By Shannon Mominee
It’s hard to keep sane through the winter with the short amount of daylight hours, below average temperatures, and an activity level that wants to dip to near hibernation. I probably would sleep straight through January and February if I didn’t feel guilty about not taking my dog, Roman, to the trails for exercise.
At times, it hardly felt worth going to the park. He has short hair and no undercoat, and despite my intentions of moving to stay warm, he’s only good for about an hour before getting cold and visibly shaking.
A couple weeks before Christmas, I was at REI and spotted Ruffwear’s Cloud Chaser soft shell dog jacket and thought it might help Roman retain body heat so we can play outside longer.
The Cloud Chaser has a water and wind-proof, fleece-lined, soft shell panel that covers Roman’s back, and a stretchy, Teflon treated, lower panel that wraps around his chest and belly with openings for his long front legs to slide through. A full-length YKK zipper, protected by a weather flap, starts at his neck and ends at his rear legs to zip the jacket together.
The size large jacket fits his 75-pound body snug, like an athletic cut jersey and it stays in place while he runs through the woods. It hasn’t impeded him from catching air when he jumps fallen trees or inhibited the motion of his legs when running. He zigzags through the brush without getting snagged and kicks up snow, water and mud like a champ, while pursuing deer and forest creatures. Surprisingly, the zipper has never come undone during any of his roughhousing and running.
I did have to fold and safety pin the lower panel forward about an inch, because it was rubbing and chaffing his man-dog part. Other than that the Cloud Chaser has more than met my expectations.
The back panel has survived the paws and claws of other dogs at the park, and more impressively, the huge 3-inch-long hawthorns and other thorn bushes that fill the woods here haven’t ripped the jacket to shreds. So far, the Cloud Chaser has only sustained a half-inch tear in the soft shell, probably from a thorn, but considering Roman’s been wearing the jacket about five times a week since December, I can live with that. Besides, it’s easily repaired, we are outside longer, and he’s warm and happy.
I also like that the lower panel keeps his underside clean. It’s easier to throw the jacket in the washer than it is to give Roman a bath during winter. And one more thing: since his silver-gray fur is the perfect camouflage in any season, even if he’s only 10 feet away, the red jacket makes him easy to spot.
Ruffwear’s Cloud Chaser retails for $75, has a blinky light loop on the back near the neck, and two 3M Scotchlite reflective stripes on either side. Ruffwear makes a few other jacket styles and boots for a variety of conditions and terrain, as well as any other dog gear you could possibly need. If I had the cash I’d try the boots for when the snow is deep, but for now I just use my fingers to clear the snow from his webbed toes. If you and your pooch enjoy the outdoors year round, or if you travel and camp together, take a look at Ruffwear’s website. They have a lot of cool stuff that will keep you both happy and entertained.