Last week's column had a great photo of a dog dressed in a terrific chef costume for Dog Day in the Park. The photo was taken by Ted Stanton, not me, as was stated. Ted helped in so many ways at the first few events. I appreciated him making his photos available.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has proclaimed October as National Pet Wellness Month. Although our pet's health needs to be considered throughout the year, it is good to have a reminder to check health records, make an appointment for that annual visit to the vet and prepare for the winter months.
Predictors are saying we will have a wet, cold and/or snowy winter. This is the time to prepare a comfortable place for our dogs during the cold months ahead. Hopefully, our dogs will be inside the house with us, sharing our fire and heat. If they are not permitted in the house, they need a warm alternative.
Most dogs love being outside during the day. But they need a place off the cold ground where they can bask in the sun. Wooden pallets are great for this. Find one where the boards are fairly close together or put a board over the top of the pallet. If placed in the sun, the surface quickly dries from snow and rain. Cold damp ground is hard on joints and bones -- particularly for an older dog. Provide shelter such as a doghouse if the dog spends the day outside.
Fresh water is vitally important to our pets all year around. Darlene Arden, author of "The Angell Memorial Hospital Book of Wellness and Preventive Care for Dogs," (McGraw Hill, 2003) said, "It is so important that pets have fresh clean water all day and all night as well." She adds that owners wouldn't want to drink stale, dirty water. Animals need plenty of fluids during the winter when they are expending a lot of energy just to keep warm. Have several bowls of water available in case one is empty or is spilled. Watch for frozen water.
Arden also advises dog owners to wipe their dog's feet as they come into the house, particularly if they have been exposed to areas treated with salt and chemicals used to melt ice. She adds, "A pet can be poisoned if it licks these substances off its pads."
Although some thick-coated breeds can live safely outside, most breeds are not equipped for freezing temperatures. Besides, dogs should be part of the family. If the dog cannot be in the house, provide a well-insulated doghouse with warm bedding in a protected area with a southern exposure. Make sure the house is up off the ground. A pallet works well for this as well. Hanging a towel or light rug over the door will help to keep the dog's body warmth in and the cold air out. During the day, unless it is very cold, move the covering to the side so that the doghouse can air out. Straw in a doghouse allows the dog to burrow down and keep warm and any moisture dries quickly. Stir it up occasionally to keep it light and fresh.
All kinds of ready-made doghouses are available, but most are not warm enough for freezing nights. Use these uninsulated doghouses inside a garage or shed in an area that has been closed off to keep the warm air in. A kennel or crate with the door removed, which has been covered in blankets, keeps the dog warm. Used blankets are inexpensive at our local thrift stores.
An oil-filled radiator type heater with thermostat will maintain a comfortable temperature safely. Even in the garage or shed, make sure the dog is up off the cold ground.
Twice a day feeding is important all year, but especially in the winter. On cold mornings, a little hot oatmeal added to the food is a special treat. Add a little water and microwave the food for a minute to warm the dog from the inside out.
Ms. Arden said, "Don't send your dog out to the back yard, but rather, take it out for a walk. You'll both get exercise, which is so important to keeping your dog (and you) well. Even better, get involved in a dog sport together. It'll solidify the bond and you'll both be happier and healthier."
Dogs love to take walks, no matter how cold it is. Bundle up and get out there. You will both enjoy it.
Tomorrow, Saturday, is Dog Day in the Park. I hope to see lots of you there. This is an event for families with their dogs. There are games and contests, food and fun for children and dogs of all ages.
-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.