Meghan Cox Gurdon: Billy the Wonder Dog has his moment in the snow

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Local,Meghan Cox Gurdon

"Oh look at how fat they are!"

"They really are lazy! They're falling lazily from the sky, as people always say!"

"Let's go make a snowman!" cried the youngest child.

"The thnow ithn't thick enough yet," said her older sister. It was her first day wearing a new retainer on her teeth, and her "thpeech" was still a little indistinct.

"At least we can go make snow angels," said the youngest, undaunted.

"Yeth!"

Everyone ran downstairs. At ground level, the snow was a lot less persuasive. The street outside was wet but utterly untroubled by snow and ice. We could see water running down the driveway. If this were Maine, no one would have dreamed of canceling school, so on the whole, it was a good thing, for once, that we weren't in Maine.

Still, from the sky those fat lazy flakes persisted, and there was a thrilling accumulation on people's lawns and on parked cars. There would definitely be a snowman in our future, and possibly even a bit of sledding.

"Can't I just go out now?"

The dog was bouncing around, having picked up on the general excitement. Would there be a walk? Could it be right now? Now, huh, now? Walk? Yes?

"Soon, soon!" First we had to disinter the snow things from past years. One of the great advantages of having a large-ish family is that you can generally find warm things for each growing child in the closet if you aren't picky about sizing. The 7-year-old was eventually kitted out with high-rise insulated pink overalls and a slightly oversized turquoise ski jacket, for instance, and the 13-year-old managed to find some black snow pants that only fell down a little, perp-style, when she walked. The elder teenagers were off doing whatever it is that older children do, and the 11-year-old had chosen to stay snuggled up in bed with a novel, so it was a small but well-bundled party, plus bouncing dog, that headed off into the blizzard in search of fun.

The wind moved noisily in the trees, and far in the distance, we could hear children shrieking. We traipsed along the road, heading for the woods. Cars swished by. The dog pranced in the slush and was surprised.

"It'th not thnowing very much."

"We're supposed to get 5 inches."

"Can we have hot chocolate when we get home? With marshmallows?"

"Definitely!"

We passed a little boy sitting on a sled on a knoll in his front yard. He grasped the sled's handles with both hands, and as wet flakes plopped down on his curly hair, he waited for something to happen. The snow being a good inch-and-a-half deep, nothing happened. He urged the sled forward with his body. Nothing happened.

As we entered the woods, the air was ringing with bird song, all of it carrying a note of chagrin. Here, the dog was seized with joy. Off the leash he pounced and leapt and bit the snow and then sprinted in circles with his tail between his legs, as if the weather was teaching him a lesson.

"Arf!" he cried, from excess of feeling.

He laughed at us, shook himself furiously and dashed in circles again. We laughed too; Billy's good humor was infectious. It was also instructive.

In his custom fur coat, he was as warm as we were in our ski togs. He didn't know that school had been canceled. He didn't know that a spectacular snowfall had been predicted and that all we were getting, instead, was this lousy sodden stuff that melted as fast as it landed.

He wasn't looking forward to a mug of hot chocolate or to a movie. He didn't know that the vaunted snow day was turning into a bit of a damp squib. Being a dog, all he had was his companions and this lovely weird white stuff. All he had was the moment, and he was ecstatic.

Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at mgurdon@washingtonexaminer.com.

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