Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Secret Shame

I love almost everything about Autumn. The low sun filtered through blazing maples on our street, apple crisp in the oven scenting our home, cool nights replacing the humid nights of summer – all make my heart sing. Unfortunately, the change in temperature also signals a return to my secret shame.

Our black Labrador Rosie died five years ago, and we agreed our next dog would be smaller, but with a similar, easy-going temperament. After a lot of research, I decided on a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Despite the fact that this new puppy was akin to having a toddler in the house again – a clingy toddler with sharp teeth and no diaper - I loved Buddy, also known as The Love Sponge, and he certainly has lived up to both monikers.

When I chose this breed, I admit I did not take into consideration that Cavaliers do not tolerate the cold very well. The regal name should have been a tip off; even his colouring smacks of gentility. He’s not brown and white, but “Blenheim” after Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. However, everything I read said that even though ladies of the court kept warm on long carriage rides by cuddling these little critters, Cavaliers were also hardy hunting dogs who have been bred for centuries to run through the countryside and flush game.

What the experts did not say was that after allowing your Cavie to run and sniff through aforementioned countryside with all of its detritus, people will wonder why you are walking a dirty Swiffer. And if there is any snow on the ground, it will collect on the long chest and leg feathers as though someone wrapped the dog in a length of pom-pom fringe. But most importantly, at the least hint of cold weather, a Cavie will turn into a whiney baby who will persistently and stubbornly claw at your legs, begging to snuggle into your coat. To his tiny dog brain, a down-filled jacket is really no more than a fashionable, portable duvet with buttons, one which was clearly transported on a human’s back just to be available to him. Heck, he sneaks onto beds at home. Why should this be any different?

The only solution was a dog jacket or sweater, and therein lies my shame. The dog could tolerate wearing a jacket, but could I tolerate walking beside him while he wore it in public? It wasn’t as though I was putting bows on him, or rhinestone collars, or little doggie sunglasses and a hat. It was for a very practical reason. Shouldn’t I do everything in my power to make my dog comfortable? I resisted, but after yet one more walk beginning with a bouncing dog and ending with a shivering, wet mess stubbornly refusing at the halfway mark to walk another step, the answer was a qualified yes.

In my quest for a simple, unobtrusive and practical dog ensemble, I was amazed by the vast array of outfits available for the fashion conscious canine - fuzzy pink pajamas with a discreet tail hole, a faux-leather Harley Davidson jacket and cap, a hooded sweatshirt with pockets… Come on. A hood? Biker jacket? Pockets? A dog needs pockets like a fish needs shoes. I couldn’t bring myself to buy any of it. I just wanted something functional and low-key to keep the little critter warm. So I did what any resourceful suburban mom would do when she needs information – I went to the park and asked around.

Sure enough, I spied a feisty Jack Russell in a fetching yet modest little jacket (without pockets or emblems.) Turns out it was made by a local woman working from her home. I took her business card and wondered how I was going to explain to my husband that I was taking Buddy to a canine couturier to be fitted for a couple of custom, made-to-measure, dog coats. I thought I’d hit a new low when she snapped her tape measure shut, tilted her head, and suggested matching boots to protect against road salt. I figured I had to draw the line somewhere and declined.

Now my husband, like our kids, refuses to walk Buddy unless the dog is in his birthday suit. So each Fall, when the air has a bit of a nip, I take a bit of a nip too before heading out with Buddy in his lined, waterproof, tailored, plaid coat. My husband jokes that in his next reincarnation, he wants to come back as my dog, minus the goofy wardrobe. I steel myself for the comments or looks of disdain from the owners of those big rugged, manly dogs. Ah, what do they know? Are their dogs descended from royal laps and hunting parties? Doesn’t my dog have the same rights as….oh, what’s the use. I admit it. I’m ashamed I have a girlie-boy dog in a jacket. Sometimes, life’s a bitch, disguised in togs for dogs.

And in case you don't believe me, just look at the poor bugger:


Jennifer Hendren said...


I FEEL your shame. (g) We adopted a terrier mix this past April, and since the weather has turned colder, the poor dear has been constantly shaking. We haven't even had any snow yet. So yeah, we cowboy'd up and bought her a sweater.

So far we've only put it on her a few times -- in the house, no gawkers. We all sort of sit around staring at her, disbelief slashed on our features, unable to believe we've had to resort to such measures.

Umm, did I mention she's not technically MY dog. _MY_ dog doesn't need such frills. Whew.

Nice blog, btw. The A to Z list is priceless. :)


A Novel Woman said...

HI Jen!

I think there is a market for dog coats that look like dogs' coats, if you catch my drift. A jumpsuit type deal, like camouflage for canines. Knit them, make them from furs, cowhide...I don't care, just sell me something that lets my dog look like a dog and not an ugly child in a bad jacket being hauled around on a leash. I'd buy one.

Deniz Bevan said...

oh but look at that face!! Who could resist him?

A Novel Woman said...

Deniz, these dogs are tiny devils in disguise. Don't be deceived. As soon as your back is turned, their true natures are revealed - thong eating, Kleenex chewing neurotics.

helgor said...

A friend of mine has four of these little sweeties.

Truly beautiful dogs even if they are a bit, um, sensitive.


Michelle said...

I had a toy poodle as a teen which wouldn't go out without his knitted (red with polo neck, cable panels and tiny buttons)sweater on.

Poodles have no shame when it comes to style!

A Novel Woman said...

Hi Michelle! Welcome to my blog. Oh, poodles are the worst when it comes to dressing up and prancing around. My mom had one, Coco, who loved to come home from the groomer all poofed up, with a bow in his hair. Sorry, "topknot" or whatever that thing is called. He was also epileptic and three-legged, which didn't help with the seizures...

How did you find my blog, if you don't mind my asking.

And I love the photos I saw on your Crow's Feet blog. I'm going to have a closer look later.

Michelle said...


I never remember where i've been online so I use that "email replies to this post" thing. Anyway... you had replied to a friend of mine's blog (Betty "Howling in Silence"), about your black lab. I was bored and looking for something to read, you sounded nice... I thought I'd go look at your blog.

That's how I found you. :-)

Janet McConnaughey said...

Here's a more masculine style

A Novel Woman said...

Hi Janet!

Okaaaay. So what you're saying is he can look like a more masculine tea cosy?

Granted, it's slightly better, but I still think it's like asking him if he wants to chew rocks or eat a dead squirrel.

(Okay, bad example. Buddy has done both.)

Terri Belich said...

I am laughing so hard I can hardly type my comment!! Your wonderful niece, Linda Hathorn, sent me the link to "My Secret Shame" the first time she met Beckham, a very handsome Shitzu and our newest baby. Fortunately, Linda & Donnie's monsterous (and oh-so loveable!) Newfoundland was on his leash at our first meeting! ;)

Donnie coaches my son's soccer team and has enjoyed a few smart remarks about Beckham's winter fleecewear. Rotten, mean coach! ;) Fortunately, Linda ran a conditioning camp for my daughter's team so we came up with a few 'ha, ha NOW who's the boss' comments to shoot back. Donnie still rolls his eyes at Beck, but having Linda around ensures he'll keep his girly-dog remarks to himself! I absoLUTEly plan to cuddle up with a cup of tea and indulge myself with your blogsite... as soon as I wipe away the tears of laughter and fetch Beck's snuggly! ;) Thanks for the grins, my new friend!

A Novel Woman said...

Thanks for the comments Terri! Welcome aboard.

Anonymous said...

LOL! We used to have a dachshund when my kids were young. He was so macho, but so cold-blooded. He had a sweater with stars on it. They called it his star-bellied sneetch sweater! He only tolerated it when it was cold.
Perhaps you wouldn't feel so ridiculous if you had a cow-patterned sweater in his coat color?
Less noticeable.
Suz in the Tules

Anonymous said...

LOLOL! I just read your comment about an ugly child being hauled around on a leash!
I put antlers and hats on my German Shepherd. He absolutely won't tolerate it and gives me the dirtiest looks!