With the Polar Vortex arriving in D-town last week, I had to break out the extreme winter gear for a recently groomed (aka peeled onion) pooch. Sam normally has plenty of hair, but it is fine in texture and when he’s been groomed on the shorter side like it is now, I know he gets chilled, especially in wet conditions. Enter my groovy neighborhood pet boutique where I found a nice wind-proof, lightly lined all-weather coat. It keeps him reasonably dry during those cold, wet conditions and (hopefully) warm enough. When the temperatures last week weren’t as extreme for us to actually go on our walks, this is what the peeled onion, I mean Sam, looked like when we went out. In addition to the coat, I also have to put snow boots on him to keep the ice balls at bay. Without them he goes lame in a few minutes and I’m in no mood or shape to carry a 60 lb. dog who won’t care to be carried or he’ll just freeze in place, completely unable to move because of the ice balls and then give me that ‘help me‘ look. Sigh.
Styling’ dude, huh? Notice the matching coat and boots? Is this guy runway ready or what?!
While it looks easy to get this gear on, let me just describe the way it really goes down. First, there’s the pogo sticking up and down when I put my boots and coat on. I have to make Sam chill by the back door where the leash hangs. As I’m putting his coat on and trying like hell to keep the straps from twisting around, he keeps looking at the leash and then over to me and then back again at the leash with suitable wiggling in between. “Oh please, hurry up,” is the look on his face. At this point I usually start struggling trying to join the right buckle with the right connector because he’s turned into a slinky wiggling pup nearly beside himself at the thought of going for a walk. As if we didn’t just do this 12 hours earlier. Go figure. 🙂
When I put my coat on to be fully ready to hit the road as soon as he is all hitched up, that sends Sam into full-fledged orbit, bouncing up and down and winding through and around my legs. “Oooh yeah, we’re going for a walk, we’re going for a walk…woo-hoo!!” This behavior requires another correction with a sit command while I grab my gloves. As I reach up to grab the harness & leash off the hook to put on him, BAM! there he goes again. By now, it’s 5 minutes into the process. As I look at my watch I realize we’re starting to fall behind schedule. Then comes the really fun part. Putting the boots on.
I don’t know if you’ve ever ‘booted’ a bouncing, gotta go, go, go for our walk, walk, walk hound. But let me reassure you dear reader, it ain’t pretty. First, I have to un-Velcro the straps, stretch the openings up wide and loosening them up to get his foot inside. I usually start on the back legs. If I’m lucky and he doesn’t escape, we proceed. If not, it usually means a toe has caught on an edge and we have to start over. It’s kind of like when you put shoes and socks on a toddler for the first time. They tend to go in the opposite direction that you want them to go. Like in reverse. Sam is the same way. Instead of pushing his foot into the boot, he pulls back at the same time you’re trying to push the boot on or he’ll splay his feet wide and have a toe catch. Once I finally wrestle the left foot into a boot and tighten the strap, it’s then time for the right one. Same thing, only worse. He’s gone into “Awk, I’m freaking out here, people–what the hell is going on?” mode. I try to reassure him and tell him he’s such a good boy…all to no avail. He must think I’m full of crap and the worse is yet to come–the front paws. Just shoot me now. We’re pushing close to 8 minutes. Ticktock, ticktock. Dude, we are on a schedule and you’re going to make me late for work!!
The front paws are three times worse than the back ones. He really hates anyone to mess with his front feet so this becomes a sheer battle of will with that mutt being hell-bent on keeping his feet out of these boots. Eventually I win out but then Sam drops his head as if he’s been beaten. His whole posture slumps and he doesn’t recover until I open the door, while simultaneously grabbing the keys and shoving my hands in some gloves as the door is being shut because we need to get rolling quickly (no need to heat the outdoors, right?). By now, I’m extremely overheated, sweat running down my face because remember several minutes ago, I was fully bundled up and then had to practically wrestle this knucklehead of a dog as if I were some sort of rodeo queen at a calf roping contest. Ugh.
He walks out the door, then stands a few feet away until I lock up and then just for effect, will give me that pitiful look of ‘woe is me, the shame of it all.’ It’s almost comical knowing my dog acts like some kind of Oscar winner-wannabe, but he does. He starts walking down the sidewalk path with heavy feet. CLOMP, CLOMP, CLOMP. It isn’t until we get down to the corner that his pace picks up to a near normal gait and not so heavy footed. Used to be when we first put the boots on, he’d start flicking each foot as if to shake off this pesky gear. Of course it never worked, but now he’ll stop several times during our walk and shake his entire body as if to rid himself of said torturous apparel. I swear, it just cracks me up since it certainly is in his best interests to have this gear on, but you’d swear he thought he was being abused.
And so this routine will continue throughout the entire Winter. Oh yeah, did I mention I also have to grab a torch so we can see in the dark as I’m reaching for gloves and keys? If he and I didn’t need/want the exercise, I might consider foregoing it, but truthfully, this twice a day walk is so worthwhile to our psyche, I can’t imagine not doing it. I could however deal with less obstacles when trying to strap and Velcro up, but hey, I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Nanook of the North in his day to day Arctic adventures either. I just hope this blasted cold air moves out and Winter becomes more typical than what we’ve experienced so far. Stay warm kids, it’s damn cold out there.
So how do you get ready for dog walks in bad weather? Any tips or tricks to share? <3