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Kate VandenBerghe

Kate VandenBerghe is a recent graduate of the California College of Arts MFA program in San Francisco. She runs Paper Animal Design, her own freelance design company, and lives in Oakland with her two rescue pups, Skipper and Leo.

News: Guest Posts
Dog watching in NYC
Do city dogs have it better?

Dogs have been man’s best friend for thousands of years, adapting to nearly any living condition man throws their way. Whether living in a cave or on a snowy mountaintop, dogs and humans have weathered many different conditions and lifestyles together. And this weekend I witnessed perhaps one of the most interesting (and overwhelming!) environments dogs share with us: New York City.

  My best friend Carrie moved to New York earlier this year, and pretty much since the day she moved we had been planning my visit. Carrie gets me, and she gets dogs. For the past few years, she has willingly shared her birthday party with my Schipperke Leo, so she knew when I came to visit I would want to do something dog-oriented. We hung out in dog-friendly neighborhoods, sipping on tea in cafes and catcalling every dog that walked by, “Oh look at that Terrier, he’s got a good attitude!” “Work your thang, Puggle!” “Rock them dreads, Puli!”   While New Yorkers are famous for their no-nonsense, fast-paced approach toward life, they surprised me in how willing they were to stop and chat about their dogs. They’d offer up stories, discuss potty habits (“Lola always has to potty right in front of Club Monaco, it’s her thing.”), even show off their pup’s impressive tricks. (An Afghan Hound I met in Chelsea knew his right from left; I know humans that don’t know that.) Even more surprising was how dog-friendly the entire city was: Bowls of water were placed outside of storefronts, parks readily had Mutt-Mitts available, and one bakery had a tray-full of treats available.   Each neighborhood seemed to have it’s own canine attitude: Central Park West dogs hang in packs and bark a lot. SoHo dogs are laid back, watching the world go by, while their people drink coffee at cafes. Brooklyn dogs look like they have somewhere to be, with no time to stop and chat (unless sniffing for food around a taco truck).   It seemed like dogs were everywhere. Considering most New Yorkers don’t own a car and dogs aren’t allowed on the subway or in taxis, I found myself wondering if these dogs lived most of their lives within a 20-block radius of their homes walking the same sidewalks everyday, encountering the same dogs and smells, or if there were ways for them to get out of the city. Maybe take the Staten Island Ferry?   I don’t know what I expected, considering my previous notions had been informed by Disney’s Oliver & Company. Somehow street dogs singing Billy Joel tunes just didn’t seem realistic. No matter what the living situation, from lofts to brownstones, it was amazing to see how well dogs adapted. While I can’t imagine Skipper or Leo living without weekend trips to the beach or hiking trails, maybe there are benefits to city life I have never considered. Do you know a city dog who could set me right?

 

News: Guest Posts
Hurricane Leo
Destruction and devastation return with the rains

As the rainy season approaches and the air turns crisp, I become excited for fall. I can finally give up my pipedreams of developing a decent tan and start looking forward to wearing my favorite scarves, boots and coats. The one thing I don’t look forward to is the beginning of hurricane season. While my sympathies go to those living on the Gulf Coast or the Carolinas, I’m talking about a different type of hurricane. This one is named Hurricane Leo.

  Hurricane Leo is the seasonal nickname bestowed upon my three-year-old Schipperke, once the rainy season starts. A spell of shorter, wetter days often means less time to play outside and a frustrated Leo ends up creating entertainment for himself: Rifling through the laundry, licking every strange surface in the house (the toilet? Come on, Lee...), staring out the window and commenting on (barking at) every single thing that moves outside.   This year, hurricane season came early and unexpectedly. I had hired a painting contractor weeks before to come and re-paint the entire interior of my house, and had everything planned out perfectly for weeks. The house would take two days to paint, and during that time I could keep the dogs company outside, sipping lemonade in a hammock while watching them play. It was a perfect plan: Until our heat wave was interrupted with scattered showers and lightning. Not cool.   The dogs and I were forced out of the house, now that every room was covered in fresh paint and plastic-wrapped furniture. The two-day paint job turned into four days, and Tropical Depression Leo slowly began gaining momentum. Leo grew increasingly frustrated with being removed from his normal surroundings and forced to stay indoors all day with me and Skipper at a friend’s apartment. While Leo had no shortage of toys and chewables to keep him occupied, the combination of bad weather and new surroundings created, you guessed it, a Perfect Storm.   As if he could think of no better way to express his feelings and frustrations, Leo jumped up onto my friend’s bed, stood over one of the pillows and peed. For about a minute. Even though he had been given multiple opportunities to potty outside, I truly believe he was saving it up to perform a memorable form of protest, like the sit-ins at U.C. Berkeley in the 1960s or Ghandi’s hunger-strike. Maybe he just was agitated and did something strange, as dogs are known to do when under stress. Needless to say, our welcome was worn out, and (after sopping up as much dog urine as possible and offering to launder my friend’s pillows and duvet) we headed back to my house and took our chances with the painters.             Within minutes of being home, Hurricane Leo escaped my grasp and bolted into the house, running laps through every room and touching nearly every wet surface along the way. I screamed. The painters screamed. Hurricane Leo seemed triumphant with several white streaks along his back and sides. Instead of yelling at him, I rinsed him off, put him in the car, and we drove to an inner East Bay dog park, where there were no storm clouds in sight. While my hurricane season hasn’t hit in full-force yet, I’m wondering what I can do to better prepare Leo (and myself) for the fall and winter. Indoor agility? Daycare? Enrolling Leo in yet another training course? Whatever it takes to keep the hurricane away.

 

News: Guest Posts
Bosom Buddies
The quest for the perfect dog-friendly roommate

 

A good roommate is hard to find, especially when you’ve got an always-around boyfriend, two dogs and a healthy imagination. I’d been apprehensive about renting out my spare room because it had been used as a very important space in the past: the dogs’ room. Renting it out meant not only would they lose their favorite space, but I’d be bringing a new person into their “pack.” Would the dogs understand the concept of renters? If the roommate was terrible, I couldn’t comfort Leo by explaining, “Don’t worry, she’s month-to-month,” or console Skipper with “Well, now with the extra cash we can buy more tennis balls for you to bury!”   Still I was getting ahead of myself. Before I could even consider the task of acclimating the dogs to someone new and potentially horrible, I have to find her first.   In the beginning, my search was abysmal. I’d received a few bites through friends of friends; but they only served to make me realize how hard finding the dream roommate might be. When I told one potential roommate I was looking for someone with a regular schedule (primarily, so the dogs don’t think she’s an attacker and scare me awake, which could end in a potential pepper-spraying), she told me it’s not a problem, she only goes out late on weekends, and sometimes Wednesdays, Thursdays, oh, and “Popscene” Mondays. When I asked another if she was a smoker, she said, “Well, I only smoke when I drink … which is probably about four to five times a week.” Another applicant asked if I was comfortable with cats. I said, “Not really, because my dogs aren’t cat-friendly.” She then asked, “So the dogs are there to stay?”   I realized I basically wanted a dog-whispering, 80-year-old spinster in the form of a twentysomething female, essentially my best friend Carrie. Since Carrie lives in New York, my search continued until I found Kristy. I had known her for a few years and we had met in passing at parties, but I had never had many interactions with her beyond that. Serendipitously, she approached me and asked if I knew of anyone renting out a room. After a few minutes of questioning, I knew it was a good fit: Kristy had grown up with four large dogs, and upon moving out of her parents’ house her mom told her she was going to adopt a fifth.   While the dogs have lost their room, they’ve gained a good friend and I have the peace of mind knowing another human is around when I’m not. Now, I have a new concern. What if my dogs fall in love with her? These types of arrangements don’t last forever (unless you’re Uncle Jesse on “Full House”). How would the dogs cope with that?

 

News: Guest Posts
A Day at the Beach
Sunshine, Frisbee and a few surprises

With Labor Day barely in the rearview mirror, it’s time to say goodbye to white pants and sunshine. For me and my dogs, it means packing as much outdoor fun as humanly possible into the few weeks we have left before the rainy season. And what better place to spend the waning days of summer than at the beach?

  There is no place on earth my dogs love more than the beach. It is the place they can truly be themselves: Skipper becomes braver and more adventurous and Leo becomes … well, more of a creepster. I say this about Leo because, frankly, if he were a human, you wouldn’t want to hang out with him. He follows me to the bathroom. He steals “personal garments” from the laundry. He stares at you for longer than I’ve ever seen a dog (or human!) stare. He’s just a little different than other dogs I’ve known. It shouldn’t have surprised me when Leo immediately drifted towards a very special (and previously unknown to me) stretch of sand—a nude beach.   Initially, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary because I was too busy trying to keep Skipper from being pinched by a crab he had been following. It wasn’t until I spied Leo poking his nose into a picnic basket that ran over and stop him. Leo then moved to “greet” the owner of the picnic basket: A reclining gentleman in his 50s who was entirely nude, save for sunglasses and a hat. I yelled, “LEO, NO!” Luckily, he came running (thank god, we’ve been practicing his recall abilities), weaving through a number of nude sunbathers (adult agility?), as I held my breath waiting to see if he accidentally stepped on anyone. He didn’t. As soon as he returned, I put him back on leash: I didn’t want to think about what else Leo could discover.   Meanwhile, Skipper is generally well behaved at the beach, but for some reason it is the only place he’ll play fetch. He won’t play it at home or the dog park, only at the beach. He even showed off his incredible beach-fetching abilities by joining in (aka, “ruining”) some strangers’ game of Frisbee. By the time the sun was setting, the dogs and I (lightly sunburned) were ready to go home. As we drove away, I glanced at my sound-asleep companions and realized that even with unexpected nudity and ruined Frisbee, our day at the beach was a perfect way to end the summer.   Did you do anything special to celebrate the end of summer?

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Date
At the drive-in

My boyfriend Jason often accuses me of trying to shoehorn the dogs into activities he feels aren’t an ideal fit: birthday parties, beach trips, Saturday morning brunches. Now, we have one more activity we can add to the list: Friday date nights.

  When Friday rolls around, I’m ready for fun with Jason but feel terrible if it means leaving the dogs home. What makes it worse are the hopeful looks on the dogs’ faces. Oh hey, you’re home! Yeah, change out of those work clothes... Hmm, those don’t look like hiking shoes... You’re going to be a little cold in that dress... Hey wait, where are you going? You forgot our leashes … and us! It’s enough guilt to ruin a date.   Recently, thanks to Bark’s articles about summer fun with your dog (see “Outward Hound” in Summer 2010 issue), I discovered the perfect dog + date night solution: the drive-in theater! The only question: Is my local drive-in dog-friendly? While I lived the majority of my teen years by the adage, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, I’ve grown less adventurous with age, particularly in this case because I didn’t want to drive 40 minutes only to be turned away.   I tried contacting the theater with no luck. When I asked friends and family if they had brought their dogs to the drive-in before, a few had, but they snuck them in under blankets. Others said they remembered seeing a “NO DOGS” sign a few years back. Jason said he didn’t want to smuggle the dogs into the theater because he’d be too stressed out about the whole ordeal, plus the dogs wouldn’t likely cooperate. It seemed like I only had one option: Lie to Jason and just go for it.   As we approached the drive-in, I pulled over for a second and told Jason I had forgotten something. Then I pulled out a large blanket from the backseat and threw it on his lap. “What’s this for?” he asked.   “So it turns out they might not be dog-friendly here, and I just didn’t want to tell you because I really wanted to go!”   “What? This is insane.”   “I know, but just put this blanket over Skipper on your lap, and they won’t notice Leo because he’s asleep and since he’s black and he’ll blend in.”   Jason rolled his eyes and begrudgingly accepted the blanket.   We pulled up to the ticket-booth and I calmly addressed the teenage cashier, “Two for The Other Guys at 10:15?”   So far so good. I handed the cashier a twenty. He returned my change. “Thank you, turn your radio to 93.6 FM.” Suddenly, both dogs leaped up and barked. Skipper practically jumped out the window. I smiled nervously as the teenager looked at me and said, “Enjoy your show.”   I honestly don’t know if the drive-in had a dog-friendly policy, or if the teenagers running the joint just didn’t care. Either way, Jason and I had a great date with the dogs. We can’t wait to go back.

 

News: Guest Posts
Big Love
Living the poly-dog life

“Babe, how do you think Skipper felt about me bringing home Leo? I mean, do you think he feels like...inadequate, as a dog?”

  “What on earth are you talking about?”   “Maybe he feels like I got another dog because he wasn’t enough for me? Like if maybe he had a bigger personality, or liked to snuggle more, I wouldn’t have had to go elsewhere for it?”   My most recent TV obsession is “Big Love,” which was introduced into my home after my boyfriend Jason impulse-bought three seasons on DVD. For those of you not hooked on the drama, I’ll fill you in: Unlike other cable shows about vampires, serial killers or suburban drug dealers (“Weeds” or “Breaking Bad,” take your pick), “Big Love” is about a clean-cut Mormon family living in Utah. Oh, yeah, and they’re polygamists. The show has provided the kind of escapism that keeps me hooked, especially since polygamy remains a subject with which I don’t foresee myself becoming more intimately acquainted. I mean, obviously Jason isn’t going to take any more girlfriends in (at least, he wouldn’t live to tell about it if he did), and it’s not like I’m going to take in another boyfriend.   Maybe I’ve become too invested in the show and can’t separate fiction from reality, but all of the sudden I feel really guilty. Perched on the end of the sofa, staring out the window, is Skipper, my faithful first dog. We used to joke when I first adopted Skip that he thought he was my boyfriend, not my dog. He followed me everywhere and slept on my pillow at night (which for a 15 pound dog is quite a feat). Whenever Jason would come over and sit next to me on the sofa, Skipper would look at me like “You’re going to let this fool take my seat? Tell him to move!” and would eventually disappointingly concede when it was clear Jason wasn’t going anywhere.   As if my human boyfriend wasn’t enough (sorry, Skip), imagine how he felt when I brought home a younger, more outgoing canine without real warning. And what’s worse, the latecomer is a total attention-fiend. Skipper’s a little like Big-Love-first-wife-and-total-control-freak Barb, who was dragged into a plural marriage by her husband when he married second-wife-and-compulsive-spender-and-liar Nikki. Like Barb, Skipper must have tried to maintain composure those first few days, but the jealousy probably was overwhelming. When the second dog was not sitting in my lap or getting combed or doing fancy tricks, he’d be misbehaving: Peeing on the curtains, eating my favorite Lady Gaga headband, barking at the heater. Meanwhile, there’s perfectly faithful Skip, a paragon of good behavior, often going unnoticed because he doesn’t ask for much other than the occasional pat on the head or a quiet whispering of “Who’sagoodboy?”   I figured with a second dog, the more the merrier. But after marathon “Big Love” sessions, I have my doubts. What does Skipper think? Is a new dog a replacement? A competitor? While Skip and Leo get along famously whenever they’re interacting—wrestling, cleaning one another, even sharing the same dog-bed—like the wives on “Big Love” the stakes are raised when they’re vying for the affections of one person—in our case, me. Even though there are still minor squabbles from time to time over who gets to sit next to me on the couch, the dogs have worked things out among themselves and seem happier for having one another. As for me? I’ll just have to get over my guilt, stop watching “Big Love” and take the dogs out to the park together.   What about you? Is one dog enough or do you have a poly-canine family?

 

News: Guest Posts
Every Dog Has His Day
A birthday bash for Leo

It’s August, and that means one thing around here: Leo’s birthday is coming up. Maybe it’s because I like to throw parties or I’m obsessed with my dogs (or both), but it’s a priority for me to acknowledge my dogs’ birthdays. Leo’s big day is the day before my best friend Carrie’s, which means a dual birthday party to ensure a better turnout. (For some reason, Carrie is more popular than Leo; she always draws a crowd.) Last year’s celebration combined their interests: Carrie’s abiding love of Elton John and my dog’s passion for dancing. We picked a perfect party playlist, invited all of our friends (both human and canine), and baked two cakes, one for dogs and one for humans.

  I should mention to those of you who are rolling your eyes at me as you’re reading this, I know throwing a birthday party for your dog is borderline ridiculous. But here’s my rationale:
  • I love parties: I’m not talking about the kind of parties where someone brings an plastic jug of Montezuma Gold tequila and you end up with 10 people passed out in your living room, or awkwardly poking your friend awake and asking them to remove their head from the kennel so you can hose it out before putting the dogs to bed. That kind of fun isn’t fair to the dogs or to my post-party cleanup efforts.
  • Parties at home mean I don’t get home late for the dogs. As a dog parent, I can tell you that every party is less enjoyable on some level if I’m sitting in a corner looking at my watch, wondering how much longer I can afford to stay without the dogs wondering if I’ll ever come home. A party at home means I can see that my friends and my dogs are all having a great time: Everyone wins.
  • The dogs can be where they’re comfortable—in the spotlight. If you were to use one word to describe my dogs and me, it would be gregarious. Two words: attention hounds. My dogs’ favorite thing about parties is the abundance of laps to sit in and pant legs to sniff. We appreciate a captive audience for our hilarious party tricks (guests who come over all know about the incredible Hula-hoop of Fire….don’t worry, it’s actually just a Hula-hoop with orange streamers attached!). Best of all, the dogs can let me know when they’ve had enough fun and want to be put to bed, even if the party is still going (although Leo usually manages to stay awake longer than even me).
  • Using a dog’s birthday as an excuse to throw a party might be seen as ridiculous to some, but to me it’s a great for our social life. Plus dog poop is easier to clean up than vomit.   What about you, thinking of throwing a dog party?  

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Blanket Lust
    An (seemingly) unstoppable obsession

    I am obsessed with blankets. Turns out, so is Leo. My blanket obsession began with a passion for textile design, which developed into a habit of buying any blanket, comforter or quilt that caught my eye. Leo’s blanket habit is related to mine: Whenever I bring home a gorgeous coverlet, he has to chew a gigantic hole right in the middle—as soon as he is left alone with it for more than 20 seconds.

      Sometimes I think fate must have ironically brought Leo and I together, or that maybe Leo is saving me from the fate of being crushed under an avalanche of blankets when I open the linen closet. With Leo’s blanket-munching, I recognized there were two issues that needed to be addressed. First, Leo could not be left alone with blankets until he learned chewing on them is inappropriate. Secondly, he needed a positive outlet for his chewing, such as a chew toy.   Keeping Leo away from blankets worked for like a week. His tenacity for finding unattended blankets was borderline inspiring. I’d leave the bedroom door open for a minute while I went to grab clothes from the dryer: Gigantic hole in the blanket. I’d take a catnap on the sofa: Down feathers everywhere when I awoke.   Since keeping him away from blankets wasn’t going to happen, I tried taste deterrents, like bitter spray misted onto the blankets. Apparently, the only one affected by this was me. Many a nap was rudely ended by a bitter taste. After falling asleep in a blanket cocoon on the sofa (exhausted from watching back-to-back-to-back episodes of Cake Boss), my open mouth would inevitably make contact with the surface of the blanket. It was heinously gross. Meanwhile, Leo would power through the nasty flavor. For my sake, I gave up on the bitter spray.   My plan to redirect Leo’s affection from blankets to toys has been even less successful. Even after taking Leo to training specifically to pique his interest in toys, he drifts after more than 20 seconds unless it is something he can eat (like a bully chew or a Kong toy). I see a future with a morbidly obese dog curled happily on elegant, intact quilts.   The reality is Leo and I both have issues that need to be dealt with (though I’d like to think that I can curb my blanket-purchasing habit as soon as I can curb Leo’s blanket-eating habit). What next? Do I give Leo one blanket and designate it as his? Do I continue my two years of attempting to interest him in toys? Do I concede that maybe I won’t have nice blankets ever? Any suggestions?

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
    Inexplicable phobias and unlikely explanations

    “Mitch, you know the rule! No standing in the house! Dude, if you want a drink I’ll get you one, but you can’t stand up—it freaks the dog out.” Whenever my friend Mitch comes over, this is my reality. Most of the time, life at home with the dogs is pretty uneventful. The dogs keep themselves occupied playing with toys or enjoying the backyard whenever we’re not snuggling on the sofa. From time to time, my friend Mitch (a towering six-foot-four, bearded lumberjack of a man) will show up, and Skipper does not like it. My usually friendly and docile dog barks constantly at him, clipping his heels, until he sits down. As soon as Mitch hits the couch or chair, it’s like someone flipped a switch and Skip goes back to normal.

      Fear of unusually (i.e., freakishly) tall people is only one of Skipper’s many strange and inexplicable phobias. He also fears karate, a fact I discovered when Skipper witnessed our friend Andy doing a Tae-Bo workout video. Additionally, and perhaps more logically, Skipper fears smoke. If we’re getting overzealous with the panini maker or those s’mores are getting a little out of control, Skipper will cower and hide in the bushes and look so sad it’s enough to break your heart in two.   This unique constellation of phobias has lead me to only one logical conclusion: Skipper’s previous owner must have been some sort of ultimate karate master (I’m thinking Bruce Lee), who met his demise at the hands of a giant, bearded redhead (plausibly Chuck Norris) during some sort of epic showdown in a burning building. Skipper likely employed an arsenal of canine kicks and punches to save his sensei, but either the smoke was too thick, or perhaps, Skipper was cruelly thrown aside (which also explains his blindness in one eye), and could not save his dojo-master. That, or like many owners, I have constructed an alternate reality to explain the source of all my dog’s fears with one traumatic event.   It’s a natural tendency to want to believe that Skipper’s life was perfectly happy until one fateful day everything came apart, but it all worked out because I adopted him. It’s almost a mode of self-preservation, considering that I already get overly emotional when watching those ASPCA ads of dogs in shelters: I couldn’t handle imagining poor Skipper going through an extended ordeal. The reality is though, any dog, whether from a shelter or from a responsible breeder, can develop strange phobias that we don’t understand.   Think of it this way: As humans, not all of our phobias come from rational places. Case in point, I had (OK, let’s be real, HAVE) an irrational fear of E.T., stemming from my childhood. This doesn’t mean that I was at any point abducted by aliens, or lured into Drew Barrymore’s closet after following a trail of Reese’s Pieces, or forced to fly away from government agents on a 10-speed bicycle (at least, I can’t recall ever having any of these things happen to me). Sometimes, dogs, like their people, just develop phobias we can’t explain. (Some canine compulsions might even have a genetic component.)   As much as I love Skipper and want to know everything about him, I have to accept that’s not possible. Instead, I just have to be the best dog parent I can be, and deal with his quixotic fears. Unless, of course, I am totally right about that Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris karate showdown. In that case, Skipper has just been trying to tell me something and I should be very, very afraid.

     

    News: Guest Posts
    Safety Belts and Sanity
    A journey to find the perfect dog seat belt

    It all started with a Golden Retriever. Well, a photo of one anyway, placidly enjoying a car ride, all from the comfort and safety of a seat belt designed for dogs. It’s amazing what good marketing can do to instill a dream in your mind: “Hey, that could be my life.” While my two dogs are usually fairly well behaved in the car (aside from that incident when Skip pooped in the backseat while I was driving ... seriously, what do you do in that situation?), I recently realized I need to do more to ensure their safety on our many summer outings, and recalling that idyllic Golden Retriever’s picture from a previous shopping trip, I decided I would stop by the pet store in my neighborhood and pick up seat belts for the dogs.

     

    It’s not that I haven’t attempted to keep the dogs safe in the car before; Believe me, I’ve tried. First there were the car seats. They looked cute, and when I had one dog it worked great (although there was that aforementioned pooping incident). Eventually, the car seats had to go, after Leo chewed his way free of his car seat, which inspired Skipper to escape too. Major mess: lots of foam and polyester in the backseat. After the car seats came the kennels, which were one long, howling nightmare, in addition to the fact that it was nearly impossible to fit both cumbersome kennels in the back of my ultra-mini Honda Civic. Then there was the cargo net, which literally lasted about 15 seconds until Skipper busted through it like the Incredible Hulk. When I worked out the cost, it came to about $1 per second of use.

     

    Really, I should have known better than to think that I could just breeze in to my local pet store and buy the perfect dog seat belt. But I was clouded by the lie of that well-behaved Golden Retriever, and the employees at the pet store were so sure they had the right safety option for my dogs. They allowed me to test (i.e., they looked the other way while I tore open every package on display) all of their seat belt options. They even patiently assisted me in squeezing Leo, whose body is shaped like an Old Tyme strongman, into a seat belt clearly designed for cats. After thoroughly dismantling the well-organized Car Safety section of the pet store, I purchased two padded seat belt harnesses, with that dreamy looking well-behaved Golden Retriever on the package. 

     

    Excited about my new purchase and the promise of increased safety for the dogs, I wanted to use the new seat belts immediately. Getting the harnesses onto the dogs was surprisingly easy, making me confident that these seat belts would work. Then came the task of actually securing the harnesses to the car seat belts. Not as easy. Once Leo heard the snap close, he realized the only thing he wanted in this world was freedom and he was going to fight to the end to get it. He twisted and contorted his body, while I stood nearby with a treat trying to coax him into just sitting still. He calmed down for a minute (probably out of exhaustion), and I sprinted to the other side of the car to strap in Skipper. By the time I had secured Skipper, Leo was free. I zipped back to the opposite side of the car to reconnect Leo, and by the time I got there, Skipper was loose. So here were my options: Get the dogs strapped into their seat belts so tight it will take them about 10 minutes to escape (giving me the chance to drive safely for a few miles before pulling over and re-securing the dogs), or give up and return the seat belts. Wiping my brow free of sweat, I walked back into the pet store with my dreams crushed, my tail between my legs, and I asked the clerk, “What’s your return policy for opened merchandise?”

     

    While finding the best car safety options for my dogs has been difficult, it has now become an obsession. I’ve resorted to purchasing increasingly creative (and slightly outrageous) options on the Internet, and I’m praying something works soon, or else I will have to throw down some serious cash to purchase a car big enough to comfortably fit the dog crates. Maybe I’ll just go whole-hog with one of those $1,000+ police K9 enclosures. Safety first!

     

     

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