The cooling vest: a summer exploring necessity

In memory of Rufus, the St. Bernard

He was a lovely, old fellow.

Rufus would rumble along the path at Tom Campbell park in Calgary, far behind the chihuahua, the two Maremmas and their humans. He was 15 or so, this St. Bernard gentleman, and his back was covered with benign tumours and lumps of fat deposits.

One warm spring day, he wore a bright blue jacket and I asked his human, Cindy, about it.

It was a cooling vest, she said, and it helps old Rufus bear the heat from the rays of the sun.

“You should get one for Shep,” she said. “With all that fur, I bet he’d really appreciate it.”

I looked around Calgary pet shops but found far less expensive models online. The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler was at Dick’s Sporting Goods for super cheap (and  I could ship the vest to My American’s house, so I saved a bundle on shipping.)

The cooling vest blocks harmful UV rays and works on evaporative technology:

evaporative technology for dogs
From Ruffwear’s blog

Help your dog beat the heat with this innovative cooling vest.

Just soak it in cold water, wring it out, and fasten around your dog. Evaporative cooling (like an actual swamp cooler) exchanges the dog’s heat with the coolness of the stored water in the coat to keep them comfortable and ready to run that extra mile.

Shep doesn’t run miles anymore. As my 11-year-old BFF heads toward his twilight years, he’s starting to lumber along like Rufus, who passed away last fall.

The Swamp Cooler vest has been one of our best purchases yet. It especially came in handy last summer when the three of us embarked on our cross-country road trip to Nova Scotia.

Maremma sheepdog wearing a cooling vest

The heat, complicated by intense humidity, was suffocating through the midwest states. We survived by blasting the air conditioning in the Escape, while Shep doubled up with cooling vest.

We’d stop occasionally for a jump in the lake, and we kept a spray bottle full of water to spritz Shep when we thought the vest might be getting dry.

I think — I hope — the vest helped Shep deal with the hot, hot weather a little better than he might have without it.

When I pulled it out of the closet yesterday for his daily walk, I thought saw his head dip a little, as if he was saying ‘oh no, not this again.’ After all, he wore it for almost four weeks straight last summer and the chest clasp rubbed his fur right off.

The bald spots have grown back in and I don’t imagine we’ll be doing a three-week road trip this summer.

But living and exploring in Kamloops, which is located in a semi-arid belt, makes the vest a necessity. We’ve already faced a handful of 32 C days (so not complaining) and Shep isn’t really inclined to spend much time outside.

He does love a good road trip, though, and I can’t imagine one without him.

So there he’ll be, my trusty co-pilot, all decked out in his Ruffwear.

Cooler than Joe Cool.

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