Traveling Dog Lady: 5 Tips for Surviving January Thaw With Your Pets

Monday, January 19, 2015

5 Tips for Surviving January Thaw With Your Pets

Wouldn't you know it?  After a week-long deep-freeze (the opposite of a heat wave!), we entered into January Thaw yesterday here in Massachusetts.... and then came the rain!!  

Last night, it poured buckets of rain.  The entryway to Hobie's new "apartment" became flooded, so instead of stepping on a sheet of ice or snow when he takes his first step outdoors, it was ankle-deep water.  Ankle-deep for a human, I might add, so he was submerged up to his legs!  I took the snowshovel and made a lame attempt to "bail" the water, as if we were in a sinking ship.  To no avail.  But, this morning, it had all dried up overnight, and everything is chilly again, but not a deep-freeze.  Normal winter temps today.  

This all got me thinking about January Thaw here on the lake in central Mass., home of wait-a-minute-it'll-change weather, hockey players, ice skaters, ice fishing enthusiasts, and snowmobilers.  Here are a few things folks should keep in mind for their pets during January Thaw (or early spring, which is just around the corner!):

  1. The Lake Is Not Safe.  As my brother, a retired police officer, always told us, "The lake is NEVER safe."  Well, last week, in the deep-freeze, that could have been debatable (but who wants to be out there in those temperatures?!).  But once we get into a thaw with temps in the 40s, the lake begins to thaw just like everything else.  All the snow in our yard is gone from the rain overnight.  The lake has visible patches of slushy areas.  My rule is, I never, ever, ever let my dogs out onto the lake (heeding my dear brother's advice).  Ice fishing enthusiasts have argued with me, "The ice is safe".  They can do what they want, but the dogs are staying behind the fence at home, thank you very much!  We have lived here for 30 years, and, yes, a few neighborhood dogs have fallen through the ice -- some have not survived.  You don't want to be "that guy" whose dog-falling-through-the-ice story ends up on the evening news.  Not to mention that a dog with access to the lake can easily run to the other side of the lake, those woods, those other neighborhoods, and poof!, he's GONE.  I can't count the number of unknown dogs who appear on our doorstep, having wandered across from the other side of the lake in winter.  Are you going to run across the lake, into the woods on the other side to try to catch him?  Probably.  Don't get yourself, or your dog into that situation.**
    You mean, if it was frozen, I could go over THERE?!
  2. Ice, Mud, Salt, Sand...and Poop.  That oasis you call a back yard has turned into Poop Soup!  All has been revealed!  And you thought you were doing such a good job cleaning up after your pooches.  It must have been the holidays... the task got away from you... yeah, that's it.  You let your senior dog out to do his business and he has all of these things to contend with.  He slips on the ice, or mud (or both) and down he goes.  Your cat gets salt crystals on her foot and starts twerking trying to shake it off.  Your young, enthusiastic hound drags gobs of sand into the house, and your three-legger hops into the house and plants single footprints of mud all over the brand-new carpet.  What's a mother to do?!  
    My new hobby? Stamping!! all over the floors!
  3. Loosened Fences and Wobbly Gate Latches.   When temps rise, after being so low, fencing material can buckle, shift, or even collapse.  Walk around your yard and check all gates to be sure the latches are still holding securely.  One lunge onto a fence at a passing dog or car and whomp! an entire section of fence can fall over.  Think I'm exaggerating?  It has happened to us!  Inspect all sections of fence for stability.  If a section feels wobbly, keep an eye on it, or twist a bungee cord onto that section to hold it up until spring.  Full-on repairs may not hold because of continual weather changes (especially around here!), so unless it's crucial, try not to repair or replace until spring when the ground is more stable.
    Note loose wire at bottom of fence.  Photo from last spring.
  4. Cold little paws! After being cooped up for so many weeks, it seems like a grand idea to take the dogs for a walk, right?  Keep in mind that roads and sidewalks can still be slippery, with either mud or ice, and sand or salt-covered roads are a real concern.  Use doggie mittens or shoes for your pup if you absolutely have to take that walk.  (And don't forget to wear shoes with good traction, yourself.) If you don't have paw coverings, be sure to wash off Rover's paw pads with a paper towel soaked in warm water when you get home.  Ahhhh, it will feel just like a spa treatment!
    I could just stay out here all day, I love it so much.  Cold paws?  Me?
  5. Bring Your Pet Indoors, Anyway.  If your cats are like mine, they can't wait to go outdoors, and are usually climbing the walls, swinging from curtains, and tearing up toilet paper rolls in an effort to be thrown out!  While a January Thaw can seem inviting for them, it's still chilly out there, especially at night.  Don't let your outdoor-loving pets stay outside too long.  Even if they seem to be enjoying themselves, they can get chilled quickly.  [Our cats do have a safe place to retreat to in the event they refuse to come in... it's a small cubbyhole in the roof rafters of the guest cottage on our property (pictured above). Just the right size for the kitties, and they glean the heat from the cottage!]  It's always nicer to have them snuggled on your lap by the fire, no matter how much they try to tell you otherwise.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         **how come cats know enough NOT to walk out onto the lake?!

This post is part of the "Keeping Your Pets Warm" Collaborative Event hosted by Felissa, Davinia and Indiana at Two Little Cavaliers! We hope that you will drop by and visit all of the other posts participating in this event. The linky will be open through Friday 1/23/15 in case anyone else would like to join us. Please only link up a post if it focuses on Keeping Pets Warm. Your post can be tips, tricks, ideas, DIY projects, Crafts, or anything that will help pets or feral animals stay warm during this really cold winter!

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