January 19th, 2022

Winter is hard on our four-legged companions

By Lethbridge Herald on December 31, 2021.


Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

With no paper on New Year’s Day, I had intended my column that ran in Sunday’s paper to be my last of the year. But my plans changed with the cold snap that descended mercilessly upon us last week.

And I know this is an odd place to find my column – the last page of the paper – but this is a spur-of-the-moment effort and my ego isn’t so big that I feel I need it to be front and centre.

The reason I’m writing this is because of the cold, which not only impacts humans, but also our pets. 

As many of us have discovered over the years, brutal cold can also impact our vehicles. And while the cost of vehicle repairs can be painful, that doesn’t compare to the pain animals feel in the cold, specifically our dogs.

No matter how frigid the weather is, we dog owners feel a need to walk our four-legged companions so they and we can get the daily exercise we want. But outdoor exercise in subzero temperatures is dangerous for all of us, more so for dogs who don’t have wool socks or winter boots to keep their feet warm.

They have paws which are as sensitive to cold – and heat – as our bare feet and hands are. Despite this, some dog owners will walk their animals in this bitter cold oblivious to the impact frigid sidewalks have on their paws. Dogs walking gingerly with legs lifting high are in pain and they shouldn’t be.

If we are going to walk our dogs in this weather, we need to prepare them for those walks before leaving the house by securing dog boots to their feet and if they need them, winter doggie coats to their bodies.

Sure, putting on boots can be a hassle. My Ben is so skittish I almost need a nap by the time I get all four on because I feel I burn as many calories struggling with him as I do walking. But the time and effort to make him comfortable is protecting him from the elements.

I know boots can be expensive – I’ve seen them priced at $80 and more per pair – that’s two boots, not four – but inexpensive ones can be purchased at dollar stores that still give some protection from the elements.

For Ben, I try — the operative word being ‘try’ – to put the cheap boots on then over top of them, four more durable ones that I got at my favourite pet supply store. This gives him extra warmth plus traction and they’re less likely to fall off or be pulled off.

Our dogs deserve that time and effort to keep them safe. We don’t go outside – or we shouldn’t – without proper winter wear so why would we let our dogs go outside unprotected? That makes no sense.

I was thinking this morning about a story former Herald staffer Craig Albrecht wrote decades ago on this matter. For reasons we’ve never been able to figure out – and we’ve joked about it often over the years – the story never ran and disappeared when we changed to a new word processing program in the mid 1990s. Craig addressed this very issue in that story and it’s one that deserves to be addressed again.

There’s an adage that if a sidewalk is uncomfortably hot when we touch it with the palm of our hand, then it’s also uncomfortably hot for a dog and we shouldn’t be walking them in that kind of heat. I figure the same rule should apply in winter.

Even my German shepherd/husky cross, who used to feel invigorated in winter, is now only inclined to walk a block or two in the morning. For some reason, though, he’ll scratch at the deck door five or six times a night to eat snow even though the thermostat is always set at 19 to appease him. 

But the fact that the hardiest dog I’ve ever had doesn’t want to walk these days is telling. It’s too cold for dogs without protection.

Sure, it’s hard on all of us who love the outdoors being cooped up inside. But this shall pass and in the blink of an eye, we’ll have to contend with wind again. 

Oh wait, that was Wednesday night when a bunch of blue bins in my neighbourhood blew over. 

Please think of your pawed companions health before taking them outdoors until the temperatures rise. Get the boots, or jackets or both. If we truly care about our dogs, we will take care of them, too.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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