If you think winter weather is frightful for humans, just imagine what’s going through the mind of your four-legged friend. There can be no more unpleasant sight than his backyard bathroom covered in several feet of fresh powder.
Seriously, you know the feeling of settling down on a ceramic toilet seat on a February morning in a room with no heat — it’s not pleasant. Now imagine feeling that sensation after walking from the bedroom to the bathroom naked and neck deep in snow.
Our beloved Rocky came to us from the great state of Tennessee. Home of the Vols and Graceland. Also home to a warm, Southern climate. Born in June 2011 and adopted by my wife and me in August of the same year, our little Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix had no idea what snow was until he found himself surrounded by it the following January at our home in Quincy, Mass.
Now, in some ways, he loves it. Give him a tennis ball and a snowbank and he can push the ball into the pile all day. And if properly motivated and curious, he turns into the Arctic Explorer and wanders into the deep end.
But on a cold, snowy morning, with the winds whipping and the deck and yard covered in several inches, Rocky will stand at the doorway threshold and whimper and mope, begging us to not make him trudge up to his shoulders just to do his business.
It’s a pathetic sight, and Susan and I realized after his first humiliating and frozen-furred foray that something needed to be done.
There was only one solution. We call it the PTP.
Path to Poop (and Pee).
It sounds so simple, and amazingly, it is. All you need is some canine compassion — and a shovel.
The strategy is simple. For every three or four inches of fresh show, we head out onto our deck and shovel a direct path from the back door, across the deck, down the stairs, and into the yard. From the stairs, we shovel a small walkway, a safe corridor, leading out to the main PTP landing area.
Once there — about 20 feet past the deck and into his favorite corner of the yard for business-doing — the corridor gives way to a pitcher’s mound-size circle, a space big enough for Rocky to feel comfortable, make a spin or two, then assume the position without his cute white belly contacting the cold white snowfall.
The challenge, of course, are storms like the ones we’ve had here in Eastern Mass., absorbed over the past four weeks. The first one was a blizzard that dumped 26 inches on Quincy. Do the math, 26 divided by 3 is roughly 9 — and that’s the number of times between 9 p.m. on Monday and 6 p.m. on Tuesday that Susan and I cleared out the PTP.
We even took turns. Susan went to sleep at 11 p.m., while I stayed up and shoveled at midnight and 2:30 a.m. Then Susan took over with shovel shifts and 5 a.m. and 7:30. Despite our best efforts, Rocky basically eschewed the whole process and held it in all day. He has no future with the Post Office.
Now, after another five feet of snow a week after three more mega-storms that set a Boston record for most in a single month (85 inches), Rocky’s PTP looks like Hoth, or, keeping with the theme, that climactic scene from Star Wars, where Luke flies his X-wing inside those huge, narrow trenches before dropping his explosive down the shaft. The side-walls are twice as tall as he is.
Next year, we have a new plan for Rocky’s bathroom breaks in winter. We’re moving to San Diego.
Here, in picture form, is the step-by-step process of creating a PTP:
1. Recoil in horror upon opening the back door
2. Regroup and start at the beginning
3. If your deck leads out into the yard, that first step down can be a doozy. Don’t forget to clear the stairs
4. Take a break. No heart attacks, please!
5. OK, back to work. Create as much of a narrow path as necessary opening out to the “sweet spot”
6. Don’t forget: Size matters
7. The finished product … until the next storm fills it all back in. Clear, shovel, repeat
His PTP complete, the Arctic Explorer ventures out into the wild white yonder.
Read more about dogs and this weather we’re having:
- Blizzard Helped Return This Dog, Gone From Home for Five Months
- A Goldendoodle’s Snowy Romp Goes Viral During the Boston Blizzard
- Haiku by Dog: Loving the Snow and All Its Possibilities
About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).