“Aren’t you the cutest dog?” I asked the chubby brindle pit bull mix walking down the sidewalk.
Objectively, she was not the cutest dog, I suppose. But there is no such thing as an ugly dog, as we all know. She was wearing a brand-new jacket with colorful pockets and a hood and, to top it off, had matching booties. She looked a little self-conscious—as we all are when we get dressed up for the first time in a while—and I thought she could use a little reassurance.
“I wasn’t sure she would wear the booties,” her owner confessed.
The dog looked at me seriously as if she understood. The booties might be a bridge too far, even on a very cold day. But this barrel-shaped brindle pup was dancing on the cold pavement, happy to meet me, booties all but forgotten.
“She loves meeting new people,” her owner explained unnecessarily.
I love seeing the dogs in the winter.
Of course, this is the time of year that long-haired dogs are finally getting comfortable. They stroll at a leisurely pace. They roll in the snow. They walk with their noses under the snow, sniffing the mysterious world beneath the surface. They scoop up big mouthfuls of snow as they go, cruising along with their tongues firmly inside their mouths for the first time in months. They are utterly at home in the snow, as if the warm months of the past were an aberration, and we are now back to normal.
But the short-haired dogs suffer. They shiver and hop from one foot to the other and look as if the whole notion of taking a walk in these temperatures was neither their idea nor something they approved of. Their owners decide that what they need is a jacket, and, usually, the jacket is a mixed success.
The little dogs still seem cold, even in their jackets. I saw a greyhound with a jacket over a sweater. He didn’t look cold, but he looked deeply embarrassed. I’ve seen dogs in Santa costumes and fancy hand-knitted Guatemalan sweaters, and expensive gear that looked like it was designed for trekking up Mount Everest. None of the jackets look as if they fit very well. They are all held on with straps and clips and usually drift to one side or the other or threaten to come off entirely. The booties almost never stay on long.
Just down the block, I met a short-haired terrier walking with a man I chat with regularly. The terrier was not in a jacket, and when he saw me coming, I could see the pleading in his eyes. “Please do not make my owner stop and talk!” I tried not to talk too long as the terrier hopped from one cold paw to the other and shivered disapprovingly.
“He needs a jacket!” I said to the terrier’s owner, but I could tell neither owner nor the terrier was crazy about the idea. Which is why the brindle pit bull’s ensemble was so impressive.
She looked as if she was planning to model it in a dog catalog. Her slightly pudgy frame filled out the jacket and kept it in place. Her little booties kept her off the cold snow and sharp sand and biting salt. She was perfectly decked out, and, I suspect, she had an idea of exactly how adorable she was.
“You are the cutest dog in town!” I announced. The stubby dog was pleased. Her owner was proud. And—at that moment—I think it might almost have been true.
Till next time,