Unless you’ve spent the last week safely tucked out of the way in one of the lower corners of the United States, you’ve undoubtedly been enjoying the current massive dome of Arctic air. We’re in southeast Oklahoma, not all that far from Louisiana, and it made it this far south and farther still. Man, it’s has been cold.
Last night, at around 2:30, just as it was getting down to 14 degrees, Roo woke up from a dream. Maybe she was dreaming about the bone she didn’t eat the night before, because she located it and went to work on it. She was too exhausted, though, and rather than risk letting it lie around inside the camper where, who knows, I might steal it, she picked it up and came over to where I was sitting, next to the door, with a big grin and a wagging tail.
“You’re kidding,” I said. “You want to go outside?” This had never happened before. Not once. Roo doesn’t take chances on going outside at night any more than absolutely necessary.
She kept grinning and wagging at me. But what could I do? Her eyes were so bright and happy. Of course, opening the door meant that the cold would instantly blast into the camper. It would take half an hour to warm up again, but I did it.
“You really want to go outside? It’s freezing out there.”
She hopped up and down on her front legs and grinned at me some more. I opened the door, she ran out and I got the door closed as fast as I could and watched her out the window.
First Roo put the bone down and took a look around. She took a seat, as if to appreciate the scenery and the breeze. Then she flung herself on the grass and rolled around, stopping only once or twice with her belly up, I suppose to cool it off. She rolled back onto her side and stretched herself out as far as she could, front paws straight ahead of her, back paws behind, her back arched. She let that go and took a nice, deep breath.
There’s a lake so narrow here that if you didn’t know it was a lake you’d mistake it for a small river, and on the other side there are a bunch of coyotes who occasionally lose their collective minds and all start yipping and howling at once. The cold was probably keeping them on their toes, and they began to make a racket. Well, of course Roo took this personally and started to bark at them as loud as she could. No one else is camped here — after all you have to be a world-class idiot to camp in this kind of weather — so it didn’t matter that Roo was making so much noise.
It must have worked, because the coyotes shut up. Roo seemed a little surprised at her own effectiveness. She nosed around a little more at a leisurely pace, but then the cold hit her, suddenly and all at once, and she came trotting back to the camper.
Now, one of the odd things about Roo is that she almost never goes through a door without reconsidering whether she actually wants to. She likes to stand there and look around and wonder whether she’s really prepared. This couldn’t be tolerated now. The cold was terrible and the wind was blowing right at the door. Any hesitation on Roo’s part and we would be doomed to hours of unbearable cold.
I swung the door open. Roo turned her head from the crack of the door to the prairie and the coyotes beyond. She noted the mooing of distant cows and wondered when the next Kansas City & Southern coal train was going to come rumbling.
“ROO! GET IN HERE!” I said.
She looked the other way, lowering her head to see beneath the door sill. Perhaps she was ensuring that no ice mouses were trying to hide under the camper. Maybe she was wondering why it was she never lay down under the camper for shade from the hot sun.
She looked back in the direction of the coyotes. I slammed the door shut and looked at her out the window. Now that the door was closed, she wanted to come in again. Knowing that she was just going to start looking around again I had to jump out and chase her in.
Naturally, she thought she deserved a cookie for her unprecedented display of courage in the face of the night. I agreed and raised her a jerky.
It was a cold night.