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2011-02-17 digital edition

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2011-02-17 / General Stories

Backyard Ice Rink

It was a beautiful day, but treacherous. We had an ice storm the night before, so the ground had a coating of ice that was both beautiful and slippery.

This was the kind of day on which octogenarians risk breaking their hips. Hip doctors rejoice for the sudden windfall. Octogenarians simply have a sudden fall. It’s all very distressing.

We have a backyard that slopes away from the house. It is the perfect scenario for sledding and breaking hips.

Early this morning, before my kids went outside, I witnessed the sleek, shiny surface of a perfect sheet of ice. I knew that, later, my kids would take great pleasure in destroying it; stomping on it like the fabled Yeti, and delighting in the popping sound as they broke through the surface.

Now, however, it was gorgeous. Well, it was until two of my neighbor’s dogs raced across the slippery slope.

The black and white shaggy one was in the lead. His legs criss- crossed under him as he tried to gain a foot-hold on the icy surface. Instead of fighting the slope, he suddenly turned his body 90 degrees and tried to run with the slope to the bottom. He looked liked a cartoon dog making that turn. His legs were moving in one direction and his body kept going in the other.

The golden retriever directly behind him made the turn without too much trouble, but he couldn’t stop at the bottom of the hill. He did that thing dogs do when they put on their brakes: His back legs slid under him and he started backpedaling. His back end hit the ground for some extra friction. (No brake pads, you see.)

It looked like this rather unorthodox braking system might work for a second. Then he must’ve caught hold of something nonslippery, because he suddenly tipped, nose-down, onto the ice and completed a perfect doggie somersault. I gave him a 9.5 because he didn’t stick his landing. In fact, he continued to slide until he was stopped rather abruptly by my giant blue spruce.

After these two clown dogs scrabbled their way off our ice rink, my cat came out to test the waters. The waters were hard, of course, but she was determined to get to wherever cats go.

I watched her take two cautious steps and, at the slightest hint of slippage, she would immediately press her body to the ice. She must’ve known that, as with any winter sport, the more surface area that is touching the ice, the slower the sliding will be, especially if that surface area is furry. Cats are smart that way.

My cat’s foray across the backyard was a consistent pattern of two steps, hug the ground, two steps, hug the ground. She did eventually make it across, but not without incident. About halfway, her two left paws slipped under her at the same time, thereby sending her sideways down the slope. Desperately trying to gain traction again, she slid about three feet while imitating a giant ball of dryer lint in the throes of a seizure.

Who would’ve thought that an ice storm could provide such entertainment?

Still, I do worry about the octogenarians. The hip doctors? Not so much.

Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker. You can reach Laura at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com .

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