[clari.feature.mike_royko] SHORT-LEGGED DOG HAS CHILLY PROBLEM

clarinews@clarinet.com (Mike Royko) (01/13/90)

	During these raging snowstorms, most public attention is given to
the stranded motorists, pedestrians staggering through snowdrifts and
travelers stuck at airports.
	But nothing is ever said about a creature who goes through far more
agony during a blizzard than any of the above.
	I'm talking about dogs that have short legs.
	I had not given this problem any thought until the other morning.
That was when a neighbor of mine came huffing down the street, a look of
panic on her face.
	``My dog got out. Have you seen him?'' she said.
	``Don't worry, he won't go far in this storm,'' I said. ``He'll
probably come home when he's hungry.''
	``Yes, but if he's out too long, he might become frozen.''
	``Oh, he'll be OK,'' I said. ``He has a thick coat.''
	She looked at me with disgust. ``Not (ital) there (end ital) he
	Then I remembered. Her dog was a basset hound. It has legs about
the size of a thread spool. Just like a dachshund and a few other stumpy
	And I understood her concern. The snowdrifts were already a foot or
two deep. The dog's belly, and everything else in that vicinity, is only
about six or eight inches above ground level.
	That meant that certain parts of the creature were being constantly
immersed in snow.
	I couldn't imagine anything more uncomfortable, especially first
thing in the morning, although it was probably a quicker waker-upper
than a cup of strong coffee.
	Later, while driving downtown, I heard a radio call-in show during
which a worried lady called and reminded people to put bread crumbs out
for the birds, or the tiny things would lose body heat and freeze.
	That's fine. But what about the excruciating problems of dogs with
short legs? In weather such as this they, too, could freeze. Maybe not
all over but, boy, even a dog shouldn't have to suffer from frostbite
	So I phoned the radio station and said that something should be
said on the air on their behalf.
	``What do you want said?'' the radio person asked.
	That something should be done immediately for short-legged dogs.
Who knows how many might already be going into shock.
	``Yes, but what can be done?''
	Well, maybe you can suggest that people put out a shallow pan of
warm water so the afflicted dog could defrost himself.
	``I don't think I can say that,'' he said.
	Then maybe you could say people should be sure to shovel their
walks so tht short-legged dogs don't freeze their....
	``Uh, we can't say that either,'' he said, and hung up.
	So I called a few veterinarians to ask how severe this problem is.
	One vet was surprisingly casual. ``Oh, I wouldn't worry about it,''
he said. ``During my entire career, I've only seen two or three cases of
that type of frostbite.''
	He probably wouldn't be that casual if he had only seen two or
three veterinarians with that type of frostbite -- and he was one of
	But another, Dr. W.T. Boozer, said: ``Yes, it can happen to all
breeds. But the closer the dog is to the ground, the more susceptible he
	This is now a frank society, so I posed the question of how this
could affect the dog's future love life and his masculine capabilities.
	``If it were extreme, it might affect his potency to some extent,''
he said.
	Dr. Algis Rimas agreed: ``If he were out there long enough in
extreme condition, it could cause impotency or permanent damage.''
	That, I imagine, could lead to self-doubts, anxiety and depression.
So the danger is more than physical. It includes the possibility that a
severe, snowy winter, such as this, could create a vast number of
short-legged dogs that have deep psychological troubles. And whom can
they tell about it?
	And I had always assumed that the worst thing that could happen to
a dog was fleas.
	I have sometimes wondered why basset hounds have that constant look
of overwhelming sadness on their faces. They always look so tragic that
everybody laughs at them.
	Now I understand why they look that way, and I'll never laugh at
them again.
	You'd look that sad, too, pal, if your men's room was filled with
four feet of snow.