Something to remember, as we enter a new year: Yesterday's history, Tomorrow is a mystery and Today is a gift, that's why it is called "the present". [Via]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Real dogs don’t wear sweaters

When we got our dog three years ago, I made a pledge: I would not let our pooch become a cold-weather wimp.

I told my wife and two daughters, 13 and 11 at the time, that the newest member of our family would never, ever, under any circumstances, wear a sweater.

I warned them that an entire industry had emerged to prey on weak-willed people who believe they must pamper their pets. Svelte, stylish salespeople lurked inside trendy boutiques ready to flatter pet owners into making unwise purchases. “Your wonderful little doggie would look just adooorable in a cardigan! Let’s see — puppy large?”

“Remember,” I counseled my family, “he’s a dog.”

We all agreed.

Thinking back, I don’t recall my wife making eye contact.

Our dog is a black Lab, which means he comes genetically equipped to withstand a drop in the mercury. His ancestral roots stretch to Labrador, where the breed and its owners alike don’t think twice about jumping into the icy North Atlantic to pull out a cod for dinner.

Nature has also given Labs an undercoat, a second interwoven layer of fur that acts like thermal underwear. A Lab in a sweater would feel uncomfortable physically. Emotionally, too.

Not long after we brought our pup home, I caught my wife putting a blanket over him one cool night.

“You’ll spoil him,” I said.

“He’ll be cold,” she said.

“He’s a dog,” I said.

I believe my wife’s well-meaning indulgence has taken its toll. By day, our Lab is a hearty all-weather dog who relishes plunging into a cold body of water to retrieve a ball. At night, when the lights go out, he is a hedonist drawn to creature comforts. These include a blanket and, more recently, a pillow.

We kept his sleep habits in mind when we went on an end-of-summer, overnight backpacking trip to the mountains. We drove miles up dusty dirt roads to the trailhead and hoisted our packs for a three-mile hike that took us to a glacial lake at 6,500 feet. My pack — the heaviest of four — included a tent, sleeping bag and, yes, dog blanket.

At the lake, our Lab’s behavior was anything but wimpy. He charged into the water and unleashed his best dogpaddle. I, too, had planned to take a dip, but the water felt chilly. Instead, I set up the tent and gathered wood. Each time the dog lumbered out of the lake and soaked us with his spirited, wiggling shake, I thanked the canine gods he wasn’t a Chihuahua.

In the evening, the temperature dipped below 40 degrees. We sat around the fire talking about the day and sipping hot tea. Our dog was the first to call it a night. He got up and climbed into the tent.

I know from past camping trips that our Lab is not the greatest sleeping buddy. He’s restless. He growls at the sound of a fallen leaf. He shifts positions every half hour. He stands up and turns in tight circles before laying down again.

This night was no different.

My wife slept next to the dog, waking up time and again to cover him with his blanket. But even the blanket and the body heat generated by four people crammed in a tent couldn’t keep him toasty.

When my wife sat up yet again to cover him, he made his move. He dove into her sleeping bag, burrowed down to her feet and went to sleep. My wife managed to slide the dog up, swing him around, and pull him to the top of the sleeping bag, but he refused to leave.

Giving in to pet-pampering temptation, she pulled him close like a baby. This couldn’t have been comfortable — they occupied the bag with sausagelike efficiency — but the dog slept soundly until morning.

I was the first up. I slipped out of the tent with our faithful hound. I started a fire. He took a dip — hardly the behavior of a cold-weather wimp.

My wife and I have no intention of buying him a sweater for our next backpacking trip. We do plan to get him his own sleeping bag.

San Francisco Business Times - by Steve Symanovich