“It looks like Griz weather.” I wasn’t addressing anyone as I stared out the window observing the Montana winter announce itself in the form of a blizzard, considering the only other being within ear shot was my dog, Carly. Watching the howling wind push the countless snowflakes in near horizontal paths, I remembered how such conditions had been perfect for my boy, Griz. Sub-zero temps, drifting snow, conditions that any normal living creature would want out of were all heaven for the Rottweiler/Malamute mix that had shared my life for thirteen years.
|Griz, forced to endure the tortures of being indoors.|
To say that Griz enjoyed the cold was a bit of an understatement. My black and tan walking carpet was built for the arctic with his three-inch-thick coat. I joked that I could make another dog from the fur that Griz shed each spring, and people laughed until they saw the bags that I would collect with each brushing. In the summer, Griz looked almost normal, even thin, if he ventured into the water and his fur happened to reveal the true shape of his body. But come fall, with the first frost, Griz added several inches to his girth. All fur.
|Even in his final years, Griz still loved to go lay in the snow.|
The battle with Griz’s preference for cold was a long one for both him and I. My struggle was to keep the vacuum from exploding from cleaning up the constant trail of fur, and for him, it was in finding a cool spot in the house. Though he would have preferred to stay outdoors at night, I insisted he remain inside. The remedy was a compromise between the both of us. I kept the thermostat below 65 degrees and I left the weather stripping off the bottom of the front door to allow for a cool draft. Griz took advantage of that primitive style of air conditioning and would sleep in front of the door all winter long.
|Griz in his element.|
|Griz doing his famous bark/howl in protest about being asked to come in.|
|Fresh powder isn't just a thrill for skiers|
The compromises carried over to our car travels also, as my mom learned back in 2009. After losing my girl, Belle that year, Griz and I did the bachelor thing for a while. Neither of us were in a hurry to have another dog in the pack. Since Griz loved everyone, my mom and I decided to do a road trip down to Casper, Wyoming with Griz to visit my grandma in her nursing home. It was late October and the cold of fall had settled in, as had Griz’s winter coat. Just before we left, I told me my mom to bring a well-insulated coat for the trip.
“I have one in my bag.”
“No, you need to wear it in the car,” I instructed her. She looked at me as if I was nuts. She had never done a road trip with Griz, and she was about to learn about his preference for cold. You see, with Griz air conditioning was mandatory year-round. In the summer, my poor car’s AC was often on maximum while Griz stood on the center console between the front seats, his head as close to the vents as possible. It was normal to see Griz’s breath frosting in the cold air as he panted. In the winter, I was at least able to lower the fan speed or open the back windows, letting in the chill to his liking. That had been the case with this trip, and the back windows were down for much of the travel. If mom and I wanted to talk, the windows were rolled up and the AC turned on, bringing Griz up to the front to cool off and enjoy the conversation.
|Griz enjoying the air conditioning while mom tolerated the cold.|
So there Mom and I were, driving through central Montana and Wyoming, bundled up like arctic explorers just so that Griz could be comfortable. Though a bit chilled from the drive down, the time at the nursing home with my grandma was a blessing as Griz was a hit with all the residents. His big baritone barks and howls made everyone smile. Our trips through the halls were always short because Griz required the respite of the outside chill at regular intervals given the warmer temperatures of the nursing home.
|My Grandma and Griz|
|Griz and I making new friends|
|He was a sucker for food.|
|He was a happy boy getting all that attention|
Such were the necessities of sharing life with Griz. Though at times annoying and requiring a resigned acceptance of wearing sweatshirts, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. As another winter rolls in I find myself missing those days with Griz. I miss his howls as he asked to be let out into the cold, his brown eyes peeking out from a snowdrift that had formed over his sleeping form, and the impact craters he left as he dived into the snow and roll around in shear ecstasy. Yes, I miss Griz and winter will always be Griz weather to me.
|A normal sight when living with the Griz dog.|
|My handsome snow dog.|
|Griz and I at Headwaters State Park in Montana.|