Close X

Home » Doggie Style

Winter Survival Tips for the Frequent Dog Walker

The snowstorm that's blanketed the northeast has certainly made urban life with dogs more challenging. In addition to the safety hazards for dogs previously discussed...

Julia Szabo  |  Jan 28th 2011


The snowstorm that’s blanketed the northeast has certainly made urban life with dogs more challenging. In addition to the safety hazards for dogs previously discussed here – includingsidewalks paved with paw-burning rock salt andpaw-piercing glass lurking beneath snowy drifts – there are a few choice hazards that lie in wait for the dog walker.

I daresay the walker’s safety is just as important as the dog’s, because who will walk the dog ifthe human isout of commission?

As corrosive as it is to canine paws, the horrible chemical salt that’s poured out all over city streets doesn’t do much to prevent ice formationthe next day. Here’s anecdotal evidence that a product’s high toxic chemical content does nothing toguarantee its effectiveness. Yesterday, I scattered non-toxic Safe Paw Ice Melter all along the stretch of sidewalk in front of my building, and it had remarkable staying power, keeping that wholearea ice-free. Down the block, where they use the toxic stuff, it was a very different story: The sidewalk was still icy.

Extremely icy.

I can personally vouch for the iciness of that stretch of street because, at 7 a.m. today, just a few minutes into my last dog-walking shift of the morning, I slipped and fell hard, badly bruising the entire left side of my body, especially my arm and thigh.I’m grateful that my knee didn’t break the fall, but my elbow managed to get skinned through my fleece-lined North Face jacket. How is that even possible? Sheesh, I thought these pricey garments were rated for mountain climbing!

My big mistake was stepping out in rubber boots without sufficient traction.The boots I swear by were stillsoggy early this morning,which is whyI switched to the Wellies.On my to-do list for today issearchingfor a pair of backup boots with serious treaded soles, for those times when the otherboots are too wet to walk in. But first, something had to be done about the pain and bruising.

Happily, yesterday I’d stocked up on Arnica, the homeopathic remedy for trauma. Today, the Arnica tube is safely tucked in my inside pocket right next next to the lip balm.Everything would surely hurt a lot more without it!

Another remedy to keep on hand in the event of a fall is PanAway by Young Living. This brilliant essentialoil blend was recommended to me by my excellent chiropractor. Its inventor, Gary Young,formulated it aftersuffering a severe injury to the ligaments in his leg. Panaway really works to soothe the skin, bring warmth to sore muscles, reduce inflammation, and increase circulation, in humans anddogs(its key ingredients are wintergreen and lemongrass essential oils).

Less dramatic – but no less annoying – injuries can also occur from frequent dog-walking in cold weather. If you’re not careful, your hands can become extremely chapped. I almost always wear gloves, but sometimes, in the rush to get the dogs out, the gloves either stay in my pocket orin the apartment. My palms are normally quite dry, so if I forget to moisturize them, the result is definitely not pretty: The other day, I noticedtwo road maps of brown lines. The leather leash had actually tanned my palms, the dye seeping into the cracks in my skin. Lovely!

The best fix for this is Neem Leaf& Oil Cream. I’ve been applying it more liberally than usual, adding a few drops of Neem Oil tomy palms at bedtime, to speed healing. I’ve also beenbetter aboutnotleaving my gloves behind. But the hands aren’t the only appendages that can dry upto the cracking point.

I must have been lax about moisturizing myfeet in recent days, because the skin on my right heel split wideopen. I got a sense of how it must have felt when my dog Rudy stepped on that piece of glass last week – walking multiple dogs, multiple times on ahurt heel is not fun.

Don’t make my mistake: Keep a really good moisturizer in really good supply, especially if your skin is prone to dryness,and use it several times daily on your feet, because winter socks will suck whatever moisture was there clear out of your skin. My favorite brand is Weleda Skin Food, because it comes in a handy metal tube and contains no chemical preservatives.

In case your heel does become cracked, here’s what works for me: Several-times-daily application of Buck Mountain Wound Balm, the same ointment I used on Rudy for the glass cut on his paw-pad. This super-effective salve contains burdock, yarrow, and echinacea, and it’s doing wonders to heal my heel. Nice to be able to save money and time by sharing first-aid items with one’s dogs!

Do you have any winter survival tips? Please share them in the comments!