While all of the snow is now gone from my yard, there were still a few inches on the ground in the park.  It was slushy in spots and made for difficult walking and I thought it would have been a good idea to bring along the snowshoes.  But the pups, who have been housebound for over a week, seemed to be enjoying it immensely, Buster more so than Django and Jack.  He’d sprint far ahead, then come back to check on us, only to spin around and bound off again with just a little more energy than usual.  It had never occurred to me that Buster would enjoy the snow so much considering his issues with ground clearance.

As we came into the first clearing, there was a very low, light fog hanging above the slushy snow.  It’s the sort of fog that only seems to show up in scary movies and I thought that it would have made for some neat photos, only I had left my camera at home as well.  I took a moment to appreciate the scene, then continued on down the road.

I’ve got a set path through the park for most trips.  We make our way from the parking lot down to the river for a looksee and a drink, then do an about face, go back to the truck and go home.  It’s a few miles, which seems to be about as far as Django can handle these days without hurting her hips.  While driving over the Sandy river on Highway 84 on the way there, I saw that it was high (14.5 feet by the Bull Run gauge) and brown.  I wondered whether we’d be able to make it to the usual spot alongside the river or if we’d get cutoff by the flooded backwaters.

As we hiked off of the main trail and onto the narrow trail that leads down to the river, Buster once again sprinted ahead in the snow with Django following close behind.  I rounded a bend in the trail where it opens up and you can see ahead a bit, and looked around for the pups.  As I’d suspected, the backwaters were flooded and this would be the end of our hike.  Or so I thought.

Django popped out from behind a bush, smiling and wagging.  But where was Buster?  As I continued walking to where the trail disappeared into the brown water, I looked around until I heard a noise in the water.  I looked over and there’s Buster swimming across the water headed to where the trail continues on the other side, up to his ears in snowy slush, his nose huffing and puffing as his feet paddled away somewhere down below.  He was about halfway across and paddling happily away.  Maybe he thought we would all continue on behind him, braving the frigid waters to continue along our usual path but I wasn’t about to get myself into that water and was really surprised that he was swimming and worried whether he could keep swimming knowing how cold it was; I was out fishing on Christmas day and measured it at 36 degrees.  I called him back and he paddled a quick U-turn.  And here I was without my camera, doggoneit.

The funny thing about it was that only this last summer had I really introduced them to water and swimming, and even then it was just to get them in the river and not really swim a lot.  As he emerged from the murky, slushy water, he gave quite the vigorous shake, his tail whipping back and forth and with a great big smile on his face.  I was immediately concerned that he might get hypothermic so we only hung around for a minute before heading back to the truck.  He wasn’t showing any signs of getting cold yet but I wasn’t going to take the chance.

We beat a hasty retreat for the truck, Buster trotting along happy as could be, grinning ear to ear and whipping his tail back and forth. Got home and dried them off and found that Buster’s fur was especially soft after his little swim.  After all these years, the pups still find ways to surprise me.