Ripley and I are always schlepping our gear around. One of the consequences of not being able to drive is that, unlike most people, we aren’t able to use a car as a big, traveling suitcase. If we want to have something with us, we need to be able to carry it. Since I have my own stuff on any given day (writerly things like notepads, pens, books, a laptop, a camera), adding Ripley’s gear to the mix can get cumbersome. So we have learned to be compact and plan well.
One way we do that is to have Ripley’s bag always packed. When our ride arrives, all I have to do is clip on her vest, and grab a leash and the Ripley bag, and we’re out the door. When with friends who have young children, I sometimes jokingly refer to this tote as my “diaper bag,” and they completely understand. Can’t leave home without it.
So what goes into a good dog’s duffel bag? First off, there’s the bag itself. I happen to be very partial to Timbuk2 bags. Timbuk2 is based in San Francisco. They got their start making bicycle messenger bags, and have since branched out to make duffel bags, laptop bags, etc. The one thing that stays the same is the tough durability, the high quality of the craftmanship, and the great design, plus fun colors. I own a bunch of them. So choosing a Tumbuk2 duffel bag for Ripley was an easy choice. It has outside pockets, D-rings on both ends for clip-on accessories, loop straps as well as a shoulder strap. It zips closed all the way down the top. Inside, it is roomy and open, but along each side there are individual cubbies for stashing things, some of which are pockets, some mesh, one with a long zipper. The entire bag is water resistant and easy to clean.
The most important item in the bag is, of course, water. I carry a metal water bottle that is just Ripley’s (paw prints to make it obvious) so I never mistakenly use it for something else and forget to put it back in the bag. It has a carabiner on the top, so it can be attached to the outside of the bag, or to my belt if needed. Along with the bottle, I have a small collapsible water dish. This is hands-down the best one on the market. I have tried at least half a dozen water dispensers, from collapsible cloth bowls (they take forever to dry) to a folding bottle with a tray (Ripley wouldn’t touch it). This simple little bowl is perfect. It holds a little over one cup of water; you can easily refill it if your dog needs more. It doesn’t tip over. When done, just flatten, tap on the ground to shake off the excess water, and then use the carabiner to hang it off the end of your bag (or clip to your belt loop). It also will wipe completely dry with a paper towel.
Ripley would say the next most important thing is the treat bag! I use one from Outward Hound, a small bag with a drawstring enclosure that has a belt clip on back. Should I actually need it, I can easily attach it to my back or side pocket and carry it along.
Of course, one must always have an extra stock of poop bags, too. Ripley keeps six or seven in her vest pocket, but I stash a whole roll in the dog bag. Especially as a service dog, it is exceedingly bad manners not to clean up after one’s messes. So, like good Girl Scouts, we are always prepared.
The largest item in our bag is the fleecy dog blanket. Now, you may think at first blush that it’s a bit luxurious for Ripley to travel around with her own cushy blanket. But it really does make sense, at so many levels.
We often go into private homes. People are very gracious, even when they have no pets of their own. Still, I like to minimize our impact. Yellow labs shed. By placing the blanket down next to my chair, Ripley not only has a comfortable “home base” for the duration of the visit, we also keep the blonde hairs in one spot.
If we go to public venues, such as movie theaters or concert halls, the floors may be concrete or wooden, or marble. Any of these can be cold and uncomfortable for her, especially now that she is getting older, so having the blanket makes a difference if she is expected to lie on the floor for a two or three hour performance. It also serves a second purpose – those same floors can cause the slightest sound to ricochet through the room. A dog’s toe nails on the floor in the middle of a concert – eek! So having the blanket allows Riley a safe place to curl up, and move slightly now and then without fear of creating an interruption in the program.
And finally, when in restaurants, the blanket is the perfect solution when the legs of the table are structured in such a way that there is no unobstructed place for Ripley to lie down. I put the blanket over the top of any table leg bases, and that’s enough of a signal for her. She happily snuggles in for the duration.
A couple final items: I carry a spare set of dog socks (the primary set is in Ripley’s vest), for use on slippery floors – mainly grocery stores; a small flashlight, for night-time potty breaks (remember, you have to be able to find it before you can put it in the bag!); an extra leash (because too often I have forgotten one in someone’s car); a dog comb; and a small shopping bag, which I clip to the outside of the duffel bag with a carabiner. I also have a Service Dog patch attached to the bag, along with an ID tag, so that anyone finding the bag will know whose it is, and will hopefully return it.
There you go! Ready to pack yours now?