Is it just me, or was this January about the longest in the history of western civilization?

With its five Thursdays (which means five Houston Heralds) and weather that has done some see-sawing but has obviously been on the dang-cold side more often than not, this month has seemed to drag on and on. With about seven weeks still to go, this winter has already been the coldest I’ve experienced in my life – by far. That’s in large part thanks to January, and I suppose the relentless cold has a lot to do with the month seeming so long.

I really never thought I’d see a thermometer display a temperature below zero as many times as the one on the well house at our remote Texas County high country outpost has this season (for the record, the lowest temperature I ever saw in Georgia was zero, and the lowest I ever saw in Seattle was seven). I’d say it has done so about a dozen times since the whole cold thing began, and if it’s not below the line at 6:50 a.m., it’s often very near it or right on it, like on Tuesday morning this week when it was at exactly zero.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Now that February is on the radar, it’s hard not to hope for a run of more “seasonable” temperatures (like in the low 40s). But let’s face it, we’re talking about February – basically the meat of winter – so more cold could be on the menu (probably sooner than later).

Of course, the Farmer’s Almanac and persimmon seeds predicted a cold, snowy winter, and if I’m not mistaken, that included a harsh February. Nevertheless, the U.S. media and plenty of easily-amused Americans will turn Sunday to another source of weather information, as Punxsutawney Phil – the infamous prognosticating woodchuck of the small town in eastern Pennsylvania – once again grabs headlines on Ground Hog Day.

Personally, I’ve never been a big Phil fan. And history shows that his record is only about .500 (with as many misses as hits), so flipping a Susan B. Anthony dollar would be about as accurate. So would simply guessing, which is all a ground hog could do, if it could, which of course it can’t.

Phil’s gig and the Super Bowl being on the same day notwithstanding, perhaps there’s good news about where the rest of winter is headed in south-central Missouri. At least, there is if there’s any merit in something my wife Wendy pointed out the other day.

She said that as our semi-celebrity Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Jamie, was hanging out in the house, she looked down at him and noticed a bunch of loose fur on his 35-pound frame. After brushing about a Walmart bag full of hair off of him, she sent me an email that said he wouldn’t be shedding if more frigid weather was in the offing, so spring must be just around the corner.

Hmmm, I thought. An interesting situation.

Why, indeed, would the Big Lug be loosing layers if he was going to need them in the near future? To be sure, Jamie is always somewhat of a canine hair storm, but to a lesser extent during the colder months, so the fact he has become the Shed-meister a bit early this year could be meaningful. Maybe he knows something the persimmons don’t and actually can “shed” light on the subject.

Whatever the case, Jamie naturally scoffs at the notion of gleaning climatic information from P. Phil.

“Why listen to an overgrown rodent?” he said. “I’ve got your answer right here in this Walmart bag.”

“So I guess monitoring Corgi fur is a much more reliable and accurate way of forecasting weather than the opinion of a woodchuck and the random casting of a shadow,” I said.

“What worthwhile meteorological knowledge could that four-legged butterball possibly have to offer?” Jamie said.

“As opposed to a pudgy Pembroke,” I said, “which is surely a much better source of weather wisdom.”

“I’m just sayin’,” Jamie said.

The annual break in the weather can’t come too soon.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Punxsutawney Phil: "Overgrown rodent," "four-legged butterball."

Punxsutawney Phil: “Overgrown rodent,” “four-legged butterball.”

Jamie: "Pudgy Pembroke," "shed-meister."

Jamie: “Pudgy Pembroke,” “shed-meister.”

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A Corgi’s look at 2013

Although he is well known to be a fan of history and historic events, Jamie has never been one to dwell on the past and he’s usually looking ahead – to his next meal.

But due to popular demand (he demanded because he thinks he’s popular), he recently decided to do a “year in review.” So here’s a look at a scant few snippets of what the Big Lug experienced during 2013, broken down by month.

JANUARY

“It’s cold,” Jamie said. “Wake me up in April.”

FEBRUARY

When a winter storm hit the Ozarks and dumped several inches of snow and sleet topped off with some freezing rain, Jamie had a blast hanging around outdoors in the resulting layer of what seemed like “frozen mashed potatoes mixed with cement.”

“This stuff’s weird,” he said. “My paws don’t go into it, and my claws can’t grab ahold of it. And if I get up any speed, I slide.

“I like it.”

MARCH

When an early spring storm brought wintry weather back to the area and dumped about six inches of snow, Jamie had even more fun since he was able to plow through it instead of having to walk on top of it.

Part of the Big Lug’s enjoyment came from trying to keep up with our other Corgi, Gertie (the Permapup), who is always on the go, but shifts into an even higher gear in the snow. Jamie ran after her as she would literally run in circles at top speed, and then stop suddenly and take a big bite out of the fluffy white stuff, like it was frosting on a gigantic cake.

“That dog’s crazy,” Jamie said. “I like it.”

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

I told Jamie that Gertie can’t help herself, because to her, everything is exciting.

“Even a dead skunk?” Jamie asked. “Or a piece of rotten asparagus?”

“Well, maybe not quite everything,” I said. “But I’d say a dead skunk might just qualify.”

APRIL

Spring settled in, with far more palatable weather, and Jamie got outside and took advantage.

“This is more like it,” he said. “Why don’t we cook some hot dogs over a fire tonight? I might need a little help – no thumbs, you know.”

“Great idea, big man,” I said. “I think we can arrange that. The moon should be out and the coyotes will be singing.”

“Extra bacon grease and chicken gizzards on mine,” Jamie said. “And hold the mustard, ketchup, onions and relish.”

“Nice,” I said. “That’ll be a dog fit for a dog.”

MAY

Wanting both to see what all the hubbub was about and offer suggestions and criticism only a wily, 35-pound  Pembroke Welsh Corgi could, Jamie decided to accompany me on a day at work.

Highlights included having him help proofread stories and ads, select and add captions to photos, and even gather and share breaking news. But when he and I went out to take care of business around town, Jamie was in top form.

Especially at the Houston City Hall, where mayor Don Tottingham and Police Chief Jim McNiell discussed with him the possibility of forming a K-9 unit. But when Jamie brought up his keen ability to find pork chops hidden in fenders, it was apparent that his idea of the job didn’t match up with that of the city officials.

“Uh, Jamie, what they might need even more is an animal that can detect drugs,” I said.

“No chops?” Jamie said.

“Nope,” I said.

“No ginger snaps?” he said.

“Nope,” I said.

“Thanks for your time gentlemen,” Jamie said.

JUNE

Along with me, my wife, a friend and Jamie’s partner in crime, Gertie, the Big Lug more than once went to our favorite local lake for a grill-out and swim.

Unlike Gertie, Jamie’s not too fond of water, but he’s a master swimmer and has no trouble staying on top of the water.

“All right, who wants to race me to the other side?” he said. “Actually, I’ll just go to the edge of these lily pads and then back to shore and leave the rest to y’all. Wouldn’t want to make things too crowded out there. Around water, it’s safety first, I always say.”

“I don’t know, Mr. Phelps,” I said. “Seems to me like you’d simply rather be on dry land.”

“They don’t call me a land manatee for nothing,” Jamie said. “I’m a land lover, and proud of it.”

“I believe that’s landlubber, big man,” I said.

“Whatever,” Jamie said. “When do we grill the Oscar Meyers?”

JULY

“It’s hot,” Jamie said. “Wake me up in October.”

AUGUST

During the incredible onslaught of wet weather at the beginning of the month that brought close to 16 inches of rain to Texas County in about a week, Jamie managed to avoid catastrophe when he went outside to “do” his business – barely.

“A little help over here,” he said. “Throw me a rope or a life preserver!”

“It’s not that bad, big man,” I said. “You’re just standing on a saturated section of grass.”

“Saturated, smaturated,” Jamie said. “I think I just saw a shark fin go by!”

“You’re gonna to need a bigger boat,” I said.

“Funny,” Jamie said. “May a great white swallow your favorite fishing pole and capsize your canoe.”

SEPTEMBER

After finding out that a cat was elected mayor of a small Alaskan town 15 years ago and still holds the office, Jamie was inspired to ponder entering the political arena himself.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that I will seek office in 2014,” he said.

“Yes sir,” I said, “We’ll check back later with your PR people. So just out of curiosity, if you do run, what office do you figure you’ll go after?”

“That has yet to be determined,” Jamie said. “Maybe pork chop commissioner, ginger snap council member, or apple pie administrator. But I intend to announce my intentions soon.”

“Ooh, pins and needles, big man,” I said. “I’m sure your fans will be waiting anxiously for you to intentionally share your intended intentions.”

“Funny,” Jamie said. “Don’t expect to be my assistant.”

NOVEMBER

A visit to a local dog grooming facility allowed Jamie to make a new friend (spa owner Dianna Bennett) and share some of his unique canine perspective and wisdom.

Although he pulled the scared Corgi card when Ms. B got out her nail clippers, he for the most part enjoyed his stay.

“You know, in some parts of the world they would consider that Walmart bag full of fur you just collected from my coat very valuable,” Jamie said. “They would spin it into fine yarn and make shawls and blankets fit for royalty.”

“I thought they did that with silk, alpaca fleece and other softer, more supple forms of animal hair,” Dianna said.

“Yeah, the average woman might think course dog hair felt a little funny next to her skin,” I said.

“Alpaca?” Jamie said. “Why would anyone want to wear anything made from the dreads of one of those overgrown billy goats?”

“Because their fleece is known to keep people extremely warm, it makes smoother-feeling material than almost any other substance, and it’s just generally nice,” I said.

“Your point?” Jamie said.

“Um, well, I guess I’ll look into having a Corgi sweater made before spring,” I said.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Jamie said.

DECEMBER

A big-time winter storm dropped a foot of snow on the remote Texas County outpost where Jamie and his family live – more than the Big Lug had ever seen on the ground before.

When he moved around outside, his long and low frame basically created a trench in the deep white layer.

“Up periscope,” Jamie said.

“Enemy vessel at two o-clock,” I said.

“How could you possibly know that?” Jamie said. “It’s only 12:30.”

“Never mind skipper,” I said.

All in all, Jamie made about as much as possible of his 2013, and he certainly left nothing on the table and everything on the field (so to speak).

“This was a good year,” Jamie said, “but it’s got me dog tired. Wake me up in 2015.”

“Right, Mr. Van Winkle,” I said. “Sleep tight, Rip.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie hangs out on a dirt road during one of his journeys in the Jillikins late in the winter of 2013.

Jamie hangs out on a dirt road during one of his journeys in the Jillikins late in the winter of 2013.

Jamie and Houston Herald reporter Doug Davison look for a word file in a desktop computer in May.

Jamie and Houston Herald reporter Doug Davison look for a word file in a desktop computer in May.

Jamie get a fur trim from Dianna Bennett during his trip to the spa in November.

Jamie get a fur trim from Dianna Bennett during his trip to the spa in November.

On his way to another journey in the Jillikins, Jamie lies on the seat of his sidekick's truck.

On his way to another journey in the Jillikins, Jamie lies on the seat of his sidekick’s truck.

Gertie, a.k.a. the Permapup, ponders entering one of several trenches left in deep snow by herself and her Corgi cohort, Jamie.

Gertie, a.k.a. the Permapup, ponders entering one of several trenches left in deep snow by herself and her Corgi cohort, Jamie.

Jamie hangs out with his buddy, Sharp Shooters Gun and Pawn store owner Gary Parish.

Jamie hangs out with his buddy, Sharp Shooters Gun and Pawn store owner Gary Parish.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city's proposed K-9 unit during May.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city’s proposed K-9 unit during May.

Jamie begins his planned lengthy recovery from a busy 2013. “This was a good year, but it’s got me dog tired. Wake me up in 2015.”

Jamie begins his planned lengthy recovery from a busy 2013. “This was a good year, but it’s got me dog tired. Wake me up in 2015.”

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A visit to the spa

Not too many weeks ago, Jamie was the winner of a gift certificate to a local dog grooming salon.

Last Thursday, he got around to cashing in on his prize.

“Not that there’s any room for improvement here,” he said. “But I guess it couldn’t hurt.”

“Actually big man, your claws are about as long as 16-penny nails and they could use a good trimming,” I said. “And maybe the folks there can help you lose a few pounds of fur.”

“A few pounds?” Jamie said. “Hmmm, I’ve been wanting a nice new pillow.”

Jamie’s female sidekick Gertie (the Perma-pup) was also in on the trip, and my wife Wendy brought them to their destination, Diane’s Pet Styles in Houston. I met them there and when everyone was present, owner Dianna Bennett quickly made friends with the stub-wagging 35-pounder at the end of the leash I was holding.

Then it was pampering time for the Big Lug.

After hearing me mention that Jamie doesn’t much care for having his toenails cut, Ms. Bennett decided to try tackling that portion of the program first and hoisted her bulky assignment onto a grooming table. Not unexpectedly, her guest whimpered and whined and put up a struggle.

“Goodness Jamie, she’s not going to cut off your feet,” I said. “All the antics really aren’t necessary.”

“Oh, that?” Jamie said. “I was just practicing for my next role with the drama troop in Willow Springs. They want me to play – um – a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who’s afraid of having his claws trimmed.”

“Wow, nice work big guy,” I said. “For a moment there, you really had me believing you were a scared Corgi.”

At that point, Jamie went “Master Thespian” on me (the character Jon Lovitz played in numerous Saturday Night Live sketches during the late 1980s).

“Acting!” he yelled.

I played along.

“Genius!” I said.

After the difficulty with the nail clippers, Jamie’s spa host switched gears and bathed his long and low body. She then towel-dried him and placed him in a metallic, dual compartment dog-drying contraption with see-through glass doors that sort of resembled a wine cooler or some sort of meat smoker.

“I’m already aged perfectly and I’m an excellent choice with any entree,” Jamie said. “But make sure you have the timer set right on this thing and I don’t end up overdone. I still want a little pink in my middle when I get out of here.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “Wine and steak humor.”

While Jamie was in the drying room, Gertie got her bath and then entered the doggie wind tunnel. When the Big Lug exited, Ms. Bennett put him on another table and used an electric blow dryer to finish him off.

“You know, the first electric hair dryers appeared in France in the late 1800s,” Jamie said. “The first hand-held unit – like the one being used on me now – appeared in 1920.”

“Wow, Jamie,” I said. “I’m once again impressed by your knowledge of history.”

“Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest,’” Jamie said. “I’m after a high interest rate.”

“Nice investment, Big Man,” I said. “I’m sure Ben would be proud.”

At Jamie’s next stop on his spa tour, he received a full-on brushing. But in order to assure his security while she worked him over on the grooming table, Ms. Bennett first hooked him up to a set of straps hanging from an overhead apparatus – one around his ample rear end and another around his neck.

“A noose!” Jamie exclaimed. “Somehow I knew all this was too good to be true!”

“It’s just there to keep you from falling,” Dianna said.

“I better not fall,” Jamie said. “If I do, I’ll be the first Corgi ever to be hanged in Missouri! And I’m innocent, I tell you!”

“Settle down,” I said. “You’re not in danger of any capital punishment.”

“You can’t be too careful when it comes to the wrath of the hangman,” Jamie said.

“You’re not on death row,” I said. “You’re at a spa.”

“I want to talk to my lawyer,” Jamie said.

“Dianna, never mind that nonsense,” I said.

After Ms. Bennett somehow survived the fur storm that blew through the room over the next several minutes, she proceeded to trim the heavy coat that still remained on Jamie’s frame. Combining the use of scissors and an electric trimmer, she carefully contoured his coiffure from front to rear.

When she worked on the USS Jamie’s stern, she even lifted his “lid” (a.k.a. tail, or stub) and shaped the poofy growth on his caboose. She also eliminated some of the excess down under.

“Hey, watch where you put that thing,” Jamie said. “There’s some important real estate in that neighborhood.”

“I think she’s got you covered, Big Man,” I said. “I’m pretty sure you’ll still be a baritone when you leave.”

Next it was time to go back to the claws. To give Jamie less to focus on, I stepped out of sight, and while Dianna’s assistant held him tight and told him how nice he was, Dianna successfully snipped away.

“I have to admit,” Jamie said, “those things you said about me are all true.”

Miss Gertie got the same overall treatment, and took several opportunities to display the growling, gurgling and half-crazed sound effects that lead me to often say she’s part Corgi and part Gremlin (although my wife is probably right that she’s just the world’s most ticklish dog and can’t stand it when someone’s toweling her off or something like that).

Before Jamie said his goodbyes, he was thoroughly spritzed with some Corgi Klein cologne. He left feeling completely refreshed and was soft and smooth to the touch.

“I look good,” he said. “But then, why should today be any different?”

“That’s a bit on the conceited side, don’t you think?” I said.

“It is what it is,” Jamie said.

“Maybe,” I said.

“When something’s good, it’s good,” Jamie said.

“Suddenly you’re a cliché machine,” I said.

“I’m just sayin’,” Jamie said.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Dianna Bennett tends to Jamie as he stands on the grooming table during of his visit to a spa.

Dianna Bennett tends to Jamie as he stands on the grooming table during of his visit to a spa.

Dianna Bennett trims Jamie's caboose. "Hey, be careful where you put that thing."

Dianna Bennett trims Jamie’s caboose. “Hey, be careful where you put that thing.”

Jamie and his little sister Gertie (the Perma Pup) take a break in a set of automated dog-drying rooms.

Jamie and his little sister Gertie (the Perma Pup) take a break in a set of automated dog-drying rooms.