As MacLeod has proven before in his stories, he does not shy away from the harsh realities of life. And, as Marcie has already pointed out, Winter Dog is not an easy story to read. But there are so many great reasons you should read it anyway.
Like the tender telling of the excited children playing in the snow. The first snow of the year and they are up before the sun because they can’t wait to get out in it. “They are half crazed by the promise of Christmas, and the discovery of the snow is an unexpected giddy surprise.” The narrator–their father–tries to shush them so as not to wake the baby, but they reply that the baby is already awake and that she’s happily listening to their singing.
As the narrator watches them out the window, he sees the neighbouring dog run over to play with them, reminding him of the dog he had as a boy, long ago in Cape Breton – the one that saved his life. This dog, that his family had ordered specially from Ontario to help on the farm, was said to be “worse than nothing”, because he often damaged the livestock as he tried to herd them. But to the narrator he was not “worse than nothing.” As he thinks about his present concerns–the illness of a loved one far to the east and the possibility of having to travel in the bad weather–he remembers that “Had I not been saved by the golden dog, I would not have these tight concerns, or children playing in the snow or, of course, these memories.”
And now, as the sun comes up, he watches his children play in the newly fallen snow with the neighbour’s dog: “He [the dog] sits quietly and watches the playful scene before him and then, as if responding to a silent invitation, bounds into its midst.” A very happy scene indeed.