Weather Forecast


Dog toppers are a great way to keep canine companions protected and insulated

WORTHINGTON -- Having one dog can be challenging when you want to take a trip or go on some sort of get away.

This problem gets proportionately bigger when you have four dogs, and finding someone who is willing to come over to the house and tend to them gets even harder.

When it comes to the three musketeers and the non-hunting house dog Tina, it is just easier, and in most cases more fun, to take them along. This is of course if there is no flying involved.

My main source of transportation used to be a Chevy Suburban. I stacked the cages in the back, and with the second seat folded down, could haul four dogs and still have room for maybe one suitcase. Having enough room is mandatory, but even if you can get them all on board the problem is only half solved.

Carrying animals in a car or truck still has many challenges. These challenges are present no matter what the season.

The most dangerous season to transport animals is in the summer months. The temperatures inside a locked car or truck will quickly reach a point where your canine passengers could easily die of over heating.

This can happen so fast it would make your head spin. I hear way too many stories of dead dogs and the "I just didn't know excuse."

A marginal solution is to leave the windows open to allow for air movement (hopefully there is a breeze) through the vehicle, which will almost always result in all of your valuables being borrowed by a stranger who has no intentions of returning them.

This is not a great option. I was always worried that even if my valuables weren't stolen that maybe someone would steal one or more of my dogs.

The same concerns present themselves in the winter. A dog that is used to being in the house all the time does not build up a heavy winter coat.

It is just cruel to make a dog go from the living room to the freezer. I needed a method to take my dogs with me that would not subject them to either temperature extreme and would preserve my valuables as well.

One way to accomplish this was to buy a dog trailer. These trailers are specially designed by a variety of manufacturers and come with cooling fans for the summer heat and are super insulated to keep the dogs comfortable in the winter.

Normally in the winter months, you would partially fill the individual kennel with some straw or hay in order for the dog to bed down in comfort. The use of a trailer allows more people space and also the ability to have more than one suitcase.

It seems that this might be the answer to the dog transportation problem, but then the next challenge pops up.

What do you do if you want to stop off at the Mall of America on your way? I have never had any positive experience with a trailer in a parking garage. The desire to tow an ATV trailer or a boat while, at the same time taking the dogs along makes the trailer option obsolete.

There is one other alternative -- a box mounted dog topper. These dog boxes are built in the same way, but are mounted on the truck much the same way a conventional topper would be mounted. They have the same fans and insulation as the trailer, but allow for a more multi-purpose outing.

In order to exercise this option, the first thing you need to do is trade the suburban for a heavy duty half ton Chevy truck. The next step is then put down your deposit for the topper mount box you want.

As with just about anything, there is good, better, and best. The premiere manufacturer in the dog box business is Ainley Fabrication in Des Moines, Iowa. There was a six-month wait after I made my deposit, and the unit weighs about 1,400 hundred pounds when loaded with six dogs and the 10 gallon on-board water tank is full.

This rig is really the way to go. I can park in the direct sun in 100 degree heat, with the fans on and open the door after several hours, and the occupants won't even be panting.

Move to mid-January, and at 16 degrees below zero the body heat of the dogs and the insulation will keep the water in their dog dishes from freezing in the kennels even over an 12 hour period.

This means that it doesn't get below 32 degrees, and even a couch dog can live with that.

The only drawback to this type of set up is that you have to back up trailers using mirrors only. Fuel economy runs in the whopping 10 mpg range and the truck box is not useable for much else. The dogs load by the use of a ladder, and this is less convenient then just jumping into a much lower trailer chassis. This box stays on year around due to the difficulty in taking it on and off.

I often get comments from people on the street about how I can keep them cooped up in the box for several days at a time. I explain that they get exercised four times per day and that they really don't mind being in the box.

When I get the ladder out, all the dogs get really excited to get in the truck as they know this means that there are fun events happening in their day.

You could always board your dog at a boarding facility, but I chose to include my dogs in most of my daily travels.

A Labrador normally lives for about 12 years. This time goes so fast, that I don't want to miss a single day. Here's to having one or four of man's best friends always at your side.