• 55°

Column: Adapting to life with a wimpy dog 

By KATE SNYDER

Community columnist

I used to secretly laugh at people who put sweaters on their dogs. I would now like to formally apologize to those people, having recently bought a lovely reversible plaid jacket for my dog. He looks quite dashing. 

It turns out that my big, strong dog is a total wimp when it comes to the cold. He hates chilly weather and doesn’t tolerate it well at all, which is understandable when you consider he has very short hair and zero percent body fat. 

Somehow, this reality came as a complete surprise to me because I mistakenly equated size with sturdiness. Big dogs are tough. Little dogs are fragile. Everybody knows that.

Before Buddy, all the dogs in my life had been big, sturdy creatures with double-layer fur. An Alaskan Malamute. A yellow lab. A lab/shepherd mix. All of them were impervious to the cold and loved nothing more than to frolic in the snow.

You can imagine my surprise the first time I took Buddy outside in 30-degree weather and witnessed him vibrating uncontrollably. At first, I couldn’t tell if he was shivering or quivering with glee at some new whiff of prey that he could be hunting. Was he cold or had he spotted a cat in the neighbor’s yard?

But it became apparent quite quickly that he was freezing — and that presented me with new dog-ownership challenges. I had invested in a very nice outdoor chain link dog run for my canine companion, complete with shade/rain tarp and insulated doghouse. The plan was for him to spend his days in his kennel while I was at work and the kids were at school.

Seeing that my furry friend was miserable in the cold suddenly threw those plans into turmoil as I had visions of him shivering miserably all day. Who knew that dogs could trigger Mom guilt as easily as children can?

So I bought a fuzzy jacket for my fuzzy friend. It seems to help on our early morning, pre-dawn walks together. Then, with much fear and trepidation, I crossed another dog-owning threshold and allowed Buddy to spend the day in the house, alone. 

It’s taken some trial and error to figure out how to dog-proof the house. On my first trip home over the lunch hour to let him out, I was greeted by an empty bag of cool ranch Doritos on the couch. Another time, it was a small pile of candy wrappers. 

One day, he cheerfully destroyed my daughter’s lunchbox, a mishap that caused considerable tension in their relationship for a few hours. Although I sympathized with her frustration, I ultimately sided with the dog. If you leave beef jerky in your lunchbox and leave your lunchbox on the counter, what’s a dog to do?

But we’re learning. The morning departure routine now includes shutting all bedroom doors, latching the pantry and putting the garbage can on the counter. If the weather is above freezing, he still spends the day outside. And we’ll brave colder temperatures yet for walks. 

After all, when you’ve got a plaid sweater, you’re ready for anything.