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Matthew Sisk: Don't leave your pet out in the freezing cold
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Her name is Sweetie. Named prior to my family’s adopting her, and the name confirmed by my young son upon her arrival, she is our family dog.

Possessed of a neurotic personality rooted in stranger danger and a universal fear of cats, Sweetie still defends my home on a daily basis. That means barking and running into the bedroom when the UPS truck arrives. But I’m sure if it ever came down to it, she’d be a savage protector. At least her heart would be.

Still, my favorite function in her repertoire is as a furry heater.

You see, she is covered in hair. Despite her protestations, she is good at staying warm when it’s cold outside. If it snows and my kids and I are out in the yard sledding or waging snowball warfare, she’s there, supervising. And when I get a chill after a fall off the sled or after enduring a snowball barrage, she saunters up and I hug her. And suddenly I’m warm. Dogs are funny that way.

The same is true of humans, of course. Huddling together combines and conserves body heat to the benefit of all. So remember that when you see your pets outside.

Ideally, they’ll agree to adopt an indoor lifestyle, similar to a human life. That keeps them out of trouble in many ways and reduces their exposure to the elements. That’s important at this time of year. But if necessity dictates an outdoor lifestyle, monitor them closely. If they huddle together, a flag should be raised. The time to temporarily bring them in may be at hand.

Of course, you may see warnings on your local weather broadcast that notify you of dangerously low temperatures and risks to pets. Take heed of those.

Your dog or cat is better equipped to handle cooler weather, but that only goes so far. When standing water outside freezes, living tissue will as well. And living tissue dies when it freezes.

If it’s too cold for you outside in a light coat, consider bringing them in. Share your warmth.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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