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My dog has informed me that she has had it chasing me around and will henceforth be following the teachings of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

It is the possibility of levitation that attracts her.

Earlier this week, she mastered walking on three paws, one held high like a wounded wing as she hobbled through the ice shards that cover our street like broken glass. By Thursday, it was two paws in the air and a refusal to step even onto the drive, where I stand, jackhammer in hand, trying to pound a half inch of ice off the windshield and doors.

These are cringing times in Canada for humans, as well as pets. Record cold – in some places colder than the surface of Mars – and extreme weather warnings from one coast to the other.

This week at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, just across the river in Quebec, multitalented Ottawa singer Lynn Miles introduced a new song she wrote a year ago – The Coldest Winter in the History of the World. Until this week, some in the crowd had to be thinking.

The local Citizen even felt it necessary to explain "frost quakes," lest some readers think the strange rumblings during the -30 C nights signal that the world is coming to an end.

Canada's relation to extreme cold has always been a tad ridiculous given the realities of a northern climate. Even the two so-called founding nations had difficulty embracing plummeting temperatures, Voltaire dismissing us as "a few acres of snow" and British prime minister Gladstone dissing us as a land "of perpetual ice and snow."

Even the early explorers were unkind. Jacques Cartier was close to giving up after the first winter here killed a quarter of his men. Alexander Mackenzie wrote back to Scotland: "I begin to think this is the height of folly in a man to reside in a country of this kind deprived of every comfort that can render life agreeable."

Even our own governments have been complicit. In seeking to attract new immigrants to the Prairies more than a century back, they banned the word "cold" and replaced it with "buoyant." When British writer Frances Brooke came to the colony with her clergyman husband and promptly pronounced: "Genius will never mount high here where the faculties of the mind are benumbed half the year," no one stepped up to call her out.

A year ago, The Independent newspaper listed "The 10 Coldest Places on Earth." Five were geographical locations in such places as Greenland and Antarctica, two were research stations, two were isolated Russian settlements – and, coming in at 10th overall, was Snag, Yukon.

Snag – No. 10 in the world, No. 1 in North America – once hit -63.9 C on a February day back in 1947. Scientists there at the time said if they went outside and spoke, the letters of their words clattered to the ground. (Well, not exactly, but they did say their breath froze instantly and fell like powder to the ground, making a tiny tinkling sound.)

Pauline Couture thinks Canadians should do a better job of celebrating the Snag achievement and embracing reality rather than pretending it is not so.

The Toronto-based author of the 2004 bestseller, Ice: Beauty, Danger, History, spent years researching ice – everything from "frogsicles" that come hopping back to life when thawed, to how the fall of the Roman Empire can be traced to the Rhine River freezing over back in 406 AD.

According to Ms. Couture, there is more not known about ice than is known, which doesn't speak well for a country that spends a good part of each year dealing with it. Nero, for example, used to send slaves to the mountains to gather shaved ice for his sorbets. And Patricia Lake, near Jasper, was the site of a Second World War experiment to see if the world's largest warships could be built out of pykrete, a sort of pulp-and-ice mixture that floated but did not melt.

No bitter cold, Ms. Couture would argue, no Canada. The early French got along with various First Nations for the very sensible reason of survival. The Prairies would never have been settled if not for co-operation and community, the very thinking that led to such matters as medicare and pensions. Had Canadians chosen baseball over hockey as the sport they would play year round, we would have all frozen standing on first base waiting for the damned pitcher to throw the ball.

Ms. Couture cautions, with unfortunately good reason this week, that it is necessary to have "a very healthy respect for cold and ice" and take all necessary precautions, but she also believes that such matters as the Canadian work ethic can be linked to the cold that settles in for months at a time each year.

"It creates energy," she says. "I feel more alive when it's cold outside." And then she lays down the trump card for bitterly cold weather: "We would not exist if not for ice."

In her book, she cites scientists who believe ice has a direct link to the formation of life. There have been five major ice ages in the past, each lasting from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of years. Some scientists even believe that earth has frozen over entirely, perhaps even twice, meaning life has had to start all over again from scratch.

Come to think of it, given the way things have been going this winter for humans as well as for dogs, perhaps that's not such a bad prospect.