Thursday, January 31, 2008


High: 23° F
Low: 7° F
Conditions: Sunny with unlimited visibility

Ari has started blowing her coat. It doesn’t matter that we still have at least two full months of winter here in Maine, or that it’s super cold outside, or that she’s blanketing the house in fur. She’s a giant, molting mess. She looks terrible, and I think she knows it.

This makes her irritable. And when she’s irritable, she does bad things. Like stealing food out of a backpack. That was zipped. And hanging on a wall hook. In the basement.

To make the caninaturalist feel better (and to save my house from further damage), we’ve set out looking for similar shedding phenomena in nature.

Here’s a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) that’s losing its bark. It looks surprisingly like Ari’s coat. But this is not a great example, since the tree is dead.

We next consider the staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). This plant is distinguished by velvety covering on new sprouts, which protects them from the elements. The staghorn also keeps its furry seedpods through a good part of the winter. This time of year, hungry birds pull apart the flowers, eat the seeds, and then deposit them, undigested, where they will later sprout. This process doesn’t appeal to the caninaturalist, who clearly doesn’t care for the idea of a bluejay stopping by to lunch on her coat. So we moved on.

Our third candidate is the cattail (Typha latifolia). Initially, Ari seems resistant to this comparison as well, especially since the only cattails she knows of are attached to the two cats who like to steal her toys and take food out of her dish. Upon further consideration, however, the caninaturalist softens her resistance. Like Ari, the cattail keeps its fur until late winter. As temps start to fluctuate and the sun returns, it loosens its fur-coated seeds and lets them blow out onto the snow, where it will be carried away by melting waters and grow in settling ponds. We’re getting closer. but Ari’s coat problems aren’t about reproduction. So we move on once again.

The winner of the flora molting contest seems to be our last contender, the white birch (Betula papyrifera). Trees like the maple and oak have a corky bark made up of an accordion of texture and grooves. When the sunlight warms the bark and causes it to expand or, conversely, when the temperature plummets and causes it to contract, the pliability of the bark accommodates these changes. Birch doesn’t have this functionality. So instead of shifting, weaker birch bark splits and then sheds the forfeited pieces. New bark grows in its place. This is not an exact match to a shedding dog, but it’s close.

Ari loves birch—ever since a Passamaquoddy medicine man gave her a piece of the bark to chew, she seeks it out and takes a piece for herself whenever we pass a tree. Now that she knows it is blowing its coat too, I wonder if birch bark will still hold the same metaphysical sway.


Ferndoggle said...

Oh geez Ari...pray your people don't get a furminator. It's EVIL!


Sharon said...

Hi! I enjoyed reading this! I liked the imaginative jump from Ari "molting" the molting in nature with the interesting info to go along!

Rusty says "WOOF"

Khyra The Siberian Husky said...


What khool pikhs your mom took!!

Sharon is spot on - what a khreative way to apply the khoncept of molt!!!

Shed Long & Prosper,

Gary,Charity,Scarlett&Katie said...

Ah, yes... the joys of huskies blowing their coats. I remember it well. It's quite a bit different than a Newf's shedding. I actually think the husky hair is easier to get out. Getting a Newf's dead undercoat out is quite a battle I am finding. Scarlett, our Siberian, is almost 15 and she just doesn't shed much anymore, so at least I get a break with her.

I added your blog to my link list. If you want to add ours the address is below. It's supposed to be a blog for our whole family, but Miss Katie is a blog hog. She likes all the attention for herself. When Louis comes home at the end of March (when he is 9 weeks old) she is going to have to learn to share. Hopefully she will think that her little brother is worth it.


avidreader said...

What an interesting approach to dogs and nature. Thanks!

Marigold said...

Dear Ari,
If you were a goat, your undercoat would be cashmere! On the other hand, Pacific Northwest Indians wove dog hair into quite beautiful things. Perhaps you could convince Kathryn to take it up as a hobby?

Gus and Louie said...

Louie and I seem to never quit sharing according to Mom. She is constantly sweeping up our fur balls. Dad found this tool call the furminator last week that seems to work really well. It is a bit pricy but it really seems to work well..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus and Louie

Lenny said...

Hi Kathryn and Ari! Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm very impressed - I've never met another dog that could open zippers. ;) I have a wire coat, so I don't really shed, but I know how cold it is in Maine! My humans' parents live there.

I can't really PLAY football because a couple of years ago I tore my ACL. But I am a good fan!

Your friend, Lenny

Holly said...

We are having the same molting problems here too. The weather is screwy though here. Was below zero and single digits for a couple weeks, then for one weekend it was in the 50's, and then back into single digits. No wonder our bodies are all confused!!


Dmitri said...

The molt is just in time for Imbolc, the ancient Celtic holiday marking the return of light and the coming of spring. You could say Ari is dialed into the seasonal shifts, as the year moves from old woman to young maiden. Then again, maybe molting's just molting. Or blowing the coat: that's a great phrase--sounds like a kind of anger management technique to deal with possible midwinter blues! All the best there Ari and Kathryn,

PKPWV said... did you get into the backpack! Wow you are talented!!


Blue said...

Hi there!

I am so glad you visited me a while back & that brought me to you. I find your approach so refreshing, it's a delight to read. Dogs & nature, two of my loves all in one place - great.
The molt comparrison was inspired.

Best wishes, pats & pets to Ari.

Simba said...

You could make another dog out of the fur on that brush.

Simba xx

Belle said...

Clever girl!

Fay said...

Oh Ari! Why are you blowing your coat so early? It's ok, my pack is blowing theirs too and the whole house is covered in dog hair. The rough coated BC's are going to pieces!

Loved the pictures Kathryn! Thank you,