(I ran this post a year ago because I was so impressed with this product. I just used it again on my dog over the weekend and I have to say, the stuff is great. It made sense to me to run the post one more time.)
I’ve never been afraid of winter before. I actually used to love it — but the last six snowstorms have changed my views.
Even disliking winter as I do these days, I never thought I’d associate it with fear.
After all, I grew up where winters were long and cold and very, very snowy. I learned to drive on snow-covered roads and have fought my way along a highway through more than one blinding blizzard.
But winter never bothered me — until Maddie.
When you have a 65-pound very excitable dog yanking you right and left as you go for a walk, you learn to appreciate firm ground and traction.
Obviously, you don’t get either on the ice.
“Well then, don’t walk your dog, for God’s sake,” said one of my friends. “You don’t have to be out there at the crack of dawn every morning for two hours.”
Uh, yes I do.
Maddie without exercise is like … let’s see … me after drinking a cup of coffee? (I can’t even drink decaf, so you have some idea of the bouncing-off-the-walls effect I’m envisioning.)
The dog needs exercise at the start of every day, and if I am going to be totally honest, I’ve become addicted to our early-morning walks as well. I feel flat, dull and without energy if I don’t roll out bed and hike through one of the nearby parks for at least an hour.
So not walking isn’t an option. And this presents two problems:
1) How do I avoid having Maddie yank me down on the ice?
2) How do I prevent Maddie from stopping every 10 feet and pathetically holding up one of her paws because she’s bothered by an ice or snow clump that’s wedged its way in between the pads of her paws?
Problem #2 seemed easier to solve, so I sat down at my computer a few weeks ago and began researching … yes … dog booties.
You have to understand how difficult this was for me. I HATE putting a coat on Maddie, and I only do it when the temperature is in the single digits.
It’s not that it’s hard to get the coat on her — for some reason, she doesn’t seem to mind. But I don’t like the idea of walking a dog who’s wearing a coat. It’s just not very … dog-like. She might as well have bows tied to her ears or have her toenails painted pink. To me, it’s the same thing.
So you can imagine my feelings on booties.
But what were my options? Walking her on snow and ice is a living hell because she’s the classic Princess and the Pea. Every other step, something cold has invaded one of her pads and she refuses to move.
Makes the walk loads of fun, let me tell you.
But while I was searching for stupid booties, I found something called Invisible Booties — or Musher’s Secret.
Sled dogs use it, said the ad.
Really? Then it has to work, right? I mean, they’re in snow up to their knees (do dogs have knees?). If it’s good enough for huskies, it must be good enough for a labradoodle.
I bought a small tin and when it arrived, I sniffed it. It’s organic, so if she licks her paws, no problem (always a good thing with Maddie). It smells nice — kind of menthol-y — and it has the consistency of chap stick.
I smeared it on her paws, doing it slowly and giving her lots of praise as I’d run my hand down each leg to get her to shift her balance (if you’ve ever picked a horse’s hooves, it’s the same principle). Strangely for a dog who HATES having anyone touch her feet (she’s a groomer’s delight), she likes me putting on the Musher’s Secret.
Once her pads were covered, we headed outside. That day, we did a 2-hour walk. Maddie stopped once — and that was because she’d jumped into a huge snow bank and probably got some really cold clumps wedged in her pads.
I am thrilled with Musher’s Secret — and have since bought two more huge tubs of it. I’ve given their pamphlets out to my friends and recommended it to strangers when I see them stopping to pick ice or chunks of salt out of their dog’s feet.
Now onto the other problem — walking Maddie on the ice.
Today was pretty bad. We started out early and the side roads were your basic sheets of ice.
I took a deep breath and decided to try something. Cesar Millan is forever talking about being calm and assertive. If you watch The Dog Whisperer, you know it’s his mantra.
I have come to realize I’m doing pretty well with the assertive part, but I’m not calm. At all.
When I see another dog approaching us — Maddie’s Big Issue in life — I feel fear and anxiety from my head to my toes. Can she sense that? I’d bet money on it.
So I vowed this morning would be different — because it had to be. If she saw another dog coming and began pulling, growling and yanking the leash everywhere, I was going down.
But maybe if I could even just fake being calm, it would keep everyone calm at the other end of the leash.
“OK. So how do I make myself seem calm?” I mumbled out loud. (I’m sure my neighbors have long ago realized I’m on the less sane side of things.)
And it suddenly came to me. I can’t talk. At all. Once I talk, all the nervous tension comes spilling out in a torrent of high-pitched words.
So, I would shut up and communicate to her through body language and the occasional grunt, if necessary. Even a throat clearing has been known to get her to pay attention.
Clamping my jaws shut, we set out — and wouldn’t you know it, a dog suddenly comes bounding down from a snowy hillside a short distance ahead of us.
“Pluto!!!! Pluto!!! NO, no no no no no no no, PLUTO!!!!” The yellow lab’s owner is frantically calling him as Pluto merrily prances around the street.
He hasn’t seen us yet — but Maddie’s seen him. Her body tenses, she leans forward (Can dogs have beady eyes? Her eyes got beady) and she’s about to do the yanking-jerking-pulling thing which requires every ounce of strength in my not-so-tall body.
We’re on ice. Did I mention that?
I have nothing to lose, and I absolutely have to DO SOMETHING immediately.
So I exhale deeply, don’t say a word, just shift my body so I am leaning authoritatively toward Maddie — and I give her a very in-your-face kind of look.
If you don’t have a dog — or if you don’t have a difficult dog — this may sound ridiculous. You may be wondering how on Earth Maddie will have a clue what I want. But body language speaks volumes louder than our voices in the animal world. My problem is, I’m always talking too much to make use of it.
So there we were: Pluto getting closer, Maddie ready to snap, and me leaning over her with my best “Don’t mess with me” expression.
If you had asked me to guess what was going to happen next, I would’ve thought of a million things … except what actually did happen.
Seriously. While Pluto remained romping in the road ahead of us, his owner charging toward him with his leash, Maddie sat looking at me.
Her body quivered — she wasn’t a happy camper. She wanted to go after that dog. But she just sat there.
Pluto eventually went into lab submission and was leashed and removed from our sight.
I took a deep breath, exhaled and we continued walking.
I still hadn’t spoken a word, but after a few minutes, I stole a glance at Maddie. She looked up at me. “Not bad, huh?” her eyes said.
Not bad at all.