Thursday, December 05, 2013

Dogs in the Man House

Finn, with Brian in the background
It's about 26 F (-3 C) here. The outdoor dogs are in for a warm up. Our big dogs, Brian and Finn, are fine in this sort of weather, especially since there's no wind. Little Chase, on the other hand, is just a wee thing with only a thin coat of fur (well, she's got long-ish hair over most of her, but still) and it especially does her good to be inside. In fact, it's good for all our dogs to be in for a little while to let their ears warm up. Besides, who would want to break up the pack? They're a team. Buds. Family. All for one, and one for all.

They all spend the night in the same big doghouse together. It's a pile of shaggy, white fur with the little black and white one curled up somewhere in the middle. During the day today, when it was a balmy 32 degrees, the white dogs basked in the sunshine, stretched out on their sides while Chase ran after cars along the fence line. Her well-worn track is nice and hard and dry right now, in prime condition to help her outrun even the fastest moving drivers along the road. She gives herself a little head start on them, but by golly she beats them fair and square. If she was loose she'd snag 'em by the bumper and flip them through the air for sure.

I love our dogs. They're really amazing. They function really well outside in temperatures that have me shivering in a few minutes, and that's with me wearing layers of clothes. When it gets this cold, though, they can't tell me when their ears are getting numb or when they're hurting. They don't always shiver when they're cold. And Brian? Giant, beautiful, over a hundred pounds Brian? He's a big chicken. We usually have to drag him indoors because he's afraid of the slippery floors. If he had his choice, he'd be outside all the time. None of the dogs, in fact, whine to get let in during weather like this. We have to decide for them when it's a good idea for them to warm up for an hour or two.
Chase, the wee one, with Finn

It's a judgement call. Everyone makes their own based on breed, habits, what they know of their dogs, and past experience. Some things to take into account:

The dog itself may not be in danger, but ears can freeze and then the skin can split apart, causing permanent damage. Puts a whole new meaning to dog-eared. Happens to cats, too.
Just like on people, toes are vulnerable too, and snow and/or ice can get packed in so tight that only thawing will get it out.

Access to water in extremely cold weather quickly becomes limited. One of the first things our dogs did when they came in was have a good drink of water. Their water, despite the fact that we refresh it with warm water over the coarse of the day, freezes over quickly. They're accustomed to drinking a little here, a little there ... and a little there isn't always available in freezing weather.

Brian washes Finn's ears
Oh, and the water they drink? Icy, icy cold. Imagine eating ice cream outside in freezing weather. Cold water can bring their core temperature down.

If you suspect your dog has received an injury from cold, call the vet and talk to them. A phone call costs nothing. Even cheaper? Head off any chance of it and enjoy some quality time with your outdoor pets. If you're used to having them outside all the time, initially your home will seem like a madhouse, but trust me. The contrast between the temps outside and inside will soon have your outdoor dog or cat reclined somewhere comfie for a nice snooze. There will be peace, happiness, and safety. Added bonus? Rare opportunities to snag some great pics for facebook or your blog.

Even as we speak, Brian has made his peace with being inside for a while, and is snoozing by the couch, fast asleep ....

For the curious who don't know, Finn and Brian are Great Pyrenees crosses. Finn's dad was a lab, and Brian's was a golden retriever (at least as near as we can tell.) They're reserved, affectionate but not overly pushy about it, and tend to bark more when they want to play or because they're excited that we're home than they do at strangers. Chase is probably mostly border collie. I don't base that purely on form (which isn't perfectly typical) or color (which is.) She's got the personality, and loads of it!

All our dogs are rescues, btw, which is my favorite breed. Hope you had a happy turkey day, everyone!

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