I do not leash the dogs because going out at this very early hour is the only chance that they will have to run free today. The weather will keep us inside and they will have to be quiet for the sake of others in the house. After being in their nice warm beds, they are cold but it has been a long night and they have been indoors longer than usual. They are eager for relief.
Both of my dogs are mostly white, with only a little color splashed here and there, so they disappear into the drifts, immediately reappearing, like they are blinking in and out of reality. Diva is the young, impulsive one and she bounds along in the snow like she has springs for legs, occasionally stopping to push her nose down into the snow and coming up snorting, blowing the cold from her black, button nose. The other is my sweet, serious Maggie. She is Diva's mother and she is an intense little dog, always on alert, watching out for something that might need her attention. Diva has run to investigate something interesting on the other side of the yard but Maggie ignores her. No time for play now. She has a job to do and trots purposefully ahead of me.
As we walk, we round the side of the house and there is an 18-wheeler parked there. The driver is talking on his cell phone, back lit by the street lamp behind him so I can only see his silhouette. He is smoking a cigarette and I see the red tip of it brighten as he inhales. The rumbling vibration of the truck's engine makes the ground shudder under the snow and Maggie, who weighs all of 10 lbs on a good day, runs over to confront this "monster" that might be threatening her people. She was raised a farm dog and knows what she needs to do.
There was no real danger here but she doesn't know that. She knows no fear, only what she perceives her duty to be...to protect us, even if it costs her life. She is willing to sacrifice herself for me and that humbles me. The love I feel for this tiny creature suddenly overwhelms me and nearly brings me to my knees. I have lost so much in the last year but I still have her. She is my friend, my companion on this bleak journey I did not ask to take. She is my last living link to my former life and it is hard to explain how much that means to me. She is the only one left, besides me, who still remembers.