There’s no such thing as an outside dog. There are only ignorant people. Luckily, people can be educated, and dogs can be brought inside.
Let’s face it: the people leaving their dogs outside on freezing nights aren’t likely to be reading this. So why write it? Because you’re reading it. And you have a voice. Which means you have power. Read this piece, share it and use it to make our town a better place. If you see a dog that lives in poor conditions, you can be a voice for that dog. You can make a phone call to authorities and ask for help. You can walk over to your neighbor and ask if they’d like help building a better home for their dog and offer to stuff their doghouse with hay and provide blankets. You can make a difference.
So help open minds in our town. Don’t just drive by anymore and shake your head. Don’t let a bad situation become a tragedy.
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How tough are you? Let’s find out. If you think I’m just being silly, stupid, or a do-gooder, if you think your dog is tough, if you’ve ever thought you were tough, prove to me you can handle it outside, too. The next time it’s a bitterly cold night, put on a regular coat and go spend the night outside with your dog. Go spend two nights outside with your dog. Don’t bundle up. Don’t wrap up in a blanket. Wear what you would just wear normally outside in the winter.
If you can’t handle the cold weather outside, your animal can’t either. Unless you’ve got a wolf or a coyote for a pet, (and no, you don’t), the animal you’re leaving outside is domesticated, meaning it needs a warm, loving environment. A domesticated pet can’t just automatically adapt to the temperatures outside. “It has a thick coat” or “It’s got fur,” you say. Yes, and you also have coats and “fur” to put on when you go out, and yet you still go outside and complain about how cold it is.
Bring your dog in at night.
I know, I know, you have a Husky and he just loves to be outside, all day! That’s fine! That’s great! There are lots of dogs that love to play in the chill, love to let their ears blow in what I consider to be deathly winds. And if your pup wants to prance around in the winter weather for a while, that’s fine. When it snows, we all throw coats on and prance around! But no dog wants to spend the entire night outside, by itself, in a plastic or thin wooded dog house. Dogs are pack animals. And while they may roam around the yard by themselves during the day, at night, they’re programmed to curl up in a ball around other dogs/warm beings and turn themselves into mini furnaces. But that’s impossible to do when you’re by yourself in 17 degree weather with wind biting at you and the same coat you were wearing while you sunbathed earlier.
Their coats don’t magically get thicker when the sun goes down. You get hot in the sun and cold in the shade – your dog does, too. And they can’t switch out their coats and put on heavier ones.
Bring your dog in at night.
At night, you don’t throw your coat on and go sleep outside, do you? Why not? You have a coat. Every time you tell me your dog has a coat, I’m going to remind you that you do, too. You’ll be fine. When it’s cold and you have to go outside, you throw your coat on, freeze, complain, go back inside, crank your heat, and throw blankets on the bed. Your dog doesn’t have those options. So why do you think your dog’s coat, the same coat it was wearing all day in the sun, will just automatically be enough when the temps begin to drastically drop?
Maybe you’re at work all day and your dog just loves to be outside, and you feel guilty keeping him or her inside. Whatever, that’s cool. Let your dog roam in the yard if you must. But what should you do when you come home? Bring your dog in at night.
Bring. Your. Dog. In. At. Night.
I see way too many dogs outside, chained up in rain, wind, and snow. Just because you gave your dog some water and four shabby walls, doesn’t mean your dog is OK. Just because you have a rugged weather dog who was “born to play outside” doesn’t mean he can sleep outside alone.
Don’t be a part of the world’s problems. Break the cycle. Don’t be ignorant. Be educated. Be better than past generations. Make a difference, be a better person than the people who leave their dogs outside overnight.
Marybeth Woods is an animal lover and artist who sells crafts online at etsy.com/shop/WhimsicalBear to raise money for local shelters.