You know it’s very cold outside when the poodle refuses to go out.

I awake early.  Most mornings I am out of bed before 5:30.  This morning I was out of bed earlier, for no reason in particular, drinking my espresso by 4:45 a.m.  Apparently, the poodle decided to sleep in; he did not follow me out of the bedroom nor did he seek me out asking to go out for his morning business.  He appears a half-hour later though, just after I have finished reading sections of The Wall Street Journal and after my second cup of espresso.

I greet him with an enthusiastic “ Good morning” and a pat to the head and then I open the door for him to go out.  A blast of frigid air greets us both.  Oh my God….it is COLD!  The poodle stands in the doorway with his nose in the air sniffing;  he is conducting a quick assessment of the outside environment.

“Go…Go,” I say shivering (I am still in my robe and pajamas, mind you).  Poodle is not budging.  Anthropomorphically speaking, he gives me this look that suggests: Are you nuts? You try doing your business in these arctic conditions!

“Are you kidding me?” I say in exasperation.  I try to nudge him with my foot.  “Go…now” I say again with a more authoritative voice.  Nothing doing.  He stubbornly stands in the open doorway.  I try a ruse that works nearly every time I use it when he’s being stubborn about going out when I want him to:  “Squirrel…Brando!  Go get the squirrel.”  He does not move.

You can’t fool me this time, his expression suggests.

“Oh for heaven’s sake!” I say as I wrap my robe tightly about me and head outside.  Normally, he follows me.  Instead what does he do?  He sits inside the doorway.  “No way!” I almost yell.   I’m freezing my derriere while this poodle is standing in the doorway refusing to go out in the cold.  Incredible.

I think for an instant of the team of standard poodles who completed the grueling 1,100-mile Anchorage to Nome Alaska Iditarod sled dog race.   My poodle cannot be a namby-pamby wimp!  Besides, he is sporting his longer winter coat precisely for colder conditions.

COME…NOW,”  I say in an oddly satanic-sounding voice.    AH…now the poodle steps out of the doorway, but still, does not go out into the yard.    Pointing out into the yard, again in my satanic voice, I say: “GO… PEE…NOW.”

There was probably only a second or two of hesitation on the poodle’s part (though standing there in the freezing cold it may as well have been minutes), but finally he complies.

He makes a running bee-line to his spot and in two blinks of an eye he has accomplished his morning ritual and is running back to the door.  No sniffing around the bushes in the yard in his customary fashion and no hunting for squirrels or birds. He’s one smart poodle.   “Bravo Brando,” I say hugging him once he is back inside.

I then check the temperature on my iPhone.  No wonder.  It’s five degrees outside.  The high for today may get to 29 degrees.  Folks in Alabama aren’t used to these cold temperatures.  An early morning news report states the area’s power grid is being severely strained; the power company is asking people to cut back on their usage as there are already sporadic accounts of power outages.  This is not difficult for me. I prefer cooler temperatures in the house and sleeping in a cold bedroom, under the warmth of a down comforter.  There are health benefits to keeping a cooler house after all, not to mention savings on the monthly utility bill.  Last month our utility bill was almost $500…that’s incentive enough for me to turn down the thermostat!    I’ve got the house thermostat set to 65 degrees and I’m wearing my cashmere wrap around my shoulders for extra warmth.  Rocket-man isn’t too happy.  It’s too cold in the house for him.  “Go put on a sweater,” I say.

“….and besides,” I add…”shivering burns more calories.”

For your entertainment, here’s a Johnny Carson YouTube clip about poodles in the Iditarod.  If I were ever to move to Alaska…. (OK….THAT IS NOT HAPPENING) …I’d be inclined to try this with my poodle.