Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Surviving the Polar Vortex

Last week, northeast Ohio saw temperatures that hadn't been seen here January 1994. I was in elementary school in 1994--and I lived on an island off the coast of southeast Georgia, which meant this was the coldest weather I've ever experienced. 

We tried to prepare the best we could. I tried to get some extra miles in on Monday and Tuesday so we could still end the month strong with our mileage goals. On Monday night, it rained all night before freezing again. We tried to walk on Tuesday morning and made it two houses down the street before I realized Rye was going to kill us all on the ice, so we turned around and took her home before Barley and I tried again. We made it .2 miles and we'd both slipped several times and I decided the safest decision was for us to turn around and go home. So much for extra miles. We played in the yard instead.

By the time I'd finished teaching my Tuesday afternoon class, the university had made the decision to close for Wednesday. I knew that was a bad sign because we never cancel classes and I'm almost positive in the 9 years I've been here we haven't canceled before the previous school day was even over. That evening, the dogs were feeling the lack of a walk already. Thankfully, we'd just gotten our monthly shipment of treats, so we set off to break the girls' brains. 

On Wednesday, we didn't set an alarm and when we did wake up, the wind was blowing so fiercely that we were all happy to stay in bed and just snuggle a little longer. Eventually, though, we had to face the Polar Vortex. Barley is really good at knowing when she's just going out to potty and when we're staying out for a while--especially when she knows breakfast depends on her getting back in quickly. Rye, on the other hand, would stay outside all day, every day if I let her. She often forgets to potty because she's so busy exploring and a few minutes after coming back in, she'll go sit by the door and whine to let me know she's about to wet her pants. She does better if I go out and supervise, so every single time the dogs went out, I bundled up and went out, too. It took longer to bundle up than we spent outside.

I don't even know how to describe the kind of cold we experienced. I wore glasses every time we went out (I had nightmares about my contacts freezing to my eyeballs) and my eyes started watering almost immediately. Most of my face was covered, but within a few minutes of being outside, my forehead starting feeling like I had put on a face mask and it was starting to dry out. When I walked around the yard following the dogs, I'd start coughing after taking just a few steps because breathing was so uncomfortable.

We served breakfast and dinner in their Kong Wobblers both days. We took lots of breaks to play with treat balls. We practiced sending to our mats. We walked laps around the house.

Next weekend, the girls are entered in an AKC scent trial and there's a chance that Rye could move up if she titles on Day 1, so we used this as a chance to train the new odor that she'd need for that and to refresh Barley's memory on that odor even though she can't move up during this trial. 

I had a bunch of paper towel tubes we repurposed for practice.

Even with taking regular breaks to play brain games and practice scent work, the girls were getting cabin fever. Every time we went out, it got harder to convince them we weren't staying out. They spent a lot of time playing chase, which Barley really hasn't been interested in when the weather's been nice.

They also spent some time chasing the squirrels--who were not smart enough to stay in their nests despite the cold! 

Barley lost interest in squirrels pretty quickly.

But I could not get Rye in. She kept running from tree to tree and every time I almost caught her, she'd slip away. 

Eventually, right when I started getting really worried that she was going to get hurt in the cold, I was able to bribe her with treats and get her inside. Just from being outside for 5 minutes and taking a few pictures, my phone battery drained and my phone shut down.

We spent more time watching squirrels from the window.

And expressing our displeasure about not being outside with the squirrels who ran back and forth along the fence all afternoon.

By Wednesday morning, the university had closed for Thursday, too. On Thursday, we knew what to expect, but we were even more unhappy about it. I felt obligated to read a work book if I was getting two days off of work--and Rye didn't love that any more than I did.

Rye really found her voice for expressing her displeasure on Thursday. She embraced her inner hound and sat at the window and howled. There weren't even any squirrels in the yard!

Most of the day, though, we spent snuggling. 

Barley and Soth are excellent at just relaxing. Maybe it's because Soth's a cat and Barley's 9, but they required very little convincing to curl up in the bed or on the couch. Rye snuggled, too, but she was more reluctant and I could almost seeing her plotting to overthrow me every time I looked at her. 

Thankfully, our temperatures are back above 0 now with more reasonable windchills. (I never thought I'd appreciate a 6 degree day, but that's so, so, so much better than a -4 degree with a -31 degree windchill.)

Our street was still a big icy mess, but Rye and I got to escape to an agility trial. I was worried about the trial because she'd been cooped up for so long, but we had a great time. 

We didn't qualify on any of our three courses, but she ran a beautiful master jumpers course (she just thought it needed one more tunnel than the judge thought it needed) and she did some really tricky turns on her standard course, so I couldn't be happier with how much control she showed! 

We're not in any hurry to ever experience something like this again. We've had days where we couldn't take long walks. And days when we've skipped walks because of white out conditions or icy streets, but we've always been able to romp in the backyard as long as we've wanted. Several times, I ended up having to carrying Rye back inside and stopping to warm Barley's paws up by rubbing them with my mittens because they'd run to the farthest corner of the yard to potty and then start limping. We were as prepared as we possibly could be for this type of weather, but this was really hard on the dogs. Thankfully, we're supposed to have several days in the 40s and even one in the 50s, so we'll be taking advantage of that as much as possible and hoping it's another 25 years before this type of weather comes back to northeast Ohio.


  1. What a beautiful voice Rye has!

    Glad you're on the other side of that arctic blast!

    Chris from Boise

  2. We had -33 actual temp in the morning last week. We still went for a walk, but it was more like a 10 min run with Mom. She wore her Icebugs and we wore our boots. It was kind of fun actually, and one of her eyes froze shut on one trip because of the tearing. Sadly, it went above freezing on the weekend and we now have an icy mess but it is covered with 6" of fresh snow. The Icebugs let Mom keep walking, so we are all thrilled. During the bitter cold, we were content to just nap and snuggle. Usually we are so busy it's nice for us to just chill. Good luck at AKC SW. We start 6 weeks of sports with BH this weekend.

  3. What a mess, huh? So much cold and ice, and ugh! Luckily for me, Luke doesn't like the cold, so I can just let him out into the yard and he'll do his business and come right back. He does get bored with being stuck inside though, and so do I! We had a few good days but last night we had an ice storm and it's treacherous out there this morning. What a crazy winter so far! Let's hope things even out for a while.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets