Monday, June 02, 2008

Winter mornings

A few years back, when Nash was our only dog, we fretted what to do for him on rainy days when we were out. We were living in the cottage when had only a narrow strip of pavement for a back garden, and no shelter whatsoever. We settled on a little doghouse made of a resin-like plastic, reasoning that while it wasn’t the Ritz (as Nash seemed to view the inside of the cottage), it was a roof over his shaggy little head and shelter from the brisk wind.

Nash, of course, disagreed, He determinedly refused to consider the structure, preferring to stand pathetically at the back door, dripping wet, those big brown eyes silently pleading for us to let his shivering little dog body into the warmth of the house. It worked every time and the doghouse because one of this bits of flotsam that we all accumulate until we eventually gave it away and it became the white elephant of another person who had a similar back garden…and a similarly inclined dog.

We moved to this house three years ago and put a bed on the tiled, covered, lighted patio for Nash. Now, you must understand, Nash (and all additional doggies) sleep inside the house at night during cool weather, but when we go out, we feel obliged to provide a comfortable, sheltered place for him to rest until we get home. He took to that little basket and pad and made it his own until Candy joined the family and promptly chewed it to bits.

Subsequently, a couple of old carpets served as an insulation against the cold ceramic tile floor and the dogs seemed happy enough with their indoor and outdoor beds until Trinny came along. The other dogs, being Maltese, are fluffy little creatures that need monthly grooming and haircuts. Top their natural fuzz with a fleecy little jersey, and they stay warm and happy on all but the coldest days. Trinny, on the other hand, is a long-legged fox terrier with a coarse, close coat and no winter undergrowth. When the weather turns mild, Trinny quakes like an aspen and clatters those big teeth of hers resoundingly. A jersey helped, but didn’t solve the problem, so we looked into the matter of a new dog bed.

We scouted around and settled on a large hard-plastic bed that was vented at the bottom and had a rim around the base to keep the bed up off the ground. This would prevent cold from so easily leaking through the base of the bed and, if wind blew rain onto the patio floor, would keep the bed dry. With an assortment of old blankets, pillows and mats, along with each other for body heat, we expected them to make a little dogpile for warmth and live happily ever after.

Have you ever considered how amazing it is that these little creatures whom we presume to be so much less intelligent than we are, stymie us at every possible turn? The bed was plenty big for Trinny and the Maltese Mafia, but they didn’t see it that way. Night after night either Hubby or I would have to go out onto the patio and scold the growling little white thugs into letting Trinny into it. And heaven forfend she should have to get up in the night and make her way out to the doggie loo…Nash and Candy would rearrange themselves to take up all the space in the bed and warn off poor Trinny when she got back from answering nature’s call and she, not a stupid old girl, would begin a rather ritualized bark that would not only awaken us from a sound sleep and notify us of her predicament and her need for our intervention. The big doggie bed, as a means of canine social engineering and shared warmth, was a bust.

Winter is fast approaching and not only are the nights cold, the days are beginning to have a decided nip to them. Trinny comes to the kitchen door, clattering her teeth and trembling pathetically in an attempt to gain admittance to the doggie bed in the cubby in our bathroom, but we want the dogs outside during the day. So, yesterday, we made another trip to the pet store, looking for an “igloo” style dog house that might do a better job of retaining doggie body heat during the colder days and evenings. Nash, we knew, would probably turn up his little nose at such a structure, since he had adamantly refused to use the original dog house, but maybe Trinny would find a measure of comfort there.

But there were no igloos that would suit our purposes and disheartened, we started to leave. Out of the corner of my eye, however, high up on an overhead shelf, I spotted some objects that looked rather like denim cocoons. Shaped rather like WWII Quonset huts made of channel-stitched and fluff-filled denim, they had a circular doorway and a padded floor and looked to be just about the size of the travel kennel that our groomer uses to transport the furbabies. It took only a quick examination to determine that these might just be the answer.

Sure enough, Trinny took to it like a duck to water. After I tossed in a smelly little rug from the old doggie bed and a treat, she clambered in, dragging her long legs behind her, and curled up for a snooze. When she pokes her head out to see what’s going on she looks rather like a turtle with a blue denim shell, but she’s obviously quite pleased with her cocoon and, most importantly, isn’t shivering every time I see her.

The Maltese Mafia, however, are rather a different kettle of fish. Candy dislikes the thing intensely and, rather than crawl inside to escape the chill, climbs on top of the thing, collapsing it into a close facsimile of a regular soft-sided dog bed. Nash is not so reluctant to climb in and take a snooze, but he’s not exactly thrilled when Candy climbs on top while he is inside and collapses the whole thing on top of him.

The chill of early morning, however, has a way of overcoming even the strongest resistance. We let the babies outside at about 6 in the morning to do their doggie business, after which they usually hop into the big doggie bed together for another snooze. But now the mornings have a deep chill to them and the open bed has been stored until the warm mornings of summer return. And today, despite her reluctance, the morning cold drove Candy into one of the cocoons to snuggle up with Nash, and this was the scene on the patio as hubby left for work this morning:

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