Scott Rall: Dog condo is almost ready

Scott RallDaily Globe outdoors columnist The snow was just about gone, and then we got this last batch a few weeks back. I wish we could have just skipped that. I was calling a couple of days back to check up on a dog kennel box that I had ordere...

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The fabrication and installation is shown with the new Rall dog condo. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Scott Rall
Daily Globe outdoors columnist 

The snow was just about gone, and then we got this last batch a few weeks back. I wish we could have just skipped that.
I was calling a couple of days back to check up on a dog kennel box that I had ordered for my 2010 GMC Sierra with Jane Ainley in Dubuque, Iowa. They had gotten some snow down there, too. She commented that it wasn’t so bad because we are getting close to the end of the snow season.
I had to agree. With temperatures in the 50s and 60s it seems like that last snow was a very long time ago.
Ainley Kennels and Fabrication makes all kinds of dog equipment. They are the undisputed king of quality and workmanship in this field. They make everything from truck dog toppers with two to eight holes all the way up to 36-hole fifth-wheel trailers for the greyhound folks to use to haul dogs all over the country.
They also make what is called a chassis mount box. This is where the truck box is removed and a whole new unit replaces it. They can have anywhere from four dog boxes up to 16 dog holding spaces.
The big chassis mounts are usually only used on one-ton or larger diesel trucks and pickups. I used to have a professionally fabricated dog box from this company back in 2003. At the time it cost about $7,500.
There are very few people who will expend this kind of change for the ability to haul their dogs around. What most people don’t realize is that when I sold it in 2010 the guy who bought it paid me $7,200. It cost me only $300 to have and use this rig for seven years.
As long as you keep the quality equipment in good shape, you, for the most part, can never get hurt very much financially by owning it.
When I sold the topper I was down to two dogs and did not need an entire truck committed to dogs and their movements. This, as the story played out, was a very short period in my life.
About a year later me and Sweetie were back to four dogs. When you install a box of this nature it does not come on and off with ease. It takes a chain hoist and several helpers to move it from one place to another. It weighs about 650 pounds.
Pat Shorter from Oxford Automotive Exteriors was the guy I called on the last time to move it to the truck of the guy who bought it. He drove all the way from southern Illinois to get here. The magic of the Internet is quite something.
Why would he pay within $300 of a new for my used one, you might ask. The reason is that the company that makes them is so successful that when you order one and put down your deposit it takes about eight months for them to get your name on the list so they can start building it. This guy saved eight months wait time and most likely saved the sales tax on this also by not reporting the purchase back in his home state. This could have saved him about $500.
I sold it in the same condition seven years later as it was when I got it. They are made with an aluminum frame and stainless steel coverings so they never rust and stay looking great. I had a picture of my dog trailer from the same company in my column about 18 months ago and the new topper will look very much like I cut the wheels off the trailer and mounted it on the back of my truck.
Many of the features have not changed since 2003. It could be that these features go back a lot longer than that, but I had no experience with this company before 2003.
The reason I opted to go back to a dog box instead of continuing to use my dog trailer is primarily parking. When I traveled overnight in the past, my wife would usually be home and love the dogs while I was on the road. Now as a result of her passing last September there is only an empty house. This means when I travel all of the dogs travel with me every time. There is no place or space in a metropolitan area parking ramp to maneuver a truck and dog trailer. Even if you can get around there is never two parking spots right next to each other.
It is also impossible to pull my boat, camper, ATV, or motorcycle and the dog trailer at the same time. I needed to reconfigure my ride as to allow for five dogs worth of transport and still be able to go where I needed to go and pull what I need to pull.
With this new setup I will be able to travel here and there with all of my dogs and whatever I might like to tow along. This is the reason for the switch back to a dog box on the truck and not continuing to use the trailer as my main method of dog transport.
I have been asked many times if I was going to sell my dog trailer. Many people would like to buy it. The answer is no. I am going to keep the trailer for those times when I go on a hunting trip with friends and they have dogs to bring along also. The truck box will be full up with my own dogs, and if I sold the trailer we would need to drive a second rig to carry additional dogs even it there were only two of us going.
Each of these rigs are built much the same. They are very well insulated so that in the winter the dogs’ body heat keeps the interior warm enough that water will not freeze in the water pans.
This means all of the dogs are above 32 degrees and this temperature is no issue for a Labrador. The dogs can keep it warm inside down to 17 below. This is the coldest I have had dogs in the truck and the water did not freeze overnight. The little Rat Terrier Skeeter shares a dog space with my black lab Axle. Skeeter uses Axle to keep him warm.
The insulation that keeps them warm in the winter also keeps them cool in the summer.
I cannot explain exactly how this works, though. There is a fan in the dog box and dog trailer that circulates air in the door vents and out the top.
If the fan is sucking in outside air that is 100 degrees on a hot July day how could it not be 100 degrees inside the topper box or trailer? I was at the Sanford hospital in Sioux Falls for several days when my Sweetie was hospitalized. I went out at 2 p.m. one day to check on the dogs and make sure the fan was running. I quietly opened the locked dog door and peered in. The temperature on the truck thermometer was 98 degrees in the middle of this big parking lot. When I looked in you could see that there was not a single dog panting. They were as cool as cucumbers. It does not make sense to me but it does work this way.
There are trade-offs with both dog hauling methods. The truck requires that the dogs load in and out using a ladder that runs from the box opening to the ground. This is not difficult, but it does take more effort than letting the dog make the short jump from the ground into the dog trailer kennel. The dog truck box is higher off the ground and this means that on gravel roads the dogs are not subject to breathing in the dust from the truck tires. You need to be careful on gravel roads with a dog trailer. When traveling off road or in bad road conditions a truck box is easier to navigate with, also.
The ride is smoother for the dogs that ride in the dog box topper compared to beating down the Interstate with the trailer galloping over the expansion joints in the road. If you ever purchase a dog trailer, make sure you get one that has enough weight to even out the bumps. The six-hole trailer I have is big enough to get this job done but I have seen small 2-4 dog trailers where the wheels would bounce of the ground. Not a good situation for a dog.
The way I am set up now I can make the most of every travel opportunity. The dogs are safe, secure and comfortable regardless of the weather. Some folks drive new $50,000 trucks, live in $650,000 houses and travel the world. I choose to commit my disposable income to a life as a dog trainer, multiple dog owner and hunter/outdoorsman. My new rig was ordered on June 1 and will be ready to pick up on March 12.
I made that trip last weekend and the new rig is in place. It is everything I thought it would be. I am sure my dogs are excited, too. It only took them about three trips up and down the ladder to get that figured out.

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