When the temperatures first started to drop in Minneapolis, I felt pretty proud of myself for how well I handled it. When even longtime locals were complaining about too many days in the single digits, I simply bundled up the best I could and soldiered on. When the first snow fell, I hopped in the car and drove home in it, as if I had never moved away from the Midwest 13 years ago.
Sure, the weather isn’t the most awesome. But what are you going to do? It’s freaking cold here.
Our first subzero nights were at the beginning of December, with several days at 2 or 3, maybe the teens if we were lucky. Everyone said it was a fluke. “It’s never this cold!” they said. “Maybe in late January, February,” they said. As I type this, the actual air temperature is -14. With wind chill, it supposedly feels like -35, and tonight’s low – the actual low, not the wind chill – is supposed to be -25. I don’t even know how to explain what that feels like when you suck air in through your teeth accidentally while walking to your car, when your scarf slips too low on your chin.
Joel, lucky duck, had to head to North Carolina this week for a shoot. We did our best to give the dogs exercise before he went, playing fetch in the backyard until Huck had a full beard of frozen slobber and the tears at the corners of Cooper’s eyes were starting to turn slushy. We haven’t gotten one single solid endorsement for snow booties for the dogs, so we let them scurry around on the frozen snow for short periods of time in bare feet. When they come inside, they give each paw a good lick to warm it up again, and I have some paw wax on hand in case anything seems raw.
For the most part, my guys have totally adapted to the weather. They batted nary an eyelash at the snow when it started falling. No theatrics about it at all. Cooper is living in his wool sweaters and Huck has actually started to grow a winter coat! He’s getting shaggy at his haunches, especially, which has never happened before.
In fact, two months into our Minneapolis residence, everyone seems to finally be adapting to our new life.
Tonight, I let Huck into the basement with me while I hung out with Toby. He’s been going down periodically, whenever we let him and remember to put away the cat food, and he seems to understand that Toby is the Master of the Basement and gives him a wide berth. Tonight, after a bit of sniffing, he stretched out on the carpet next to where I sat on the couch. Toby reclined on the cushion next to my head, and together we all watched the end of VH1’s Storytellers with Taylor Swift. Kitty even came down to check things out, and there were no altercations.
Right now, Toby is standing just next to the basement stairs, and Cooper is wandering around wondering why I’m at the kitchen table and not in the TV room. Those two have been okay since Toby started venturing out of the basement. Coops will give him the side eye every now and then, and if Huck decides to give Toby a bit of a chase he’ll join in. But on their own, they’re golden. I have dreams that one day they will snuggle, which I’m sure will never happen.
Kitty and Toby are still a little prickly. Well, I should say, KITTY is prickly about Toby, and Toby just tries to avoid her. Lately, she’s started patrolling back and forth in front of the basement gate, waiting for him to make an appearance. When he does, she hisses and vocalizes, and Toby simply walks back downstairs until she’s gone. She’s also started liberally using the cat gate to go downstairs. Once or twice we’ve heard hissing from both of them and caught her speeding upstairs with Toby on her heels. I’ve noticed that she’s started smelling like their cat litter, and I would not be surprised if she’s going down there and rolling around in his box. She’s old, and set in her ways, but so far no one has laid a paw on anyone else, so we have high hopes.
Last week, when Cooper was recovering from his knee surgery, Claire followed him everywhere and was very concerned for his comfort. She would sit on the floor with him and pet his head very gently, and I could tell that she wanted to give him some more hardcore snuggles. I told her that it was okay for her to kiss him on his head and give him hugs, as long as she first gave him pets and let him relax, and as long as she never approached him from behind. That was all the encouragement she needed. She gave him a hug every morning and every night, and sprinkled his forehead with kisses while he tried to lick her face. We had her for a full week after Christmas, and by the time she left, she was telling him how much she loved him. Success!
Claire and Huck are gradually warming to each other. We’re still asking her to let him come to her when he wants attention, which seems to be working. He’s treating her more like a normal member of the family and less like a curiosity, and I can tell she’s bummed that she doesn’t get to love him like I do. She’s been asking me if he likes it when I hug him and kiss him on the head, and I have to explain that he pretty much ONLY likes it when I do it. Or, maybe he doesn’t even like it, but he tolerates it. I think those two will still take a few months to get on even footing, but I’m no longer worried that it’s not going to happen at all.
Of course, we still haven’t reached nirvana: Me and Joel and Claire and Huck and Cooper and Kitty and Toby all hanging out together. (We were really close one afternoon, but Kitty came along and pointed out to the dogs that Toby was relaxing on a living room chair and all hell broke lose.) Sadly, our little TV room upstairs is barely big enough to hold the people, much less the animal hoards.
But even though the winds are howling and I have to get up tomorrow and go to work in “dangerously cold” conditions, and even though the dogs still chase the cats and the cats still hiss at each other and the dogs probably still aren’t ready for a kid sleepover and Joel is being driven slowly insane by how high maintenance everyone is…
Even though all those things, I think we’re going to make it, and there’s nowhere I’d rather be.