Until I got a dog spring fever meant baseball, my father’s favorite sport. He was a Kansas City Chiefs fan and never walked away from a pick-up or league game he didn’t love and usually won. To this day I hate baseball because of one too many days of sitting in the hard stands in the soulless, treeless baking summer heat where at least one season a year I’d burn my thighs sitting on the aluminum bleacher. The wood ones were no picnic either, especially getting the splinters out of my thighs.
 
The other thing spring fever conjures up is young love. So many cliché ideas about that topic that we don’t need to expound on it.
 
My neighbor is a master gardener and I think spring fever to him is buying the plants and figuring out how to get his hands dirty creating beauty outdoors after a long, hard winter.
 
But until I got a dog I never really knew the meaning of spring fever. Spring means longer days and warmer which is wonderful. At my house it means more walks hanging on to a leash than I ever knew possible in one day. I guess that’s a good thing after all the winter weight that somehow made its way to my body, but it can still be annoying dealing with a dog who has made it known that spring has sprung.
 
According to the American Kennel Club, “For dogs and other mammals, part of the answer lies in a tiny clump of cells — called the suprachiasmatic nucleus — located in the brain’s center. These little clusters of neurons are the springs that drive mammalian biological clocks. Because these cells are hooked up to the eyes, they respond to changes in daylight, triggering the release of sleep-inducing hormone melatonin when it’s dark. More light, on the other hand, cuts back on the flow of melatonin.” Just, great. Extend the light during daylight savings time and decrease my dog’s need to sleep. Yeah!
 
Spring also means changes in sex drives for humans, conception rates peak in spring, but also in dogs. The canine reproductive cycles are most active between February and May. Even if your dog is fixed he or she can still have those urges. Trust me, when walking your pooch, you’ll only witness this when there are children under the age of five walking their dog with embarrassed parents who don’t know how to explain humping. Gives me the giggles every time. Our dogs all come spayed or neutered as part of the adoption fee.
 
We humans in Wisconsin and other winter weather places sometimes call it having cabin fever. Whatever you call it, being stuck inside except to do battle trying to get to work is simply not fun. Like humans, dogs get spring fever, too. They’ve been stuck indoors all winter and now it’s time to go, go, go! At least that’s the case with my dog.
 
If you have met Coconut you will know he is a social animal. Spring to him means more dogs, more kids, more people! Everything that makes him happy. And the possibility of more food outside from spilled trashcans. Spring is the time for Coconut to demand, in no uncertain terms, four or more walks a day. A day!
 
Let’s look at ways we can take advantage of spring energy and burn those extra pounds while socializing our dogs.
 
1. Unlike his person my dog loves to shop. An increasing number of stores allow dogs inside without being a service dog. TJMaxx and Lowes are my two favorite Oshkosh stores that welcome dogs with open arms, Lowes even stocks up on dog biscuits. Ross’s, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, Macy’s, Bath and Body Works, and other stores say they are dog-friendly. Always call ahead to ask if your particular store permits pups.
 
2. Exercise with your dog. There are special harnesses for your bike, but not in the city with busy traffic, wonderful hiking trails, playing catch or Frisbee, or agility training all are great ways to take advantage of our spring weather.
 
3. Remember my dad and his baseball games? Parks sometimes have dog sections and how much more fun would a baseball game be with your dog? Just make sure they aren’t spooked by noise, kids, or crowds.
 
4. Patio dining. Maybe it’s all those years of living in Hawaii but dining on the but food consumed while lanai always tastes better to me. We’ll be trying a series of Doggy’s Night Out events to encourage our community to get together and share a meal or drinks. We’ll also be doing our next event at the Ground Round in Oshkosh on June 15th right on their riverside patio. Watch for details!
 
5. Instead of bathing indoor, you can use a kiddie pool, a sprinkler system, or a hose, this might be fun for both of you. Of course, you know your dog best. My dog hates water and an outdoor bath would be a disaster. If you do choose to try it think of a car wash. Bring a bucket of soap and water and wash him with one of those big ridiculous sponges. Keep your dog confined so he doesn’t run through mud or roll around in the dirt and undo what you just cleaned. Washing him outside is a win-win for all. It allows him to happily run and shake freely and prevents you from having a post-bath mess to clean.
 
6. Picnics, walks, runs, dog parks, long car rides, vacations at dog-friendly hotels are wonderful ways to bond, enjoy the soon to be beautiful weather, make new memories, get exercise for both of you, and realize how lucky you are to have a dog. Actually, your dog. Lucky to have your exact dog.
 
Happy Spring Fever!