I hope that all of you had wonderful celebrations of Jesus’ birth and enjoyed making memories with family and friends. Like many of you, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite time of year! Also, like many of you, it is followed by my least favorite time of year…January Cold.
As we get into the colder months, we need to remember our best friends. Like many of you, my best buddies live inside with me and only go out for necessities and fun! Even so, we need to be aware of the temperature and the conditions for their sake. Even if they are only outside for short bursts be aware. If your dog doesn’t have a heavy coat, he may need a manmade one. The same thing applies to his feet. Their feet and toes can get cold and cracked. Some folks even put boots on their feet.
With my labs, I have to be aware of snow and ice getting stuck in their feet. Labs are built for cold weather, but not all dogs are. If they go outside in the rain or snow, dry them off when they come back in so they won’t be chilled. My daughters swore that our old hound Boozer would go out in the rain just so he could come back in and get a rub down with a towel from us. As smart as he was, they are probably right. He did enjoy those towel massages and so do my guys now. I keep their own personal towels on hangers by the door, so we are ready for them when they are wet. Drying them when they come in also saves me cleaning up the wet spots around the house if I don’t!
Most of you who read this column would not consider leaving you dogs outside unattended in the cold, but I feel it necessary to urge everyone to take a moment and think about these living beings who depend on you for their health and safety. I’ve included what some consider NEW laws pertaining to companion animals.
If your companions stay outside for any length of time you need to know that in 2020 Virginia passed new laws pertaining to adequate shelter for animals. According to Virginia Code 3.2-6500 owners must provide animals with shelter that meets certain standards such as having a windbreak at the entrance, bedding in the form of straw or shavings, protection against injury and predators, sanitary conditions and must be large enough for the animal to lie down.
The additional statutory requirements for adequate shelter are: 1) moisture-proof, wind-proof and of suitable size to accommodate the dog, allowing for freedom of movement, including the ability to stand, turn around and lie down with limbs outstretched 2) Durable material with a solid, moisture-proof floor 3) Must protect the dog from rain, sleet, snow and hail 4) Is not constructed of a material that readily conducts heat or cold 5) During cold weather, has a windbreak at the entrance and contains suitable, clean bedding consisting of straw, shavings, etc., to provide insulation and protection against cold and dampness. Blankets, rags, and other materials that retain moisture are not suitable 6) During warm weather, has natural or artificial shade large enough to accommodate the entire dog and provide protection from direct sunlight.
If the temperature is above 85 degrees or below 32 degrees in Virginia it is illegal to tether a companion animal outside. These laws are in effect to help keep our best friends safe and healthy as many dogs die of hypothermia when temperatures drop. My rule of thumb is this…if you think your dog is adequately cared for in his outside shelter when the temperature is below 32 degrees, trade him places for a couple hours and see if you are warm and cozy.
As for my house, my boys will often go outside and meander for a while in the cold then come back in and want to lay in front of a fan. On the other side of the coin, my daughter’s Pitbull will go to the door if she needs to go out, but when I open it for her, if it is cold or raining or snowing, she will stick her nose out and turn around and come back in. Deke, my other daughter’s rescue, would do the same thing. When he finally HAD to go out, he’d hurry out, come back in and want under the blankets. Of course, one of us would lift the blankets for him so he could snuggle in for “a long winter’s nap”!
I wish each of you a wonderful and joy filled 2024 with your best friends.