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Off-leash: An unrestrained dogumentary

Dog Gabby starts the day off right by exuberantly making snow angels.   - Dan Mills photo
Dog Gabby starts the day off right by exuberantly making snow angels.
— image credit: Dan Mills photo

Don't get me wrong; for the most part I like snow. As a matter of fact, the first thing I do every morning when I am let out of doors is to roll rigorously in its fresh whiteness. I find making these canine snow angels invigorating, refreshing, and fur cleansing.  However there is always the possibility of having too much of a good thing.

You see, for many of us dogs, once snow reaches a certain depth it greatly limits our ability to move in, on and through it. Oh yes. you humans have invented all manner of contrivance to circumvent this predicament — snowshoes, skis, snowmobiles and who could forget K-Tel's Super Slider Snow Skates) — but what of we four- leggers?

On the occasions that we do accompany our people out into wilds to play in the powder, it is not just the depth of the stuff that makes things problematic. Being of the golden retriever persuasion, Dog Taylor and I have long blonde coats that are, if I do say so myself, handsomely stylish.  In the snow however, they are not completely functional. The longer, feathery guard hairs that adorn our flanks, chest, and the ruff of our necks, have the unfortunate habit of allowing snow to stick to them. These dingle-ball-like adhesions would be of little consequence except for the fact that they continue to grow in size and number until we find ourselves virtually incapacitated by their weight and bulk.

Another retriever trait that has proven maladaptive when it comes to winter wandering is our webbed feet. That skin between our toes makes us powerful swimmers but poor snowshoers. I can barely go a kilometre before I have to stop and try to chew off the ice that has accumulated between my toes.  This oral manipulation is our only recourse since the powers that be saw fit not to bless us with opposable thumbs.  This has unfortunate consequences, since during this de-icing process a goodly amount of saliva is deposited between said toes, causing a redoubling of snow and ice accumulation.  To my human's credit he has attempted to rectify the situation by providing us with cute little doggy booties. They were — now how do I put this delicately — a total waste of #&$=# time.

Truth be told, these tribulations that winter presents to Goldens and other longer haired canines would be endured without comment or complaint if it meant we could continue to be outside with our humans during this frozen season. Unfortunately, humans being the overly compassionate and empathetic species that they are, see our discomfort and feel compelled to intervene.  In short, they decide to leave us at home, with its central heating, so that we don't have to suffer the wading through drifts, iced toes and dingle-ball syndrome.

The human heart may well be in the right place but please heed this advice gentle reader. The next time you go skiing, or snowshoeing, or tobogganing and leave your dog at home, please take him on an extra long walk later, or at least spend some quality time scratching his belly, so as to ease his concerns over being abandoned by the pack. And if you can't do that, maybe take those fancy Italian shoes you are so fond of and put them some place safe. Just sayin'.

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