Editor's Notebook

Good gear makes all the difference

| April 2008

On Page 12 we feature a story about police dogs in Germany being fitted with plastic fiber shoes to protect their paws from getting injured in the line of duty. I tried to read the story to my dog, Bob, but he got bored and wandered off. Anyway, the story was old hat to him - he has had cool shoes like that for several years.

In 2000, I made a trip to Alaska, where I rode my bike a couple hundred miles in a few days. Along the way somewhere in the Alaskan outback, I found some 'musher booties' - special foot coverings for the sled dogs - and knew I had to buy a set for Bob Dog.

Bob's life revolves around our daily walks, and he is quick to let me know when I'm falling down on the job. This week, for instance, we've been drenched with much-needed spring rain. Not being a duck, I have passed on the opportunity to go splashing around the block a time or two with Bob. In Bob's world view, this is akin to child neglect.

If the weather had turned to snow, the picture would be different. I don't mind moisture in its more solid form, and I have these great little booties that give Bob some traction and keep his feet free of snow buildup. They're neon green and quite stylish, but he always - every single time for seven years and counting - thinks I'm trying to kill him when I put them on him. I have to coax him into the snow boots, then lasso him to put him in his harness and leash. And off we go, me trudging, him mincing for the first few steps as if I had wrapped his toes in plastic wrap.

Finally, he gets the nerve to put his paws down flat on the snow and … amazing! He doesn't slip, skid or fall over (always some of my hallmarks of a good walk). Then, he's off and scampering, completely ignoring the fact that he's 16 and a doggie geriatric. I swear I hear him humming Born Free as we go off across the frozen Kansas tundra.

Once again I'm reminded that much of the enjoyment of life depends on having good gear and a determination to stay in the game.

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