I don’t care what the calendar says. It’s officially winter when it’s 10 degrees outside and the first thing I have to do is run Gypsy. In the interest of public safety, here’s my winter dog park survival guide.
Layers are critical. Yes you will look like a bag lady. Homeless people die if they don’t stay warm. That makes them experts in my book.
My layers consist of:
- Knit maxi-dress. Last year I discovered that wearing pants under a knit maxi-dress will keep you warmer than wearing two pairs of pants because it creates a space for air to heat up around your legs.
- Knit pants.
- Hiking socks.
- Insulated nylon boots. I don’t like the way they flop around on my feet, but they’re cheap and they work.
- Long-sleeved fleece pullover or jacket with a high neck.
- Fisherman’s or traveller’s vest. This is an essential part of my dog park gear year round. It enables me to carry everything I need hands free, including treats, poop bags, tennis balls and a telescoping ball launcher. NOTE: I keep my phone in a designated pocket. If you put your phone, iPod, or Kindle in the same pocket as your dog treats, you risk getting crumbs in your device ports. That is not a good thing. In especially cold weather I wear this under my top layer because the bulk creates pockets of arm air.
- Fake shearling lined hoodie. I got mine at Costco for $20 two years ago. With the additional layers, it is sufficient in single digit temps while allowing for ease of movement.
- Heavy knit cap or bomber cap. Knit caps are not created equal. Sarah, (guest star in Muddy Mouth) knitted the one I’m wearing. It’s acrylic and warmer (to my distress) than the hand-knitted alpaca caps I brought back from Peru. Bomber caps with ear flaps are also great, though they have to fit right or it may pop off your head like the knit bomber cap Martha (from Maximum Security) gave me.
- Gloves. Currently the gloves I wear (from Target) have leather palms and are thinsulate lined, a gift from She-Who-Refuses-To-Be-Named. If the temp are above freezing, I wear gorgeous fingerless gloves knitted by urban fantasy author Meghan Doidge (People seem to worry about me freezing in the park). I got along fine for years layering cheap knit gloves with cheap cotton workman gloves (the kind you get in convenience stores). Seriously, it’s an inexpensive solution that works great and you can pull off the outer glove anytime you need dexterity to open a poop bag or clip a leash onto a collar.
- Chemical hand warmers. I use these when the temperature is below 20 degrees. They take a while to heat up, so I start mine when I leave the house. Leave them inside your gloves and they will still be toasty hours later for another walk. I buy a 40 pack box of Little Hotties and Costco at a fraction of the price of buying individually in convenience stores. On Amazon, HotHands are a great choice. They work best if they are kneaded occasionally. I have tried toe warmers but have not found them effective, possibly because you can’t knead them inside your boots. 😉
Keep moving! At my park, the guys like to start a fire in one of the leftover picnic grills. Then they stand around, roasting in the front, freezing in the back and inhaling smoke. Moving will keep you warmer. I carry 2 or 3 tennis balls and launch them for Gypsy as I walk across the park. I carry more than one so I can have a ball in the launcher when she returns with the one she just snagged. When she sees that ball in the launcher, she immediately drops the one she has instead of making me play keep away. That keeps us all moving. NOTE: tennis balls can freeze when left in your car overnight. If your dogs like to snag balls out of the air, they could break a tooth. During the winter months, I bring them indoors.
Don’t forget your dogs! Shadda is a wooly bear and doesn’t need a coat, but Gypsy does. here are some I like:
Shearling Dog Coat Gypsy is stylin’ in this easy -on, easy-off, faux-shearling coat with Velcro fasteners. The down-side of this coat is that it comes off when Hamish tussles with her.
Insulated Dog Vest-(Small Dogs Only! 🙁 ) I bought this for Chewy. It’s water resistant, and with a zipper up the back, it’s very easy to put on and take off.
Adorable Dog Hoodie Gypsy wore this last winter, when she was an itty-bitty thing. It comes in all sizes and lots of colors. I may get her another to layer under her shearling coat. I may get her another anyway because it is just too cool for school.
Bonus: Thanks to my Dash Egg Cooker, I keep a supply of hard-boiled eggs and I’ll shell 2 and pop them in a baggie and take them with me so I can have some easily assimilated protein first thing in the morning. Thankfully, my vest of many pockets has room for a traveling salt shaker.