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On the morning I write this, my first dose of sadness came in the form of a small dog in Preston County who, left outside overnight in the bitter cold, had frozen to death, his little body covered in ice, forever still in the tiny ball he’d curled himself into in an attempt to stay warm.
Truly, I can’t tell you what this does to my heart. I don’t know whether to cry or scream.
This isn’t a new topic is this space. I’ve written countless columns advocating for animals. Shoot, a quick archive check shows “Snow, cold weather mean bring pets inside” and “Keep pets safe as winter temps hit” as headlines over my work from January 2015 and 2016.
Looks like we’re adding another to the list now. If you feel like it’s getting old, you’re right. It is.
Frankly, I’d rather write about pretty much anything else. If fact, my original plan was to sit down today and type 700 or so words about my New Year’s resolutions.
But then I saw that puppy. Frozen to death because nobody bothered to care that the temperature was in the single digits outside, and he didn’t have a door or any insulation in his dog house.
And don’t even get me started on the laws that say it’s OK for him to be tethered out there in the first place.
So here I am again. Repeating what shouldn’t even have to be said:
If you can’t treat your animals with respect and love, you don’t deserve to have them.
No one’s dog freezes to death by accident.
Pets get cold, too. Having fur doesn’t make them impervious to ice and wind.
So, for those humans who need a refresher in humanity, here are some recommendations from the American Veterinary Medical Association for keeping pets safe in cold temperatures:
1. Know the limits. Different pets have different coats. Obviously, a thicker-coated animal can withstand colder weather. But not indefinitely. Be aware.
2. Provide choices for shelter and sleeping needs that are warm and easy to access.
3. Stay inside. Enough said.
4. Cold cats sometimes curl up under the hoods of cars to warm up. Bang on the hood or honk the horn to rouse a sleeping kitty and allow him time to escape before starting your engine.
5. Check paws. Snow, ice and salt can hurt your pet’s feet. Wipe them off after going outside, and use pet-friendly salt alternatives on sidewalks.
6. Dress them up. Pet sweaters are awesome.
7. Collar and chip. Snow and ice can make it hard to smell for familiar surroundings.
8. Just as you shouldn’t leave a pet in a hot car in summer, you shouldn’t leave him in a cold one either. Leave him at home.
9. Feed well. A well-fed pet is a healthy one.
And from me:
10. Be vigilant. And act.
That pup in Preston may not have been able to make much of a fuss — though I’m here to tell you, he probably cried until he couldn’t anymore.
But we can. We can call the cops. We can petition our lawmakers. We can step up and confront our neighbors when they are acting irresponsibly, or worse, with blatant cruelty. We can speak up until people wake up, as loudly and as often as it takes.
It’s not rocket science.
It’s just doing the right thing.
And on this day of resolutions, is there really a better one than that?