Happiness is a (not too) warm puppy: Dogs already have fur coats, so why give them clothes?

Katniss, my beloved four-legged pseudo-child, has it pretty good at our house.

She’s spoiled worse than a Kardashian¹: Katniss sleeps on our bed, gets to play outside for hours at a time if she wants, is loved more than most people I know, gets endless cuddle opportunities with my wife and me, and pretty much is allowed to do whatever she wants as long as she doesn’t go potty in the house or destroy things.

And we wonder why she’s so ornery.

In short, I don’t feel bad for Katniss. She has better living conditions than probably most of the world’s 7 billion people, which is really, really, really sad if you think about it too long. I did.

Well, I do feel bad for her regarding one area of life: Dealing with the Texas heat.

Here in Austin in the summer it gets hotter than the devil’s curling iron², and I do feel sorry for Katniss as she navigates life in 100-degree heat while wearing her God-given fur coat. Yes, she’s an indoor dog, but nonetheless, I don’t think German shepherds are made for the hallucination-inducing warmth in which Texas specializes. I would argue the humidity in Ohio³ and especially Houston is its own special brand of hell during the summer and absolutely isn’t kind to bigger or furrier dogs like Katniss, either.

Thankfully it’s cooling off here in Central Texas—since it’s, you know, November and all, and we just had the air conditioner on the other day—so I have been able to take Puffyª on jogs with me in the relatively lower temperatures of the evening.

But even if you live in cooler climates than Texas, such as my native Ohio, for example—we had a blizzard with snow up to my waist one year when I still lived in Daytonº—and you have a bigger dog like Katniss, I think it’s ridiculous to put clothes on a beast that is likely already warm to begin with. To me that would be like a person wearing a jacket in July. Surely dogs of most sizes love the cold weather, as it brings a measure of relief to being hot all the time. And don’t call me Shirley.

When I was very young, my mom gave me a book called “Happiness is a Warm Puppy” by Charles Schultz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. It’s a small, square book of maybe 30 pages or so and perhaps one of the first self-help or feel-good books ever made. Published in the 1950s or 1960s, each page features simple messages such as “Happiness is finding out you’re not so dumb after all,” with Charlie Brown smiling and holding a report card that has an “A” on it, or “Happiness is catching the chocolate on the first bounce,” showing Snoopy trying to eat a piece of chocolate Charlie Brown dropped (even though chocolate is poisonous to dogs).

As someone who is always warm no matter what time of year it is, I can empathize somewhat with dogs. So when I see people putting dog-tailored clothes on their mutts, it makes me wince. It’s like recreating summer all over again for these animals, especially large dogs.

I can understand—I guess—if your little chihuahua wears something extra on a particularly cold day, but your husky does not need a sweater, your lab doesn’t require a hoodie and you German shepherd doesn’t mandate a dog-size Dallas Cowboys jersey. Actually, your dog doesn’t want a Cowboys jersey, either.

Even Fido knows the Cowboys stink worse than the bag of poop you were carrying earlier when walking him*.


¹How is there not a Katniss Kardashian? The family has to be running out of names that begin with “K” to name their oodles of children. Maybe that’s how the “Hunger Games” series ends—Katniss Everdeen forsakes her destiny as a freedom fighter to join the Kardashian clan?

²Yes, the devil has a curling iron. I’ve mentioned the devil’s hairdryer before, so why can’t the devil have a curling iron, too?

³Surface-of-the-sun hot and Amazon jungle-humid high school football practice in August in Ohio might sometimes have been the reason guys would quit the team back when I played; of course if they couldn’t take it, we didn’t need ’em anyway. In one morning practice I lost so much weight from sweating—we had to weigh ourselves under supervision of a coach before and after each of our two practices per day—that I wasn’t allowed to practice in the afternoon. I think I lost something like 8 pounds in two hours. And I think I may have just discovered a new dieting fad. How did we ever survive those three summers?

ªSee my previous blog for explanation of this one. Oh, you never got past its first paragraph? I don’t blame you.

ºEver hear of a three-dog night? Aside from being a pretty good band (Three Dog Night), that term comes from when it was cold enough outside back the old days—before we had, say, furnaces—that you had to have three dogs in your bed to keep you warm at night. During that blizzard it was at least a one-dog night, as my dog at the time, Honey, curled up with me, which she rarely did, to keep me warm. Golly, I miss her. Happiness was a warm puppy that night.

*Don’t worry, Cowboys fans, I know my 49ers are almost as bad of a team as yours. Almost. At least we didn’t lose 10-6 to Tampa. Sheesh.


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