By Brian Sibbles
Many of us in the 4X4 sport love our pets. I’m not talking about the little spider that lives in your rig making great webs across your role bar every morning for you to sit in. I’m talking about our four-legged, typically hairy friends - our dogs. I‘ve noticed that many off road enthusiasts take their pets along for the ride, which is a great way to keep them socialized and exercised.
Along with friends and family, we have come up with good ways to keep them in the rig by having them wear a harness and restricting their movement. Some of us have a short leash tied down to a seat belt mount or a cable line fastened to the roll bar with another line attached to them so they can move around a little. These methods have worked great over the past years while riding down a fairly flat trail. When it comes to obstacles we take our dogs out of the rig just in case something happens that we don’t anticipate, which seems logical right?
Here’s the deal. Camp NL in Minden, August 2007. Terry, another volunteer at the event, and myself were guiding a trail with a lot of new and novice wheelers. On the trail you could pick two ways to go; through some tight trees or through the tail end of a swamp which at that time of year looked passable. Most of the participants chose the tree section except for one guy who had a big heart, but not so big CJ, which the swamp just ate. After pulling him out people started egging me on to give her a go. Running a larger truck on 37 Iroks I figured sure, it’ll make a good show with limited wheel spin and lockers. Off I went with a passenger and Skipper, my black lab. Looking fairly flat we slowly entered the mud, front tires in and ready to give her some light throttle I took 2nd gear and dropped in the rear. When the rear dropped in I got on the gas and was making good progress, all of a sudden one side of the jeep dropped and out the side Skipper went with out me even noticing. Like I said before, he is wearing his restraint and tied off but with the unanticipated drop in the mud his restraint was just a little to long and he ended up hanging out the side bouncing off my rear passenger tire. I didn’t notice or hear a thing as I was getting through the swamp. People were yelling but I thought they were cheering. The other guide stepped out with his hands waving frantically. I stopped and everyone was crowding around screaming “the dog, the dog!”
I looked back and he was gone.
All of a sudden I saw Skipper running around covered in mud. Confused, everyone filled me in on what had happened. Skipper broke free from his harness as I came to a stop and appeared to be un-scathed from our incident. Wagging his tail and getting all sorts of attention from everyone, Skipper was ok. However, I was not. Thinking about what could have happened made me realize I had to prevent this from ever happening again.
Finishing off the day with an un-easy stomach we shared our experience with the entire event that evening during the awards and prize bash. Terry told the story and everyone was in shock as many of the people know Skipper and know how much I cherish him. I ordered a roll bar mesh kit. Getting home from the weekend I shortened his restraint and got the kit in about 3 days. In addition to the mesh kit, I found a set of used Tuffy boxes to install on the wheel wells in the rear to keep Skipper from standing on them.
I have been wheeling with Skipper since the mods and he doesn’t seem to mind the mesh or the boxes, although he looks like a jailed convict.
So next time you head out with your best buddy, take into consideration their safety as well. Instead of buying that cool piece of chrome or light kit, consider protecting your pet. It only takes one unanticipated move to lose them in a tragic accident as I almost did. The cost of protecting them is minimal compared to the grief you’ll have and the shock on-lookers will experience if something were to go wrong.
Dirty Dog 4X4 one of the OF4WD’s great sponsors and can get you set up today, check them out, it only takes a few minutes.