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Preparation for winter rituals
DOGS HAVE AN UNCANNY way of tracking along with their human friend’s clothing rituals. They notice if you put on a certain pair of shoes, or a winter coat, or pajamas. They listen for the jingle of car keys, and they keep track of what you’re doing better than you do sometimes - it’s comical.

WEST FORK KICKAPOO - It’s getting colder out, and that means Mom is going to bring out my winter clothes. 

Every year at about this time, Mom starts cleaning like she’s responsible for a 200-person sit-down dinner. She throws out perfectly good toys that I may have pulled the stuffing and squeakers out of. Then she unleashes that monstrous contraption that makes a terrifying noise as it sucks up my lost hair from the couch, a few random cat toys, and any leftover snacks I’ve been hoarding under the cushions.

When Mom starts pushing and pulling that gosh-darn machine, I run for my life. Sometimes she’ll stop and turn it off, I’ll start breathing again and hop back on the couch, and then she’ll turn it back on again. It’s as wild as a bucking bronco kicking and rearing in our tiny living room. I wish I were big enough to give it a hard kick.

When Mom goes into this flurry of activity, and when I go outside and I’m over my head in leaves, and when my outdoor water bowl has a thin skating rink sitting on top of it, I know it’s only a matter of time until the rest of her winter weather rituals commence.

Here she comes now, holding my hideous red and green sweater, smiling like she’s about to give me a medium-rare steak.

Hey, that’s tight—oh, don’t leave it bunched up! Pull it down over my belly. What’s with the hood? Hoods are not cool, not if I’m trying to listen for rabbits and squirrels. Hey, where are you going, Mom? Please, take this ugly Christmas sweater off me—it’s not even Halloween yet! Good grief…

Mom towers over me with that ridiculously outdated sweater and tries to bend my legs like a Gumby doll to get them into the armholes. But I have legs, not arms. I’m a dog, not a person. And the necklines are itchy, often tight, and over-the-top bothersome.

Mom has rulesfor the upcoming snow season. If the temperature’s above zero she'll put a sweater on me; if it’s below zero she’ll put me in my red parka. I’m not sure which is worse. 

Having her maneuver me this way and that into a sweater is irritating. In my mind, I’m singing that song with a sneer: Bend me, shape me, any way you want me…But it’s no use. Mom just says, “Finny, I want you to be warm.”

I think, Thank you, Mom, but please don’t break my legs trying.

The dreaded parka has a zipper. That means less tugging and pulling on my extremities—but the zipper is located on my delicate underside, my sweet pink belly. The zipper runs from my chest to…well, my extremities. Talk about high anxiety!

With the coming of the colder months I’ll also get an extra bath or two. I don’t mind those because the hose will be stored in the basement by then, meaning I’ll have a real tub bath instead, with soothing warm water. My favorite! Then Papa will sit down on the chair and call me. This makes me suspicious.

I listen and come because I love my Papa and I want to give his nose a couple of licks to show it. But he wraps his big arms around me, holds me extra tight, and then here comes Mom with those dang snippers to trim my nails.

It seems Mom goes all out for the cold season: clothes, cleaning, clipping my nails. But the good news is that she also stocks up on treats, bones, and dog food. Yay, there is a dog-god watching out for me after all!

Yesterday, when Mom was listening to the weather report, she did a happy dance and started pumping her arms up and down, chanting “S-N-O-W!” I’m glad she’sthrilled. Me, not so much. I’m little and lean, a real fighting machine. But in winter, I’m wimpy and whiny and I hate wearing clothes. Clothes are for people, not dogs.

And Mom, if you’re listening, no ugly Christmas sweaters, before Halloween or ever. Please?