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The wind gathers up loose snow from the surface of the farmer's field and blows it over the snowbanks and across the road in a frenzy. I drive through these turbulences and there are moments when I cannot see a thing. The windshield becomes a sheet of opaque whiteness.

Coupled with the half foot deep snow drifts which I have to plow through, this makes for fear inducing driving conditions. It's only this bad for a short spell, though. I came upon it unexpectedly and unexpectedly, the treacherous bit of weather ended, contained to a deserted two hundred meter stretch of Crowes Road, ten minutes outside of Picton in Prince Edward County.

I come out the other side and my heart is beating fast. I find a clear spot to pull over, somewhere out of the blowing snow where I'll be visible to any approaching traffic. I look in the back seat. Smitten is looking back at me. She's asking me the same question she's been asking me the whole time we've been in the County: Can I go out now? Please, please, please. Can I?

I had folded the back of the seat down to give the dogs more room and a flat surface upon which to lie and because the back is down, Rocky has been able to burrow into the trunk of the car. It's his cave. He's warm. He's snoring.

"Some consideration would be appreciated," I say. "After all, I'm doing this for you guys." Well, that's true but not entirely true. On this blustery winter day, I'm driving around to get a sense of what the County is like in mid February - if I could actually live out here. Smitten's obviously in love with the area. Rocky is too, in his own way, though these days his sense of belonging is not so expansive enough to encompass geographic locales and, instead, is more limited to warm, soft beds, preferably raised off the floor and right next to his humans. Here, in the County, because I'm not at work and I'm around all day, Rocky's happy.

I'm looking at properties. I'm thinking about buying some parcel of land to build a house on. I'd like a stream, a pond, a stand of trees, enough land for a big garden and long walks, enough land so that if I wanted to take in some wayward dogs, it wouldn't disturb the neighbours. And it wouldn't be extravagant. It's considerably more economical to buy a large acreage in Prince Edward County than a small house in Toronto.

It's not easy finding all the places I've got marked on the map. Nothing is obviously delineated, at least not to my eyes. Some of the lots have for sale signs up, some don't and on others, the signs are buried in snow.

I stop the car in front of one spot where the map tells me there is something for sale but all I can see is a steep, tree covered incline. It's supposed to be a field. I get out and open the back door to let the dogs out. Smitten jumps out graceful and smooth like a cat. Rocky is burrowed deep in the back and, because of his arthritis, he has a hard time pushing himself out so I grab his harness and pull on him like a sack of potatoes. I lower him to the ground and he takes a step, stops and goes pee with all four feet planted, too much effort for him now to raise either hind leg. Smitten watches him, impatient. She wants to get going somewhere, anywhere.

Rocky finishes and we walk along the edge of the property. Smitten finds an inviting patch of snow and plops down on it, rolls on her back and imitates a flopping fish. She loves the snow. She would be happy to be cocooned in snow. Rocky looks at her like she's crazy. He does that a lot.

I see a for sale sign nailed up on the a tree but I can't reconcile the description of the property with what I'm seeing in front of me. The field must be behind the hill or around the next corner or, more likely, I'm looking at the wrong parcel of land.

We head back to the car, walking by the side of the road. Since we've been out here, Smitten has decided that she likes peeing in deep powder so she's walking as far off the road as the leash will allow. The snow is hard packed and not to her liking. She keeps walking to find fluffier stuff. Suddenly, the ground gives way beneath her. Her legs fall through the surface and she's up past her belly in snow. Rocky, wondering what's going on, stops and steps towards Smitten only to fall into the deep snow himself.

It's deceptive. The plow must have come along and pushed the snow off the road surface and into the ditch beside the road, only now the two surfaces are level and it's impossible to tell where the road ends and the ditch starts. Over one spot the snow is on solid asphalt and a couple of inches over, the snow is camouflaging a four foot deep ditch.

Smitten manages to clamber out but Rocky's having a hard time. He looks up at me with his most forlorn gaze. I reach over to grab his harness but he's in too deep and he's too far out and I'm too unbalanced. I take a step towards him.

It's like that old black and white movie skit where someone steps off a curb into a puddle which turns out to be a deep hole. I step in and the snow is like quicksand, hard to get a solid surface to push off against. I'm in snow up to my hips. I step back and I can feel snow spilling into my boot. I put my hand down trying to get balance, expecting support, but the snow just gives way and I fall in. My ass hits the side of the ditch and my foot finds solid ground. I'm now sitting in snow up to my chest.

I stand up. I lift/shove Rocky out of the ditch then climb out. I brush the snow off Rocky. I brush the snow off myself.

"That was exciting," I say but Smitten doesn't know what the fuss is about. She looks at me then leaps back into the powder. Her legs disappear but she sinks no further. She sticks her head deep into the snow, pushes deeper, trying to find some scent. She comes up for air. She lifts her legs up high to take a few steps forward. She sticks her head back into the snow. She shuffles around a bit, shifts her weight back and there's a big smile on her face and even though I can't see what she's doing, I can tell. She's taking a piss.

Later in the evening, after I drive into a ditch, after I knock on a stranger's door to ask for help, after I meet her dog who's a rescue from Anne and Pete's, after the tow truck driver comes by and pulls the car out and says, "I've been doing these all day today", after I make it back home and feed Rocky and Smitten and feed myself, after we go out for a walk under a half moon which is so brightly reflected by plains of snow and re-reflected by clouds that it seems like dusk, after I watch a movie, after I take the dogs out again, only this time the moon is behind clouds and the darkness is like a blindfold and Smitty doesn't care but Rocky needs to be guided, and after we return and finally all settle in for the evening and I look out the window at the houses with lights still on, scattered sparsely around, I wonder who lives out here, alone, retired or with families and I think about how all that open space between us and them and all around is filled with wind and snow and all around almost nothing else, just life in waiting under the wind and snow, and I am warm but outside the night is stark, resolute, almost intimidating and I wonder if this is the place.

6 Comments to “Picton Snow”

  1. Joanne says:

    Couple of things to seriously consider about living in the "country"...being snowed in and or having to plow and or remove the snow. Utilities going out because of the heavy snow fall and your pipes freezing and bursting, being able to get to a vet in an emergency and most of all...getting an ambulance there. My friend lived in the "country" and her husband died ....EMS was not able to find the property or get there in time. Sounds very romantic to live in the "country" ...... might be in Colorado. I had another friend who had to take water to the barn in freezing weather for her horses. It promptly froze. I know it has a certain allure and cache...the reality is a lot tougher.

  2. Biscuit says:

    We think about it, too. Steve grew up in Pboro and his mom's family is from Tyendinaga and they have a cottage near Bon Echo Park so we end up driving through the area pretty frequently. I used to be concerned about stuff like proximity to good cheese and wine, but the County's doing quite well in that regard. And with wifi now being ubiquitous it's not like we'd have to worry about connections to the metropolis: telecommuting is a more viable option than ever.

    Of course, I suppose I'd have to learn to drive first.

    you probably have more than enough to read on the subject, but here are a couple of blogs i follow: one's the wife of a friend of a friend (you with me here?). They upped stakes and moved from the west end of Toronto to a little town called Orono, and are renovating (more like rebuilding entirely) a 100-year-old house.

    the other is a writer for Esquire who did almost the same thing but landed in Port Hope (he's a very good writer, not just about this).

    hard to imagine a dog looking happier to be in the snow than Smitten.

  3. Fred says:

    Thanks, Biscuit. I'll check out the links.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for doing the February scouting, Fred! It's only ever been warm and sunny whenever I've been to the County, although I did inquire about the winters and was told they were relatively mild but moist (down around Milford). I'm thinking you may get a nice roomy property closer to town (Picton, Port Hope, Cobourg) and still have all the amenities without the starkness. You sure pay a premium for a little box in the Big Smoke.

  5. Love the article and photos. Smitten and Rocky crack me up, a real Mutt 'n Jeff pair :-).

  6. Lynda says:

    Fred, when we lived on the acreage in North Ajax, it was AWESOME! We had so much fun with the Twins and my friends would bring their dogs over for hikes through our forest and even the farmers would let us run in their fields. It was heaven and I miss it so much. The positives FAR outweigh the negatives. Paul will be purchasing land and building a house on it in the future as well. Me? I'm a city girl. But I wouldn't mind coming up to your place for a hike and a run with the danes! **hint hint**

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.