By Janet McAfee

During Thanksgiving, the Coachella Valley experienced heavy rain, frigid temperatures, and even snow in some locations.  As freezing temperatures grip out nation, countless dogs and cats suffer when kept outdoors 24 hours a day. Imagine your dog trying to drink from a water bowl full of frozen ice as he shivers from the cold.  Vulnerable animals such as seniors and young puppies may even perish.

Veterinarian Rob Proietto admonishes pet owners, “As pup parents, it’s important to know when they need to join their families and seek shelter inside.  Dogs can overheat very quickly in warm weather climates and get hypothermia in cold, wet conditions.” 

Patrick Evans, local animal lover and meteorologist with KESQ news Channel 3, reports, “While it’s not the coldest season we’ve ever had, it’s been consistently colder and wetter than our average winter.  We’ve had periods of overnight lows in the 30’s and low 40’s.  Just like us, our pets aren’t used to these colder conditions.  It’s hard on their system as it is on ours.”   Please bring your pets indoors for shelter when extreme weather hits. There are many compelling reasons to include your pets as inside family members.  

Most Coachella Valley residents are wonderful pet owners, and their pets are kept safely indoors.  However, I recently spoke with a young woman who keeps her dogs outside 24 hours a day. She believes they are “unclean”.  Why do people have such beliefs?  What information do they need to change those beliefs?  I provided information about how having dogs around people actually improves their immune system, emotional well-being, and physical health.  It was unclear if she changed her mind.

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Some people were raised by parents whose admonition, “Dogs belong outside!” still rings in their subconscious.  Some people grew up on farms or in countries where dogs are often kept as outdoor-only animals.  However, we live in a geographical area of extreme weather where keeping a dog outdoors can jeopardize his health and even cost him his life. 

Over 10,000 years ago, dogs were domesticated to live with people.  They were and still are social pack animals, wanting nothing more than to be by your side. Most outdoor-only dogs suffer physically and psychologically when deprived of social contact. Keeping them outdoors all the time consigns them to a life of frustration and loneliness.

Some of these animals become a neighborhood nuisance with their barking.  If you decide to approach offending friends and neighbors, do so in a nonjudgmental way, trying to educate them about the hazards of keeping their dog outdoors.  Ask them, “Why do you leave your dog outside all the time?”

Ironically, keeping an outdoor dog for home security doesn’t do much good when the burglars break into the dwelling where the valuables are kept.  Outdoor dogs are indiscriminate barkers, and no one can tell if they are barking at a prowler or a child riding a bicycle down the street.  An inside dog is a true deterrent to thieves.

Small animals are subject to prey when outdoors unsupervised.  Small dogs and cats may be seized by coyotes and birds of prey such as hawks and owls.  An acquaintance experienced the horror of hearing her Yorkshire Terrier cry out amidst the flutter of wings, and the dog disappeared in a matter of seconds.

Bored and lonely, outdoor-only dogs develop bad habits.  They dig holes in the yard.  They chew on various objects out of boredom, including patio furniture, which can lead to expensive vet bills and even death.  Lonely dogs bark day and night, disturbing the neighborhood.  Lacking socialization, they may fail to bond with their humans.

Here is the best reason for keeping your dog in the house with you.  He will become your loving companion, amaze you with his unique personality, comfort you when you are sick, and communicate without speaking in ways you could never imagine.

PS – Please send me an email if this article changed your mind, and you brought your dog indoors.  

Janetmcafee8@gmail.com

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