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Muddy dogs

Lead Summary

By Christine Tailer
HCP columnist

The bitterly cold spell has passed and there is not much snow left, just a few granular, icy patches here and there. The shallow puddles along the creek road have slick surfaces, but the deeper puddles are not cold enough to freeze solid.

They has a soupy consistency that reminds me of the ice slushy booth at the county fair. I just cannot quite figure out the flavor. I had thoughts of root beer slush as I waded through the icy water in my tall rubber boots.

The air smelled crisp, with an undercurrent of damp earth, as we walked along the road on our morning walk, and then the dogs, noses in the air, dashed down to the quick running creek water.

We could see them standing in the shallow water and tugging at their find, oblivious to our calls. Their intrigue soon led to our curiosity, but in reality, it did not take much to lure us off the road and down to the water's edge.

We found the dogs, excitedly pulling on the opposite sides of a half submerged deer, that had apparently escaped its hunter, and lain down in the cold water to die. We usually find several cold water deer this time of year. The dogs were obviously going to stay by their find, so we continued on our walk without them.

As we neared the hill to the cabin, Greg decided that he would light the wood stove in his shop and work on his truck. After 11 years, the truck seems to need Greg's occasional tender loving maintenance.

I decided that it would be a great day to stay inside the already, and always warm, cabin and wrap our gathered collection of Christmas presents. I dug the box of my favorite Christmas CD's out of the dresser drawer, where they had waited all year for just this moment, and set them beside our 12-volt CD player.

With wrapping paper and piles of gifts, bees wax candles, gourd creations, and treasures from local shops, surrounding me, I happily set to wrapping.

Five CDs later and my wrapping was done. I slid another CD into the slot, I then began to dust, dancing a bit as I turned from this part of the cabin to that, and as darkness fell, I put a pot of chicken soup on the stove.

I flicked the switch on the two strands of twelve volt, red and green lights, one in each of the cabin's front windows. The pot of soup began to bubble gently as I dusted and sang along with the carols.

It was quite dark as Greg drove the truck up the hill from his workshop. I heard him park in the gravel driveway and then I heard his familiar footsteps on the cabin's porch.

The cabin's front door opened, and as he stepped inside, I could feel the cool air enter with him. It seemed to surround him as I gave him a warm peck on the cheek. He sat down in his rocking chair, and as he took off his boots, he began to tell me of his progress on the truck.

We both turned when we heard a familiar knock on the door. I went to the door and opened it to usher in our two big black dogs, that did not look quite so black any more.

Their noses were solid brown, their faces grey with caked mud, and their forefeet looked more as though they were covered in clay than fur. Streaks and clumps of grey mud clung to their backs.

Before I even had the time to exclaim, they had both headed straight for the woodstove, lain down and snuggled up, in tight dog body circles.

First one sighed, and then the other. Their eyes fell heavily, fluttered and then closed, and they were very suddenly, very soundly asleep.

I let them lie and sighed myself. I wiped up their muddy foot tracks from the door over to their muddy bodies by the stove. I wiped right around them and they did not stir. And then it occurred to me that at least they were tuckered out and were not exuberantly shaking off the mud and flinging it about the cabin.

And from past experience, I knew that when our sleeping dogs eventually did wake up, that there would be a neat pile of grey clay dust exactly where each dog had lain.

Somehow, it falls straight down, almost making a chalk outline of their doggish presence.

So, I let our muddy dogs lie, and I sat down in my rocking chair by the wood stove, my feet tucked under a tired dog, and Greg and I talked before dinner, the Christmas carols still playing, the red and green lights still shining in the darkened windows.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at

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