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The Phoenix Files: Baby It's Cold Outside

The Phoenix Files
Baby It's Cold Outside

Me, I'm big and burly with a thick and oh-so warm coat of black and gray (let's not mention the downside is I shed like crazy but hey, that's the price I pay for looking so darn good). I LOVE the winter weather. I think I could have been the companion of an arctic explorer had I been born farther North but maybe that's because I don't spend a lot of time outside--just enough to let me enjoy the crisp chill in the air and the delicate feel of snowflakes landing softly on my nose.
And oh that snow experience. There's nothing that will bring out the puppy in me more than a few inches of snow on the ground--perfect for romping and stomping, pouncing and bouncing. I feel ten years younger.
But that's me. I'm a Bouvier/Lab mix...born of pretty hardy stock. So, what's good and enjoyable for me may not be fun at all for dogs of a more delicate nature--dogs with short hair, no hair or dogs who don't stand as proudly or as far off the ground as I do. Small dogs, elderly dogs, puppy dogs and dogs like Schnauzers, Poodles, Chinese Crested Hairless, Chihuahuas or Dachshunds...and so many more, simply aren't "cut out" for winter weather. They definitely need some extra protection from the cold. Dogs who shiver on chilly autumn days definitely need a nice warm sweater or coat once temperatures fall below (or even close to) freezing.
And so, if you have a furry friend or a friend with a furry friend, you might want to think of dressing them up a little for the holidays. If you're looking to buy a gift, try a nice polar fleece or heavy-knit coat or sweater. Or, if you know of (or have) a very pampered pet, you might want to try doggy boots--perfect for the pooch who has everything. I must admit that even paws covered in heavy fur like mine tend to get cold when wet. Add to that, exposure to ice, snow and/or salt, and I'm heading for home in a mad dash for a cozy spot by the fire. A pair of well made boots protect even the toughest of tail waggers from harmful hazards like salt and other chemical de-icers. Believe me, salt between the toes can be very painful.
And while I'm talking about environmental hazards, let me remind you to make sure your car's radiator does not leak. Antifreeze is one of the most dangerous winter hazards for pets--consuming as little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly. As sweet smelling as it may be, it is the number one killer among household substances. On an up note, I should note that there are some pet-friendly antifreeze brands on the market so you may want to make them your preferred brand. And about that cozy spot by the fireplace--please be sure you have a screen up to protect your pooch(es) or kitties from flying embers.
The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of Washington County agree: it's not good to leave pets outside at any time of the year but especially in winter.
So, if a dog must be outside, there are some things to do to make the elements a bit more bearable. Let me pass along a few helpful hints. First, metal water dishes should be avoided. A dog's tongue can stick to the frozen metal (which reminds me of that holiday movie favorite, A Wonderful Christmas where a little boy takes a dare and licks a frozen flagpole--with disastrous consequences). When temperatures are low enough for water to freeze, I encourage those with outdoor dogs to give them lukewarm water at least twice a day or perhaps invest in a self-heated water dish. (Be sure to hind the cord, however, as chewing could be shocking!) Second, be sure to feed a good quality dog food and increase the amount put in their bowl as it takes a lot of calories for we canines to stay warm.
In addition, for that dog in the doghouse, remember that bedding should always be dry and changed frequently. If straw is used, it's helpful to have a board at the bottom to prevent a dog from dragging it out. If possible, a rug or blanket should be hung over the door of the doghouse to prevent drafts. Any extra insulation by way of towels or blankets would be greatly appreciated as well.
With some extra precautions (and extra layers, if needed!), winter can be fun. But now that I think about it, perhaps the best part of winter is being warm and cozy. Go figure!

The Humane Society of Washington County exists to improve the quality of life for abused, neglected, and unwanted animals. 13011 Maugansville Road, Hagerstown, MD. 301-733-2060.

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