Herd it at the Water Bowl
Greater Illinois, Inc.
PO Box 4169
Lisle, Illinois 60532 (630) 415-1206
Herd it at the Water Bowl
DON’T FAIL ME NOW”
Michael J. Mifflin
“HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THAT DOG?”
I looked up from where I knelt next to Joe, my blue merle collie, in 18 inches of snow. A fellow hung out of the window of his red, Ram Charger pickup. Isn’t the truck name overkill? Ram Charger sounds like a big block of testosterone on wheels, so I try not to aggravate those drivers.
I spit out chunks of ice. “Pardon me?” My gloves and hat lying next to me were being covered by the falling snow. The temperature stayed in the lower double digits while the breeze blew the wind chill to -23.
“What’s wrong with the dog?” The fellow had his cell phone ready to make a call.
I had a few snappy answers, but told the truth instead, “The snow melted between his pads and turned to ice. I’m trying to get the ice removed from his feet so we can get home.”
“It surely looks like you’re chewin’ on the dog’s foot from here.”
“Well, I’m not. The ice is so hard I can’t pull it off. The only way to get the ice loose enough so I can pull it from the hair is to bite it into little pieces.” Without another word, the Ram Charger and occupant roared off down the street, kicking slush from its tires. He could have asked if Joe and I needed a lift home if he was that concerned
Pamela, my wife, had gone on ahead with Ashley, our sable collie, and Kelsey, our black, bearded collie, not realizing Joe had gone down. I heard from the distance, “Hey! What’s wrong with Joe?” The Rockies must be lovely in January, the mountains filled with echoes and redundancy. She turned the dogs around and started back toward us.
“Take them home! It’ll take forever getting home if we have to pull ice balls from all their feet. Joe and I’ll catch up.” By now, Joe stood and began slugging through the snow, while I gathered hat, gloves and scarf. When a collie’s ready to go, he goes. He don’t need no freaking hat!
The winter can be brutal on dog’s feet. Frostbite can appear on ears, pads, and noses within three to five minutes, depending upon the severity of the cold. The snow accumulates between toes and quickly turns into ice that can cut pads. The salt strewn about roads and sidewalks also can cause abrasions leading to infections. Dogs groom their feet when they come in from the cold. The salt swallowed by the licking and can create gastric upset.
It is important that we do all we can to help them battle the cold, snow, and ice and to keep their feet in good shape, since dogs have to be out in the elements to take care of bodily needs, and some need to be out to run off their “cabin fever.” If this requires chewing the ice from between their pads, then that’s what I’ll do. Although, it is at those times that a St. Bernard with a flask of scotch hanging from his neck would not go amiss; a little something to wash away that sweaty, doggy foot taste.
The obvious solution to avoid walking on snowy sidewalks is to walk dogs in the plowed street. This is not an option because of the vast amount of salt dropped during the plowing process. Owners must wipe the dog’s feet with a warm wet towel and do a thorough inspection to insure there are no salt granules that will cut if left between pads It’s best to stay on the sidewalks whenever possible.
However, not all homeowners feel it is their responsibility to clear the public sidewalks in front of their homes. The dogs will have to trudge through snow if your neighbors are not neighborly enough to keep their sidewalks clean. Some residents find tossing salt on the sidewalk better than shoveling, so the dogs once again are encountering an unfriendly area on which to walk.
“Simple Solutions Ice Melt”® is a product I’ve seen at PetsMart and can probably be found elsewhere, including the Internet. It is non-toxic, does not harm dog feet, and is environmentally friendly. This would be better used than the traditional salt for keeping feet in good condition. (There are similar products sold under other names.)
There are a few actions we can take to help our collies keep their feet healthy. The amount of time you have and how much you believe the dog is willing to put up with will determine which you choose. Remember, do not be taken in by derisive looks that make you feel like an alien. From their perspective, you always are an alien by the fact that you walk on two feet instead of four, bath regularly to get rid of your scent, and don’t pee on everything to mark territory.
It is best to keep the hair on your collie’s feet trimmed short during the winter months so less snow accumulates on the feet and between the toes and pads. On long walks, the snow accumulated between toes will turn into ice from feet heat. Some dogs will chew the snow and ice from their paws themselves; however, for those dogs that don’t, human intervention is necessary.
People have suggested spraying PAM® cooking oil on the dog’s feet to prevent sticking snow. Although this might work, there are several reasons that PAM® may not be the best solution: it’s slippery; the dogs get it all over the house before leaving for or upon returning from the walk; it can be removed easily prior to walking by the dogs licking it off. Spray starch was another suggestion for preventing ice between pads, but that has the same drawbacks as the PAM®. More importantly, it’s not a digestible product and potentially can cause health problems. Better to go with a product designed specifically for dog paws.
“Musher’s Secret” and “Working Dog” are pad wax products designed to help sled dogs with snow and ice build-up. The primary ingredients are beeswax, mineral oil, and lanolin mixed with a variation of other ingredients. The consistency is that of paste and is smeared on the bottom of the foot to keep snow and ice out. It stays on for approximately 30 minutes according to the instructions presumably if one is mushing. It doesn’t say how long it will last if one’s dog is happily traversing the ‘hood for territorial markings and pooping places.
Pad wax can be smeared on the face, too, if the dog will be sled pulling for hours according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Had I put a harness on Joe, he would have considered the situation and then determined that the harness must be similar to a seat belt: keeps the dog safe while riding in the sled that Dad’s pushing. Collies aren’t known for their mushing abilities or for their patience at having their muzzles smeared with anything--unless it has a beefy taste to it. The only collie I know that would pull a sled would be Cosmo, CRI’s cart puller at the annual picnic.
These pad wax products can be found at your local pet shop or various websites.
Boots. Dog boots have a few innate problems that have to be navigated before they become the perfect solution to the ice and snow. Our family has used them with varying degrees of success. With boots on, Joe walked like he had been at Mardi Gras for a week, and he didn’t go very far. Ashley laid down, refusing to move if her feet were covered. Kelsey, who was a bearded collie, allowed the boots to be put on and snuggly secured. He’d pop out the door, happy and ready to go. Within four steps, left, right, left, right, Kelsey had removed three out of four boots. Most dogs have this innate ability to hop out of the boots within 100 yards of home.
The purchase of dog boots must be done carefully. It’s human ingenuity versus canine ability. Not just any dog boots will work because of their ability to slip off, regardless of how tightly they are synched up. Some have Velcro clasp devices, others have strings with a clip, and some have both Velcro and strings. Unless your dog’s foot is significantly larger than its leg, the boots will be off in a matter of minutes…or less. The answer is suspenders.
There are at least two websites selling dog boots with suspenders. Ingenious! The suspenders go over the dogs back in an H design and can be adjusted to the dog’s leg length. The two sites I found are www.dog-products.dogs-central.com/dog-boot-dog-shoes.html or www.petstation.com/dogbaz.html#boboots If you are interested in finding other sites, you might try searching for “dog boots suspenders” or replace the term boots with socks or shoes. Any number of sites sells dog boots, so it’s imperative that suspenders are included.
It will take time and practice for the dog to get used to having their feet covered. Starting in the house for five to ten minutes is a good idea. As the wearing time is increased, a short stint outside is can be added to booty wear. Remember that the boots are a little slippery on ice, and they remove the dog’s sense of touch since they cover the pads. The walker must watch for perils that the dog’s feet many encounter, but with boots on, walking in the street is a breeze, no matter how much salt there is.
Some will say that we shouldn’t have gone for a walk in weather as cold and snowy as it was the day I chewed Joe’s paws; however, our pack has an uncanny sense of time. They do not know the exact hour, but they do know when walk time nears. Joe would take his afternoon pee break in the back yard. His tail rose along with his leg, the sun shone down, viola! a living sundial. As pack leader, Joe transmitted the information to the others, “3:03. 27 minutes to walk-off.”
Who wouldn't prefer to stay inside with a mug of hot tea and watch the snow swirl about the house? That’s not an option. The dogs walk twice a day regardless of the weather. It’s our job as dog owners to make the walk as comfortable and healthy as possible. A cuddle with a friend upon returning from a walk is a wonderful reward.
ANTIFREEZE CAN KILL A DOG OR CAT IN A MATTER OF HOURS.
THERE IS NO
ANTIDOTE ONCE IT HAS BEEN INGESTED.
CLEAN UP SPILLED
Look for the next “Herd It at
the Water Bowl” article around the
beginning of April. Michael
can be e-mailed at: email@example.com.
Comments, questions, or suggestions for further articles are welcomed.
. Gary Hughes-Fenchel, Cosmo's owner, would love to help others teach their dogs to cart. Most dogs LOVE having a job to do and carting is a good workout for them. Building a cart requires 2 old bicycles or, if preferred, an old wagon. Gary is happy to help anyone interested. A decent cart or wagon can be built for well under $100 (which includes 2 garage-sale bikes) with very simple tools, or purchased on the net for about $500 and up. A good nylon harness can be purchased for around $50. Training a dog takes anywhere from a few day (in the case of Cosmo) to a couple of weeks (in the case of Harley, who was very badly abused before I got him and frightened by everything). Take a look at Gary's home page which has stuff on carting and some great doggie movies on it: http://gghf.home.comcast.net.