About this time every year, when the redbuds start blooming, the toms start strutting and the white bass start running upriver, I must deal with coat issues. My chessie has one of the densest coats I’ve ever seen, far thicker than any of my other chessies, my old lab or virtually any other dog south of the Arctic circle. I’ve always joked that she’s the musk oxen of the canine world. I don’t complain during duck season, because neither icy water nor thorn-tipped thickets can penetrate her coat. But eventually, the bill for that dense coat comes due, in the form of a period of time in the spring when her winter coat starts blowing out. It starts with a dull sheen to her coat, perhaps a little tuft here and there, floating on the breeze, caught on the fence. But like the first few gentle flakes that precede a raging blizzard, those innocent-looking fuzzballs are the advance guard, the shock troops for an annual deluge known around my house simply as “the shed.”

I try to minimize and control it. I brush her endlessly, filling garbage sacks, dumpsters, and entire landfills with dead fur, all to no avail. For several weeks we live in a sort of floating brown haze. Birds, squirrels and field mice from a three-county area converge on my house for the warmest nest-building material around. My entire wardrobe, regardless of cloth, becomes a sort of sedge-colored mohair. And then finally, after three weeks or so of near-constant grooming, brushing, sweeping, raking, bathing and more brushing, a sleek new dog sporting a shiny summer coat emerges from the hairy fog.

This year, however, I decided that I was going to dispense with shedding season altogether and perform a preemptive full-body shave, something I’ve never before attempted with a dog. I chose Monday as S-day, a warm, sunny, windless day that would be perfect for shaving a large, hairy, recalcitrant canine. Then, on Monday, as I was about to do battle with millions of hair follicles, I got the forecast for Tuesday. Plunging temperatures. Snow. Freezing rain. Sleet. Single-digit windchills. So here I sit Wednesday morning with a quarter-inch of ice coating every outdoor surface, fruit trees with dead, frozen, useless blooms, and one very happy, very hairy old dog who gets to enjoy her winter wardrobe for one more week. I guess the moral of this story is twofold: One, someone needs to shoot that damnable groundhog, and two, make sure warm weather is here to stay before breaking out the clippers.

Anyone else give their dog(s) a preemptive spring trim? If so, when do you usually do it?

Photo by RLHyde on Flickr