Copper River Record- January 23, 2020
By Robin Mayo
My approval ratings are at a record low. I’m still holding my own with positive numbers in the areas of kibble pouring, water bowl rinsing, and ear scratches, with both felines and canines agreeing that my performance meets expectations. But in the all essential tasks of door opening and walkies, my constituents express extreme disapproval.
Of course, the felines rarely express satisfaction in anything but themselves, so I’m not too worried about their disdain. However this year I have a canine companion, my Granddog Tazlina, and her disapproval cuts to the bone.
Both species line up at the door expectantly, waiting for me to work my magic and reveal the great outdoors. When instead of fresh air a wall of ice fog rolls in, they all duck their heads, pin back their ears, and give me a look of deep disappointment. They hold me personally responsible for this travesty.
The cats slink away to visit the conveniently provided tub of wood chips, but Taz has no such option. Instead she gives me a long look that clearly says 1)“You are NOT my Favorite Person.” 2) “When Favorite Person opens the door, the air never hurts” and 3) “I fear I shall perish immediately, therefore I will only venture outside if you go too.”
Taz grew up in California and her previous Alaskan winter was spent in Girdwood, so her bewilderment is justified. Also, her ancestors were not wolves but dingoes, and her body is better adapted to extreme heat than bitter cold. I’ve tried to explain to her about the dire situation in Australia and how much better off she is here, but she isn’t buying it. I’ve even shown her pictures of scorched kangaroos and koalas, taking care that she doesn’t catch a glimpse of any photos of Favorite Person on a beach in Central America.
Making clothing for Taz has become a household obsession, another activity that she disapproves of thoroughly. Before leaving, my daughter re-tailored a nice Patagonia fleece pullover into very chic “PETagonia” complete with fitted sleeves and snaps down the back. Doing this required many fittings, and every time Taz stood with her legs locked, her head down, and a long-suffering look on her face.
For cold waits in the car, I adapted a loose fleece hoodie which gives her a cool thug look. A friend picked up a tacky Christmas sweater on clearance, the only piece of Taz’s wardrobe which was actually made for dogs. She grudgingly admits it is comfy but suspects the snowman makes her butt look big. Please don’t tell her, but it does.
My latest effort is a puffy jacket, repurposed from a well-worn North Face coat that has already survived a bad trip through the dryer and many wilderness adventures. I’m remodeling the hood as well, so it can protect her big dingo ears when we go fast on the snowmachine. For all this work Taz is profoundly ungrateful.
If you’d like to adapt castaway human clothing for your canine companion, here are a few tips. The easiest item to start with is a synthetic fleece jacket or vest. Almost anything is fair game, but stretchy is a plus, and cutting and resewing down-filled garments is not recommended unless you are an expert. Dogs come in so many shapes and sizes your best approach is to experiment and improvise. And chances are good the dog will loath it, so don’t sweat the details.
One approach is to choose a garment with the right chest circumference, sew up the armholes and cut new ones where needed. Another strategy is to find something large enough to use the existing armholes, sewing a giant tuck in the front or back to fit the animal’s chest. You can just go with something stretchy that you can pull on, or use existing fasteners on either the chest or back. For very small dogs, baby lambs or goats, or even cats if you are very brave, a piece of sweatshirt sleeve with strategically cut armholes works great.
As I write this the temperature has soared up to a balmy 8 below, and Taz is eternally grateful that she will not be wearing any clothing today, unless we need a photo shoot for this article. Two months ago she would have found this temperature miserable, so it appears our transplanted doggie is on her way to becoming a true Alaskan. I’m planning a long walk in the heat of the afternoon today, which should make my approval ratings soar.
Captions- Top: Taz did not choose the thug life, the thug life chose her.
Bottom: The dreaded Christmas Sweater.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.