Editor’s note: For the second-straight year, we’re presenting another 12-day holiday gift guide, brought to you by the one and only “FBD”, our gear-review guru. Kicking the series off, recommendations for recovery gifts to keep you and your ski buddies on the trails and injury free. See also: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4
Day 5: Canine Companions
With a moniker like “Fast Big Dog,” you know I’m all about the hounds, pouches, mutts, and mongrels. I mean, come on, who doesn’t like a good dog? They’re called “man’s best friend,” for a reason, all of you cat weirdos out there.
They also happen to be the ultimate training partners. My trusty black lab, Pdiggy (not to be confused with this guy…
… who probably gets way less media attention than he deserves due to that camera-hog Pwolfgang, has logged more miles with me than probably any other living organism.
Dogs are awesome. They are also ready to go, never complain that you’re going too fast or too slow, or about the route, or anything else. They’re always just stoked to be out there.
They’re also awesome at helping you dispose of all of that extra, unwanted income to do cool stuff like replace perfectly functional carpets that you already own that they’ve chosen to destroy for no apparent reason, or rip the seat belts out of your new truck (an insanely expensive repair, btw — they’re just a bunch of webbing and a buckle, for Christ’s sake, you bastards). They’re also a tremendous assistance in weight control, as they’ll gladly eat your thoughtfully prepared breakfast burrito when you turn your back, terrorize the neighbor’s cat (and therefore also the neighbor), and who better to keep that pesky mailman on his toes that your four-footed enforcer?
In short, dogs rule. So do your favorite canine companion a solid and take him or her out for a rip right now, whether it is a train run, ski, or something special that we’re going to describe in a bit, these loyal companions will do anything for you, so how about you do something nice for them?
I’m slightly embarrassed to admit how much I like this company and this concept. Basically their schtick is that they send you a box of toys and treats at whatever regular interval you select. Sure, that’s kinda cool, but what really puts this concept over the top and catapulted it into this rarified air of the 12 D o’ FBD (as all of the cool kids say) is the job they do with the toy selection.
Each month is “themed,” so for example, October’s offering (naturally, I am a monthly subscriber) was Halloween-based. That might seem like a bit of a gimme, but trust me, they have a staff of very creative people and they really kill it each and every month with clever themes, very representative toys, and an overall great vibe.
Is it a little overly anthropomorphic to read too much into the concept of each month’s dog toys? Not when you have as much time on your hands and as many glaring social problems as I do.
Do the dogs get the joke or seasonal association? With the notable exception of my Great Dane, yes, mine do. If yours do not, well, they are either also Great Danes or are just plain dumb. Tell them I said that.
$30 – $99
If you don’t think that a T-shirt emblazoned with a yellow lab “dabbing” on the front is hilarious, then, well, you are dead on the inside. Sure, this is the type of garment that you might see at a state fair in Alabama or God forbid, Disney World, with the owner waddling about, carrying a deep-fried corn dog and their arm flab flapping in the wind, but no one is going to steal my sunshine on this, as this just so happens to be an awesome shirt. Buy it, own it (which I suppose is inherent in “buying it,” but hopefully you realize I’m using this in a more metaphorical sense), and F the world. You do you. $31.95 on RedBubble.com
Yes, $59 is a lot for a dog collar, but if you’re like me and have more money than sense, not to mention a penchant for gear, when something like this comes drifting into your inbox, you’re pretty much obligated to pull the trigger (see what I did there? Tactical collar? Pull the trigger? I’d be an awesome Navy Seal if I wasn’t so afraid of danger. And bullets. And mean people. And the dark. And water. And the cold. And air travel. And carrying heavy stuff. And long hours. Aside from that, I’d be perfect).
For you haters out there chuckling as I piddle away my hard-earned cash, I’ll have you know that I had the last laugh because in the aforementioned Great Dane/neighbor pizza incident, thanks to the Tactipup collar “restraint handle,” I was able to apprehend my monster as he was making a run for the delicious smelling pizza before any real damage was done. Sure adequate training and even a slightly above average canine I.Q. would also be effective abatement, but sadly, those both seem to be in short supply with this particular beast.
These collars are also incredibly well-made, made in the good ol’ USA, and come in a variety of cool colorways (or colors, for you normal people out there). Since Pwolfgang fancies himself a bit of a ladies man, I got him one in the kick-ass snow camo colorway (why the hell do I keep saying that, goddamnit that stupid expression annoys me).
$100 – $299
If you have any dog that’s “a runner,” then you can just stop reading right here and go buy this product. An earlier version of this system the Whistle 2.0 was reviewed last year and has been extremely well-received, so when I was doing some research for this overall category and discovered that Whistle had just released a new model, the Whistle 3.0, I was eager to give it a whirl. For any even semi-regular reader of any of my work, I think you know why I need it and who it’s for.
This latest model is smaller, which is good, as the former model was large enough to offer enough purchase that the Great Dane figured out how to remove his and do this. (He barely knows he name, but he has the spatial reasoning ability and dexterity to remove and ruin a device attached to his collar, behind his neck. Freakin’ unbelievable).
Probably even more importantly, the new model “cycles” faster, meaning it updates you via your smartphone even more rapidly when your disobedient monster has left the perimeter that you have created around your home (also a super-slick feature, as you can customize this to be as large or as small as you’d like, so whether your yard is 50’ x 50’, or 50 miles x 50 miles, the system can accommodate either option and anything in between).
Overall, the interface is very good, works well, and all things considered, the whole system is fairly economical. It’s on sale right no
w for $49, but keep in mind that you also have to get a monthly subscription (think of it as a wireless data plan for your dog). This still doesn’t break the bank, but if you opt for a two-year subscription (the most economical choice), this adds $7/month, bringing your first year’s expense on this to $133, hence this placement in this price category. Obviously, all subsequent years you only incur the expense of the subscription, unless your dog chews up the device, as Pwolfgang did, therefore taking you smack, dab (like the shirt?!?!?!), back to $133.
All of this is still way cheaper than a vet bill if something happens to Fido during his prison break and certainly way, way better than the wife murdering you if something even more serious happened. Think of it as investing in the future of your relationship.
Have a death wish? Well then boy do I have a product for you.
I’m fortunate enough to be in Switzerland often for work. It’s a beautiful place; clean, organized, safe, and with a generally very active, outdoor-oriented population (sure, they hid a bunch of money for the Nazi’s a few years back, but who amongst us is perfect, right?). One of the things that the Swiss pride themselves on is not only their precision, but also their ability to not just follow rules, but follow them to the letter.
It is for just that reason why I was so surprised to see a guy skijoring one morning on a trail in Davos, Switzerland, that prohibited dogs. Sure, it was 6 a.m. on a Tuesday, but for a Swiss person to break a rule that cut and dry is almost unheard of. There was a method to his madness though — he was attempting to train his wife’s dog (and with very little success), so his brought this beast to the far end of the trail system where he thought he was unlikely to run into any other skiers. Overall, sound logic, as generally that portion of the trail is completely empty at that time of day, as it is quite remote. I was skiing to work and since it was dark every night on my ski back to my apartment, my only way to get in extra k’s was to squeeze them in every morning at O-Dark Thirty.
So as is always the case in every good story, I was “just skiing along,” (all shop rats LOVE “JSA,” and it’s cycling cousin, “JRA,” inquire about this in your next visit to either a bike or ski shop), when all of a sudden this guy came screaming by me, wrapped up in a labyrinth of webbing, straps, cables, handles and pulleys: it looks like a Rube Goldberg nightmare mashup with a paratrooper, cartoon dog, and lost Swiss banker.
The guy and his out of control hound passed me at Mach 7 and I immediately had a few thoughts: first, “Wow, those guys were going fast.” Next was, “Hmm, there’s something you don’t see all that often out here, I wonder if that is allowed”, (it’s not). Then finally, as he was heading for a hairpin turn going about 60 kph, “Geez, he must be a REALLY good skier if he can make that turn, at that speed, with the crazy dog.”
Well, it turns out that he wasn’t a good enough skier to make that turn at that speed, as “Lovitz,” or some interesting Swiss/German name somewhat close to that, rocketed him into the snowbank. He didn’t just crash either, he crashed HARD. Being extremely sympathetic to this situation and being the beautiful person that I am, I turned around and skied up to see if he was OK. He was fine, though thoroughly embarrassed. He then went on to apologize profusely for skijoring in an illegal section of trail, passing me too closely, and disrupting my ski. This poor gentleman then went on to offer excruciating detail on the terrible luck he was having training this dog and how pissed he was at his wife for getting this stupid animal and not training it properly. All of this seemed hilarious at the time, but since God is a ball-buster, the schadenfreude I experienced at that moment has come back to haunt me 1,000 times over with the acquisition of my own giant, untrainable animal. That was my first experience with skijoring, but it wouldn’t be the last.
On that topic, while it would undoubtedly make for some hilarious video, I have somehow managed to amass enough common sense in the past few years to realize that even attempting to go rollerski skijoring with Pwolfgang is a bad idea. Snow? Maybe. But unforgiving East Coast motorists, hilly, narrow roads and an overpowered, under-IQ’d Great Dane? That’s ones of those situations in which you truly deserve a stern lecture from the ER doc when you’re being admitted for multiple-blunt trauma.
Not that I need any more reasons to not take my Great Dane skjorring, but in case you are wondering, I have a bunch of them: there’s the fact that as we discussed yesterday, I have beautiful but very delicate, bruisable, alabaster skin, piano wire-like cruciate tendons, and a tendency to cry at the drop of a hat — not the mention the eagerness of so many of those around me to see my fail (I’m looking at you again, Mr. Mom Jeans, Josh Smullin). Add of this up and my decision to leave Pwolfgang at home to wreck the house was an easy one. Before all of you get your panties in a wad though, do not worry, I did, in fact, test the skijoring system — I simply opted for a few of the better behaved, slightly lessly powered option in the FBD stable, er, kennel — my trusty Labradors.
Snow is obviously a bit of a different situation, but even so, do be perhaps a bit careful. After all, I could be skiing the other way and as we all know, I have a lot to live for, so please factor this in accordingly.
So what are you waiting for? Go get this wicked contraption and get out there. Don’t worry either, I know CPR and I’m a wonderful person, so if I see you in a ditch, I’ll do the same as I did for Lovitz and my Swiss friend.
$174.95 on RuffWear.com (but with your pending bills from your emergency-room visit, this could take you well over the $300 cutoff for this category)
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.