Taking Care of Your Pup Come Winter

“It’s common sense,” Deszcz said. 

Dogs not accustomed to cold weather, she said, should not be out longer than 15 minutes at a time, enough time for them to do their business. Sometimes, if the ground is frozen, an owner should be outside with them to watch and make sure their paws don’t attach to any iced surface. A dog’s paws can crack in cold temperatures, and they may be inclined to lick road salt, so they need to be watched especially when out on walks. 

In winter, she said people should keep dogs inside, but she knows of several of her customers who are the athletic sort, who may be taking their pets out for extended runs. In those cases, she suggests a balm or wax for a dog’s feet. Both keep the dog’s paws safe from cracking and from road salt. That’s especially important for people who live in apartment complexes that constantly salt their sidewalks.

Some dogs, like Newfoundlands or huskies, may want to stay outside in the snow, them having multiple coats of fur. Short haired or smaller pups may need a little help.

“If you have a short haired dog, they do like to wear little coats,” she said. 

Deszcz also reminded that dogs will need to drink water, even if it’s cold outside, especially after walking or running.

A small, colorful storefront in Port Jefferson Station, behind two doors at the local Hounds Town USA, goes back 17 yards of space, with over 20 dogs trying to bark louder than the next. 

Marianne Deszcz has worked at the Hounds Town USA since 2006. In 2012, she came to own the location and has worked there ever since. She has six employees and many others who work seasonally, with a surprising number of teachers coming back in the summers. Deszcz said they can’t seem to stay away from educating whether they have two legs or four.

Marianne Deszcz has worked at the Hounds Town USA since 2006. Photo by Kyle Barr

For years, she has seen both small and big changes in the way people interact with pets.

There’s a little bit of good but plenty of bad as well. 

“People always think the pet business is such a money maker, but they also forget about the liabilities involved,” she said. “For a long time, it was in-home pet sitters, but then they realize Fluffy is going to chew your sheet rock, and that animals pee and poop — not always outside.”

She has seen other trends in the pet industry come and go. When she originally started, the general concept of interactive doggy daycare had boomed, but the idea quickly sputtered over the next few years.

“That was the briefest faze of all, because this is really hard,” she said. “Gauging how a dog will be in a group, being able to walk out of a room to get a mop without the rest of them having a WWE smackdown is really difficult. It’s an expensive business to run, and there’s not a high profit margin here.”

Despite it all, she’s kept with it because, as she said, “I know what I’m doing.” Much of her staff have been with her for years from when she bought the location from the previous owner.

The veteran dog caretaker said one problem is always with animal rescue groups never having enough funding. As ever, animal shelters constantly publicize their residents to try and get them adopted, and there are always more pets that need a home than people looking to adopt.

“Shelters are so overcrowded, and there are so many people who do not take responsibility for their animals and dump them in a shelter or dump them in a rescue,” she said.

As someone who has taken care of dogs for months at a time, she said it has become apparent that less people are doing the work to train their pets. 

“Just walking on a leash, sitting if you ask them to, just the basics,” Deszcz said. “I have noticed that trend. It’s refreshing to us for someone to walk in with a trained dog.”

A Wading River resident, she and her husband own a house on North Country Road notorious for its continuous Halloween decorations, with them sitting on the porch by the nearby duck pond waving to those passing by during the annual Duck Pond Day and the recently held Fall Festival. She herself has owned many dogs, many of them rescues. From her viewpoint, more people have strayed away from buying pure breeds from breeders, instead putting rescue dogs and mutts in their homes.

“People are much more receptive to rescuing now,” she said. “Back when I started, it was very unusual to see a pit bull or a mixed breed. Now people are very receptive to it.”

It’s a turn she said is a result of local rescue groups like those she’s worked with, such as the Port Jefferson Station-based Strong Island Rescue and Southampton’s Last Chance Animal Rescue. She has seen an influx of rescue groups come onto the scene, more than there had been when she started, and their messaging of the plight of abandoned animals seems to have made an impact.