Dumb, dumber, dumbfounded

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February 23, 2004 // UPDATED 9:18 am - April 25, 2007
By: Julie Landsman
Julie Landsman

In a Downtown winter, dogs wonder about their humans' sanity

Our dog Louis looks at us incredulously as we open the door to Washington Avenue -- to minus-10 temps and a wind-chill factor we won't event talk about. Every morning, no matter what the weather, we have walked this poor, sweet Belgian Shepherd out to Plymouth Avenue, up one street and over to the Downtown riverfront where we wander by bridges, talk about the skyline and wait, shivering, for cars to stop before we cross the street.

This has been unrelenting for almost two years now, a ritual hard to put aside, even in the most frigid dawn. Louis does not get it, and while he trots along dutifully, he glances back at us with a definite question in his eyes the entire time. Thanks to our walking boots, we climb over mountains of snow on corners and watch for the blinking lights on the plow that frightens our dog more than the weather.

What are you doing, you idiots? I can read the question on strangers' minds as we pull Louis out of the way just before the plow, on its return, would have scooped us up and carried us toward the busy street corner nearby. Louis has a look of panic in his walk and in the constant head turn as the snow comes in moveable hills toward us.

What is it about us that we insist on this walk no matter no matter the hazards of slippery surfaces and crystal breath hanging solid in front of us? I have wondered about this for 35 years of life in Minnesota, this insistence on going on at all costs. Why not close down the whole state and have a party? Or maybe call in "cold" to our jobs and take the day to feel warm for the first time in weeks?

Instead, we get cars with heated seats that help but don't do a thing when the spinout begins and the highway whirls around us from all directions. Instead, we pride ourselves on meeting for lunch, or getting to work at 6 a.m. or delivering the mail as always. And I do admire our resilience in this state of weather extremes. I admire the way the world goes on. The school where I will teach soon welcomes kids to first hour at 7:30 a.m., teachers slightly bleary behind their desks, at their doors, waiting for the buses.

I also totally understand Louis' primal desire to retreat for the day, stretch out on his blue denim pillow and forget about it. I understand his look of betrayal when we keep going despite the fact he limps after each journey into salt-coated streets.

Just yesterday in the paper there was an article about how walking 30 minutes a day (a brisk walk, the best kind in our temperatures) will keep the weight down. What's a little chill when your health is at stake? However, all this is hard to explain to a so-called "dumb" animal who wonders at the sanity of his owners who are so layered up they can barely turn or bend or see from behind their scarves. The more layers we put on, the more panicky he becomes as he watches us preparing to go.

I have to tell you, in all honesty, though, that the turquoise blue of the early-morning sky at minus-39 degrees was spectacular today. The man on the bicycle who says hello laughed especially warmly as we passed him going across North 2nd Street at our usual time. The pink lilies, red geraniums, blue irises were particularly remarkable in the morning windows of the flower shop at 7 a.m. Descending a mountain of snow just to get onto Washington felt like an achievement.

So we will keep going, working and getting to meetings on time, twirling and spinning and sliding down street corners. And our dogs will continue to shake their heads in amazement at this stubborn culture here on Washington Avenue.

Julie Landsman lives in North Loop.>/i>