Winter. For some it’s a six-letter word wrapped up in four-letter feelings. And I get it--the bleak, gray skies, the brownish icy sludge along the streets that used to be snow--it can mess with your mojo. But I have this theory that having a dog can change how you feel about winter. If you find yourself getting stuck in a winter rut (i.e., hiding under seven layers of blanket, ordering a steady stream of takeout), try teaming up with your dog to get out of your comfort zone and find some new favorite activities together. It might change your outlook and it will certainly cut down on your takeout budget.
Whether I’m spending the weekend in the city or upstate, my dog Pancho and I have some go-to winter traditions we love. Feel free to try some of our faves.
If we stay in the city:
● I have a favorite little coffee spot conveniently located between my apartment and the dog park that makes the perfect soy au lait, a necessity in the morning to ensure I am awake and warm while Pancho plays with the other pups. Plus, the coffee shop gives out dog treats, so Pancho practically drags me directly there if I’m still in my pre-coffee morning stupor. Very helpful.
● We love to visit the farmer’s market since it’s outdoors (thus allowing dogs) and a great way to stock up on healthy options. Plus, local artists and vendors are there too, so I can enjoy a little retail therapy with Pancho in tow. Bonus!
● There are so many pet-friendly restaurants in the city. We love to sit outside and meet friends for lunch on a sunny winter afternoon. Without a dog, I’d probably never think to sit outside during winter, but it’s sort of amazing. Try it (with a super warm jacket and a heat lamp, preferably).
● There’s no better place to visit than Central Park in winter. If we wake up early and head there, it’s like having a massive, private backyard. Pancho can chase squirrels that he never catches and I can laugh at Pancho chasing squirrels that he never catches. (Don’t worry, Pancho, this is character building.) If my husband is joining us, we love a long walk (or run if we are feeling super ambitious) around the reservoir and duck pond. There’s plenty of fresh air and room to move and nobody honking or yelling at us to get out of the way, so it’s pretty great.
● Of course, there are days when there are tons of errands to run and shopping to do, but Pancho loves to come along for the ride. And I find that having him there keeps me calm and less likely to overtire or overextend. I’ll say, “Let’s get you back home, Pancho.” But I really mean both of us.
If we escape the city and head upstate:
● Pancho is like a little kid and wakes up SO much earlier because he is dying to go outside and play. It’s adorably annoying. (Or annoyingly adorable.) I get bundled up and we head out on a long hike. He loves exploring and following all the new scents, and he’s not a bad personal trainer either. He’ll run ahead and then turn around and look at me like, “Come on already, hurry up!” It’s good motivation without all the spandex.
● Because of these early mornings, we are big fans of an afternoon nap. Pancho is just as good as snuggling on the couch as he is at jumping on me as a sign he wants some exercise, and a nap together feels indulgent and restorative. I can’t quite say the same for that bottle of red wine last night, however…
● If it’s snowing, I put on snowshoes (totally worth a small investment) and Pancho bounds in and out of the tracks I make. We also play a lot of snowball fetch, which is entertaining for both of us. (Also, why hasn’t anybody made a million GIFs of dogs fetching snowballs? Watching them would be a 100% effective anti-depressant.)
These little winter scenes are some of my favorite times with my dog. Without Pancho, it would be so easy to grit my teeth and hide under a blanket until May, but who wants to live like that? Dogs for the win (again).