Editor’s note: This year, we opted for a spin on the holiday gift guide. Rest assured, we tasked the right guy — our gear-review guru — with the job of compiling a 12-day list of gift ideas (in various price ranges) for all the nordies in your life.
Day 7: Canine Companions
Ah, man’s best friend — they will protect the house, help you meet girls (or boys) and most importantly, be loyal, faithful, lifelong companions on all of your adventures. The best part is that if you get a Labrador Retriever, they view even a simple trip to the grocery store as an adventure. And take it from an owner who’s had his lab puppy chew through his leash in order to free himself so he could go ripping through the grocery store at Mach 10 to find me, a lab puppy will make trips to even the most previously mundane locations an adventure for you, too.
Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve been in the produce section, minding your own business, when a frantic voice comes over the PA demanding that the owner of a black dog come to the front of the store immediately. Your first reaction will likely be, “Hmmm, I wonder who was dumb enough to bring their dog into the grocery store, what a dick…..” then the pieces will suddenly all come together and you’ll have to slink the to customer service desk with your tail between your legs. Life changing.
Dogs are also without a doubt the best training companions on the planet. They never complain about you going too fast, too slow, too long or too short. They’re equally stoked with an easy 30-minute recovery hike in the park or an epic four-hour mountain run. They seem to know when you’ve had a bad race and will quickly remind you that it was probably your skis fault. They’re also there to celebrate all of your wins by being the first to suggest a victory lap in the park, so it’s pretty much hard to beat the four-footed teammate. Given this, today’s offerings are focused on, and dedicated to, Canis lupus familiaris. Here are a few suggestions on how to optimally get the whole team as well prepared as possible for this season.
Under $30: Dog/bike/run tail light, $16.66
As innocuous as this may first appear, this gift probably has the highest ROI of any item in this entire series. For less than $15, you can increase the visibility of yourself and your hound over a hundredfold. In this day of distracted drivers (texting while driving is the drunk driving of the 21st century), you need to do everything you can to stay safe, in particular at night. The light has both a continuous beam and a “disco” mode, which provides amazing contrast and pierces the darkness.
What’s also very cool about this light is that is has both a clip and a bike mount, so you only need one light for all of your training disciplines. Clip one to Fido’s leash, another to the front of his collar and a third to your back and for less than $50, you’re now very visible to motorists in all directions. Rollerski? Same deal. Going for a ride? No problem, simply slide the clip into the included seat post bracket. Yes, meathead motorists will still pass you way too close, Philly drivers still call you an a-hole for daring to use “their” roads, but this little wonder will greatly increase your odds of making it home without serious incident. Be safe out there people. Shop local options or at Amazon.
$30 – $100: RuffWear Slackline Leash, $39.95
The one potential downside to running with Rover is that holding a leash while your hyperactive, mega-amped Lab is charging down the road, sending the neighbor’s cat and all nearby squirrels scurrying for cover, is having a leash in one hand can upset your finely tuned running biomechanics. Sure, you have a back like Arnold from all of your DP workouts…
… but the asymmetry of your unruly beast straining at the length of the lead in one hand can fatigue and disrupt even the most fit double poler. I suppose one solution is to properly train your animal, but we discussed this at the FBD house and I was immediately voted down by the entire squad, as they felt that even the most sensitive and subtle dog training techniques were still far too fascist for their liking, so we instead opted for a hands-free leash. Not only does this allow me to keep both of my hands free to “Keep up foreign relations” whenever necessary with angry, East Coast motorists, but I’m going to let you in on a secret, if you’re running hill repeats and you’ve got a dog with some horsepower like Pdiggy…
… a little forward “mo” gently applied at the waist can really help those splits. Please feel free to use this pro tip at your own discretion in your next hill TT. Available at Ruffwear.com.
$100 – $250: Whistle GPS Pet Tracker, $49.95 (+ $175 yearly subscription*)
Mad props to my good buddy Billy Demong on this one. Billy D’s canine companion, Scout, has some crazy “wheels” on her, and, like Billy D, she’s a bit of a free spirit, so given the proximity of their property to open space and the propensity of wildlife in the area, occasionally Scout has been known to take a flyer. With this cool tracking device, not only are you immediately notified when your pooch leaves whatever area you designate, but you can then use a super slick app to track their exact location for the retrieval. If you’re extra lucky (like me), you can even use this feature to help facilitate a mid-run “feed” for human and canine alike (Pdiggy says ‘Thanks mom.’) Available at Whistle.com.
(*This gift suggestion was placed in the $100 – $250 category as it also requires an $8 monthly subscription, bringing the yearly cost to $175)
(Below: This is why Billy needs a GPS tracker for his dog. #BadAss)
Over $250: Life-changing, house-wrecking, upholstery-chewing lab puppy, $1,200
Actual dog. Yes, yes, I know, you read articles all of the time about how the holidays are a bad time to give dogs as a present, as it is a decision often made with emotion and the family hasn’t necessarily thought out the reality of owning a dog. My take on this is that stupid people make stupid decisions all year, so if you’re dumb enough to think that owning a dog isn’t a lot of work, you’re dumb enough to have that misconception year-round. To be clear, it IS a lot of work, especially if you pick a high-energy breed like a Lab, but if you’ve thought this through (like you should), you are willing to make approximately a 15 year commitment to this creature, you have the time, are prepared for “hidden expenses,” (vet bills, boarding, replacing TV remote controls) and understand that it is a big investment, you’re going to never regret it. Please, please, please, think it over carefully, talk to people who own one and consider adopting as well, but if you’re well-prepared, you’ll be glad you made the leap.
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Jon "Fast Big Dog" Schafer
Fast Big Dog is a paradoxically gregarious yet reclusive, self-absorbed mystic and world traveler. In addition to his calling to right the wrongs in the ski fashion and gear world, he also brings his style, wit and devilish charm to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as the Nordic High Performance Director and Worldwide Director of Morale and Awesomeness. Savor these articles while you can, as his Great Dane puppy may burn down his house at any moment, possibly making this his last transmission.