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Take precautions to care for pets during winter weather

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

I just finished checking the weather for our area. It’s not too bad, just rain, freezing rain and snow for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, (I send the column in several days ahead of time). Then I watched the videos of past serious winter storms throughout the country: blizzards and ice storms. We had one in 2009 which turned Danville into a “war zone” of downed trees and blocked roads. Then there were avalanches and there was a video of a controlled avalanche in a neighboring state, to prevent a really damaging spontaneous avalanche.

All this information on possible winter storms made me think of what I would do if we had a bad storm this year, along with some horror stories I have heard over the years of dogs and winter. Besides washing your dog’s feet when you come in from a walk to remove the ice balls and the chemicals spread to melt the ice, which I have written about several times recently, one precaution you need to take is to check how deep the snowfall is and how deep the drifts are. One winter, a Saint Bernard breeder wrote in the breed column of the American Kennel Gazette, that she did not check her securely fenced in yard after an epic snow storm and her dogs disappeared. How could this happen? The snow had drifted up against the fence, the temperature dropped freezing the top layer and the dogs simply walked up the incline, over the top of the fence and out to explore.

There have been a number of videos on the Internet showing dogs playing in the snow. I enjoy those that show the dogs jumping out the door and sinking down into a deep drift of snow. That happened to my first cat, a very willful animal. He wanted to go out and I realized the snow was about fourteen inches deep around the back door; so I told him “No, you can’t go out today.” He didn’t wait a second; before I could close the door he leaped out and disappeared into the snow drift. He swam up to the top and stood there with a small mound of snow on his head and the most disgusted look on his face. I had to laugh!

If you normally leave your dogs outside during the day, be sure the dog house is elevated above the snow depth; fill the dog house with straw and cover the doorway with a flexible piece of blanket that the dog can push aside to go in, but that will return to cover the opening and keep the warmth inside. I did that during a bad winter in the 1970’s and was amazed how warm it was inside the dog house at the end of the day. The dog dug out a nest in the straw-filled house and her body heat warmed the air trapped in there. She didn’t even need a jacket during the day while I worked.

Let’s hope we won’t have to remember all these precautions.