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Tammy Swift, Published February 22 2014

Swift: Winter has been too doggone cold for domestic pooches

This winter has been for the dogs.

Actually, it’s been too cold for the dogs.

Pet owners keep receiving warnings that the ice, rock salt, wind and marrow-freezing cold are simply too much for our domesticated pooches. (Go figure. Even a descendent of the wolf will lose some of its hardiness when you breed it to look like a balding gerbil.)

It’s a long way from the macho outdoor dogs that ruled our farmyards when we were growing up. I especially remember Pal, a handsome German Shepherd/Husky cross whose sled-dog DNA made him greet every snowfall like a Kardashian greets the paparazzi. In those days, we routinely let cats warm up in our house and even once brought an undersized, orphaned calf into our basement during a blizzard. But never Pal. That would have seriously ruined his barnyard-dog cred.

In hindsight, it seems kind of awful that everyone in our county let their dogs run around outside in subzero temperatures. (Then again, this was the naïve ’70s. We also thought Gabe Kaplan was cool.)

Such behavior obviously wouldn’t be allowed today. Especially when your dog is La Principessa Kita Swift, who informed me in no uncertain terms that the frigid outdoor restroom facilities were completely barbaric and unacceptable for her delicate sensibilities. How? She used the office upstairs, thank you very much.

And so in this, the Winter of Our Discontent, I needed to arm my toy dog against the cold. Baby needed a new pair of shoes. For the low, low price of $40, I could buy dog boots. This seemed outrageous, as the boots contained less fabric than a single mitten. A friend suggested I buy newborn socks for her instead and then double them up for extra protection.

Easier said than done. It turned out to be a complex, five-minute process that involved putting two pairs of baby socks on each wriggling and unhappy paw. Naturally, the legs of a human baby are sequoia-like in comparison to the Popsicle sticks found on a toy dog. So I also had to wind masking tape around each leg to ensure the socks didn’t fall off.

The results were predictably entertaining. Kita marched uncertainly around the kitchen as she tried to figure out why she had sprouted the feet of a bull mastiff. Yet she also seemed to understand that this new, strange ritual was a necessary evil.

Unfortunately, every time she went outside, she managed to lose at least one sock. I resorted to strapping unmatched socks on all four legs, which I’m sure opened her up to mockery from all of the neighbor dogs in the yard.

Finally, I relented. OK, so be it. I would buy her boots. A penny-wise friend and I searched the Interwebs for “muttluks” that wouldn’t require a second mortgage. We found some fashion-forward “Sherpa boots” in hot pink suede. We then had to measure the circumference of her legs and the dimensions of her paws to determine the proper size. (I think I saw her curling her paws so she could wear a smaller size. Hmpf. Females.)

The boots arrived. They were super cute. I called Kita over to try them on. Oh dear. They were even trickier to put on than the socks. I couldn’t tell if her paw was all the way in, and I didn’t want to be cruel and shove them in. After some ginger jimmying and finagling, we got all four boots on.

She jumped off the couch, leaving two boots on the couch behind her. The other two stuck out far in front of her, just like elf shoes. She stopped in her tracks and began shaking each leg in mid-air, like someone trying to flick peanut butter off a spoon.

Ruh-roh. It seems these boots are made for walking. Unless you’re Kita.

Guess you never owned a dog, Nancy Sinatra.


Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at tswiftsletten@gmail.com