Toe Jam on IceFeb 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Gayle Morrow
Imagine this semi-gross scenario. You walk around without shoes, and then you use your tongue to clean the bottoms of your feet and between your toes. Yuck. Of course, dogs, cats, and their wild brethren do this all the time (one more reason to perhaps not be so ecstatic when our feline and canine pals want to give us a slobbery swipe across the mouth), since, as Gary Larson might point out, they lack opposable thumbs, so using a washcloth is not an option for them. The tongue works just fine—until they’ve walked through something that doesn’t agree with them or, worse, is poisonous.
My little dog, Hildy (above), loves the snow—under certain conditions. When there is an accumulation of the light, fluffy kind, her walks are joyous events. She capers and twirls, she scoops up mouthfuls, her gait is brisk, her ears bouncy. If the temperature is not in the Arctic range, she can sniff all the things that need to be sniffed, and take her time finding just the right spot to do her thing.
Not so much when the digits are single, however. Then her digits don’t cooperate—she puts on her best sad dog face, she hitches one foot up and hobbles on three legs, and, if that doesn’t get us back in the house ASAP, she’ll sit and just refuse to walk. Cue the violin music, right? We’ve been outside only thirty seconds and I know she has to pee! So, inside we go, and she then proceeds, somewhat dramatically, to lick the non-existent ice balls from between her tortured toes. Hildy has an amazing bladder, but I don’t need Ancestry.dog to tell me she doesn’t have any close husky or malamute relatives.
We’re lucky, however, that none of the places we walk have salt or other chemicals on them, but you and your dog (or cat, for that matter, as some folks do walk their kitties) may not be so fortunate. What to do?
You can wipe your dog’s paws off when you get back in the house, before she has a chance to get the tongue out. Hildy is not a candidate for canine footwear, but perhaps your four-legged companion is—doggie boots, on the feet of a willing pooch, can be an easy solution to the problem of trekking around on salt or other foot-irritating substances.
Shoveling is, obviously, an option. If all you and your pet need is traction, try sand, sawdust, kitty litter, wood ash, or cinders. You might also try animal-friendly ice melting products on the walkways under your jurisdiction, and you can ask your neighbors to do the same. There are lots of different brands out there (just make sure to read the labels), and many of them are available at your local hardware or pet supply stores. If that afore-mentioned neighbor needs convincing, you could offer to share your favorite product—“See how well it works?” you might say with a big smile.
You can also make your own non-toxic de-icer. Mix equal amounts of water and white vinegar, then pour or spray on snowy or icy surfaces. Or, try mixing a half-gallon of warm water, 4 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, and 1 teaspoon/six drops of Dawn dish detergent—pour that over the surface that needs de-icing.
Check out grist.org/article/de-salt-of-the-earth/ for more helpful info, then go get comfy with the dog, peruse the seed catalogs, and pretend it’s spring.