So far this winter, it has been pretty quiet down our way. It was very warm until after New Year’s, so the wet splashy stuff didn’t harden and get thick enough until after the deep freeze hit, and then it was too cold for people to go out. It’s warming up a bit now, and I am once again being driven to frenzied barking by the howls and high-pitched whines of those stinky machines some two-leggers like to race on the river once it’s hard. I hate them.
But last week, when it was very cold out – so cold that even I had to cut my patrols short – we had visitors. Doggie visitors. Strange Doggie visitors.
Elizabeth says that these were prime specimens of their species. In all the time she has lived through winters in this climate, she has never seen them like they were last week. We first saw them when we were on our ride into town. Elizabeth didn’t have her camera, so she couldn’t get a photo, but they were dazzling, running low to the ground in shimmering rainbow-coloured scarves. If she’d got out to take a photo, someone driving up to us might think Elizabeth had got tangled up with one of them. They were that close to us!
“What are they?” I asked.
“Stella,” she said, “those are Sun Dogs!”
They didn’t look anything like dogs.
Apparently, the First Nations people used to believe they were spirit-dogs who pulled the sun through the sky. Usually, at least when they appear in our part of the world, they seem high in the sky, one on either side of the sun. But sometimes, Elizabeth says, conditions may give rise to more than one, so it really does look a bit like a sled of sunshine coming directly toward you, pulled by a team in the fan formation. I guess. If you have a really good imagination.
It’s like an ice rainbow that’s only partly there, Elizabeth explained. The sun’s light is refracted through ice crystals in the air.
Whatever. I like the traditional explanation better.
The next time we saw them, Elizabeth was at home, and she grabbed Kay’s point and shoot so we could show you. We have trees in the way, so the dog on the left is obscured a bit, but you’ll get the idea. This time, the dogs were so bright that they looked like mini suns on either side of the real sun. The rainbow is hard to make out because they are so bright.
I kind of like them. And as they charge through the sky with their cargo, they don’t even sound a whisper.