Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's Been a (Persistently) Cold Winter

At right, Mac the Dog models the very latest in frost bite protection

Not that I am whingeing or anything, but this winter has been cold in a stubborn sort of way. Since the Great Winter Rain of Thanksgiving, we have had very few days above - 15 , and quite a number of days in the -30 to -40 range.

I knew it was a bad time to go Outside and leave the house and critters, but circumstances were such that I had little choice (no, this was not a trip to white beaches and turquoise seas). Despite the best and valiant efforts of the neighbors who tend to my place when I travel, I returned to frozen drains and frozen dogs.

The drains, although somewhat expensive to thaw, were at least remedied within 24 hours, and I now have a fully functioning system, albeit with a cracked 2-inch pipe from washing machine to main drain, but since I live in a post 'n pad simple box - with all of its pipes insulated and accessible under the house - this is a relatively inexpensive summertime fix. In the meantime, grey water leaks out when I do laundry and harmlessly forms a glacier on the gravel pad.

The frost-bitten dog is proving to be more challenging, however. In 20+ years of having sled and other assorted dogs, all of whom have lived outside when I travel, I never had a dog get frost bite, not even on their most sensitive naughty bits.

Until now. Inexplicably, upon arrival home, I found Mac the Dog with an alarming frost- bitten patch the size of a quarter on his side: fur gone, big necrotic cratered patch. And it's been growing daily.

Well, the obvious solution is to keep the dog indoors, and yes, he is indoors as much as possible, but this is a dog that drinks water by the buckets, and needs complete (and I mean complete) privacy in order to do his business. In his simple doggie brain, this translates into: "I can barely pee on a leash, and I most certainly cannot poop on a leash." Without the freedom to bury himself deep in the woods and deep in the snow, he really cant do anything at all. He also requires at least five to ten minutes of twirling in circles before he can settle down to toilet.

Ten to 15 minutes at minus 30, with no fur over a frost-bitten patch equals more dead skin and no healing. After two days of trying to protect it with salve and such like, the quarter has grown to a fifty-cent piece. And the side of a dog is proving to be a tricky place to affix any type of bandage, medication or cold protection.

The polar-fleece dog coat? Ripped off in minutes and left in the snow somewhere.

The vet-wrap rib-cage vest over salve, cotton balls, gauze and adhesive tape? Scratched off within 30 seconds, and half ingested, before I had even returned the vet items to their box.

So, this morning, I devised the frost-bite singlet, as modeled above. First, three layers of polar fleece protecting the frost bite - affixed with duct tape to the surrounding fur - then, the T-shirt, to prevent scratching and chewing, and to provide additional warmth. I am hoping the legs of the T-shirt, and the snug fit by additional application of duct tape will prevent him from wiggling out of the garment.

He's on a half-hour trial out in the dog pen now - as the coming week has meetings and other work-related obligations that will require him to be outside (although in a dog house with lots of straw) for some portion of the day. But in the wee hours of the morning I awake with visions of out-of-control lesions eating into the ribcage of Mac the Dog.

Who would have thought that a completely frozen drain system would prove to be easier to fix than a frost-bitten dog? Yet another thing learned*.

* along with the valuable arctic plumbing fact that while a steady drip through water pipes prevents freeze-up, a steady trickle, as from a toilet tank that was stealthily running, into a drain creates freeze-up. Lo, for the price of a $2o replacement toilet valve, there went $400 in thawing costs.

Friday, January 14, 2011

On the DC Street Beat

Call me stupid, but I just don't get the British reference....

...So much for any hope of a return to civil discourse