The latest addition to my daily pandemic outfit is a black fleece jacket I’ve owned since 2002. You wouldn’t think something black could be this impressively ugly and, yet, here I am confirming it is. It’s incredibly pilled. It’s incredibly big. And it has these sleeves cut so wide that, in a pinch, you could probably pack a thigh in there and still have room for supper. The overall result helps the dictionary define the word “frumpy.”

And yet, several times a day now, I reach for this fleece jacket, zip it up and silently praise it for still zipping, still fleecing, still facing North.

The reason for this stylish little number is on account of another stylish little number: our new babydog Hugo, who joined our household last week. Hugo certainly wasn’t part of our plan so soon after we lost our beloved Fitz, but a very sad Tilly made this new addition the right thing to do — and, we’re learning, for us.

So, since last Friday, we have all been living in puppy heaven with our new dreamboat Hugo. Tilly is pleased (and, happily, gentle with him). William has this permanent look of amusement on his face. And I’m basically floating on love clouds. In short, get close enough to our house and you can hear the joy bouncing around inside it.

But, as you know with puppies, they tend to have to potty and they tend to prefer pottying inside. Since we’d prefer that doesn’t happen, we are outside a lot.

Not sure if you’ve been outside recently, but I’m here to tell you, Canadian or not, there’s a bit of a bite out there. Especially at 11 p.m. or 4:12 a.m. or 5:53 a.m. when you really would prefer to be under some warm covers dreaming of Bridgerton.

But, since nature calls, I suit up in my gorgeous fleece and we head to the pooping grounds at the back of the yard.

We head this way because it took Baby Hugo about three minutes to decide he would rather be inside than outside practicing his potty protocol.

“Hey guys, I know I’m new here, but I have an idea,” he called out on Day 1.

Then, to underscore his plan, he made a beeline up the front sidewalk toward the front door.

On Day 2, he was a little more insistent with his plea: “Hey guys, I’d really, really like to recommend we head inside. In fact, I don’t know why we keep coming out here at all.”

By Day 3, his attitude had changed: “Hey guys, this sucks.”

And by Day 4, he’d decided to solve his own problem by learning to climb up the front steps. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a seven-pound pup try to climb up stairs, but it’s as heartbreaking as it is entertaining. He basically throws his front paws up and wiggles and powers the rest of his body forward. I imagine it’s about as much fun as chin-ups.

As a result, our time outside has gotten longer and our forays deeper into the yard to try to encourage poopage. This gives me more time, of course, to show off my fleece to the neighbors.

I tuck my neck down turtle-style to try to keep warm and shove my hands in its pockets. This allows me to feel 19 years’ worth of pocket lint, a collection composed (I hope) of Kleenex, the corners of old ski passes, and doggy treat crumbs dating back to the time of Puppy Fitz.

As Tilly and I stare at Hugo and hope for that telltale crouch, I think about the other jackets I could be wearing. I do own a few. But they all seem too clean, too fancy, too fitted for the task at hand.

Maybe that’s why they made fleece jackets so huge in 2002 — they knew that, when push comes to shove, you really want oversized to feel warm and cozy. When push comes to shove, you want to be able to flap your arms and wonder, “Am I going to start flying?” while you hope your dog goes potty outside.

Hugo declines to crouch and starts chewing on a shoot of ivy instead. Tilly is just about to give up. We walk farther into the yard, nearly reaching the back garden where Fitz’s remains are buried. Hugo isn’t quite ready to commit to the distance.

“Hey guys …” I hear him say, but then he gets distracted by a leaf.

The sun comes out for a very rare appearance. I look at my shadow and realize I am the shape of a potato. I think about poop and weather. I hear leaves crunching behind me and realize Hugo has changed his mind — we’ll visit Fitz and the garden after all.

It is a level of whole happiness I had forgotten existed.



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