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When it’s chilly outside, things can get “ruff” when you’re a dog owner.

Regardless of the BRRRRR factor, you will find yourself spending time outdoors, even when the warmth of the fireplace seems so much more appealing!

And I’m not just talking about a little dip in the mercury. I’m chattering about -40 degrees. That wasn’t a typo – I absolutely meant to say MINUS 40 DEGREES!!!

That was the temperature that recently earned the Canadian city of Grande Prairie, Alberta a spot in the top five list of COLDEST PLACES IN THE WORLD on the website

Grande Prairie is where you’ll find the home and 2 insulated pet cabins of my little sister, her husband and their 2 dogs.

Frankie and Sammy are gorgeous, long-haired German Shepherds who are FULL of energy. And they never let their people slack when it comes to filling their lungs full of fresh air and exhausting their magnificent muscles.

“I call them my forced motivation,” said Mary Kukulski.

It gets so cold in Grande Prairie that Mary often wears her ski goggles when she walks her dogs in order to block the wind.

“There are days when you can’t have any skin exposed,” said Mary. “Your eyeballs freeze, your tears freeze. Your breath reaches your eyelashes and creates icicle eyelashes.”

What on earth would make someone want to live in such harsh conditions for the better part of a decade?

“My husband’s paycheck,” laughed Mary, whose husband works in the oil industry. She works for an airline.

And as the snow piles up, they make adjustments to keep their canines content.

“When we snow blow, we create a moat just inside the fence of our yard,” said Mary. “Otherwise the snow piles up so high they could just jump over it and wander out into the neighborhood.  The moat gives them a place to walk around and enjoy some activity while we’re at work.”

The pups go in the house on the super cold days (guess that’s all relative) and are let out mid-afternoon for a potty break, but they prefer being outdoors.

That’s where the pet cabins come in handy – cozy little outdoor homes to protect the dogs from the elements.

“We had to buy insulated doghouses with flaps on the doors,” said Mary. “The flaps help keep them warm and they can let themselves in and out while I’m at work.”

photo (29)Rebecca Pepin | Fetching Apparel

They also have heated water bowls with a cord covered in insulated piping.

As for making this exercise thing happen, Mary has had to be innovative.

“It gets quite icy here so I took my old running shoes and made them into my ice running shoes,” said Mary, who installed sheet metal screws on the bottom of her sneakers.

photo (25)Rebecca Pepin | Fetching Apparel

Although these special shoes don’t help in the deep snow, that doesn’t mean couch time!

“Frankie and Sammy don’t tolerate time off,” said Mary. “They LOVE it (the snow).  They MAKE me go out in the cold. They’re all about it.  We’ll do a 45 minute walk, cross country ski or snow shoe.”

And that’s called “cutting back” for Mary and the pooches. So until they get back up to their activity level of the other seasons, the dogs get a little less food in order to keep them at a healthy weight for the winter.

One of Mary’s favorite discoveries for keeping the dogs moving in the dead of winter – Musher’s Secret.

photo (26)Rebecca Pepin | Fetching Apparel

“It’s a waxy substance that prevents snow and ice from building up in their paws, which can be painful and annoying and they irritate their paws and pads by licking and biting the ice balls,” said Mary.

With all the ice balls, frostbite danger and eyelash icicles, Mary admits there are days that getting out for walk is the last thing she feels like doing.

“But when you get out there it makes you feel happy you did it and they (the dogs) feel happy they got exercise,” said Mary. “If you don’t have dogs, it’s easy to stay inside for six months. But not this kid!”

After all, her fluffy kids would call her on it if she tried.

(How does your pup motivate you? We’d love to hear your comments!)

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