As Kaylee progresses in her training, I’ve been pondering her gear. Her leash manners are such that I’ve decided just to stick with a regular martengale collar, but I *know* I don’t want her to work ‘naked’. Although service dogs don’t (by federal law) have to be identified by a cape, vest, pack, or harness of any sort, it really does make one’s life easier (particularly with an invisible disability) to have the dog be recognizable by Jane Q Public. Unfortunately, with the availability (and relatively low cost) of specialized gear for service dogs (including patches) being so widely available on the internet, fraudulent service dogs are being passed off as SDs with every more elaborate gear- so it’s becoming less helpful every month. It’s important to present a professional image, which can be sort of frustrating. (There are days I don’t have the energy to remember to brush my own hair, let alone Kaylee’s – and her coat is a LOT less wash and wear than Mal’s.
My service dogs carry my meds and my wallet (I have a real tendency to forget where I’ve put my purse and walk away without it- in fact, finding items I drop or put down is a task I’m training, but I don’t trust meds or money to stay in a purse that’s been left unattended- my purse is mainly for incidentals- a bit of makeup, a hairbrush, and my notepad and pens- if I don’t write things down, I can’t remember them- grocery lists, reminders ot do things, etc.). So a pack really is better for what I want. (With Mal, I figured I could learn to carry a purse. Three sets of new keys later… no. This isn’t working- even a fanny pack didn’t work, as it got uncomfortable, I took it off, and left it!)
I also prefer a pack for a totally non-task reason. Collies are heavily coated dogs. In the summer- especially the black dogs like Kaylee and Mal- get HOT down here in Texas. Even though we don’t spent a lot of time outdoors, we do spend some- just going across a parking lot or being in the car (or next to it on a stay) while I load groceries and the AC is just kicking in isn’t fun. I keep water in my packs for me and the dogs, and if I freeze a 1/4 full bottle the night before, my dogs have a built in icepack to keep them a bit chillier.
Wings used a Wenaha Jogger backpack- it’s designed as a daypack, and it has plenty of room- it’s designed to carry two 16oz bottles of water (or Coke :P). I got it second-hand (barely used!), in a size and color that is no longer made (and appears to have only been made for a year.)- purple XS. I really liked this pack, but… it was Wings’. I’m not ready to use it again. Kaylee needs her own gear. And I know color doesn’t matter, but it comes in RED-RED (which I don’t really care for) and a kind of neutral blue that clashes with Kaylee’s tan.
So far, I’ve been using a SitStay vest for her. It’s not a pack (not a problem, as most of her training trips, I’ve had someone along with me to make sure my head stays attached). It fits okay, but it doesn’t really meet my needs. The green is nice, though- it’s a very nice soft shade of dark green.
I had purchased an ActiveDogs harness vest for Wings shortly before her death (it came a few days after she died, actually), and they were kind enough to exchange it for a green one for Malcolm when he started training, since it’d never been used. (It was purple. Mal isn’t a purple kind of boy.) I’ve used it a few times since then, but a snag on a briar has damaged part of the webbing, so I hate to take it out in public. (Again with the no pack thing, and it actually says “MALCOLM” on it. Oops.) It’s not a pack- when I ordered it, Mal was a puppy and I don’t introduce any kind of weight until dogs are older. They do make a pack, but I’m not comfortable with some of their current policies (they’ve designed and are marketing a tethering harness), so I’d rather not give them any more of my money, even though the products I’ve had are great.
I’ve ordered a BlackDog pack from Australia- in purple, natch- that should be here in the next few days for us to test out. I’ll post a review when it arrives. 🙂 This is a fairly small day-pack that LOOKS like it should work well. Photos when it arrives.