Dog Days

See Spot get driven about

By Novella Carpenter

Like people who collect fuzzy dice or matreshka dolls or cow-themed things, I get lots of car-related items and information sent my way. My mother, God love her, is the biggest contributor. “Did you read Danny Hakim’s latest on GM?” she’ll say on the phone. The other day, this came in from the hinterlands (Mom lives in rural Washington state): her friends–mostly retired schoolteachers–are buying cars for their dogs. “Lisa just bought a Scion for their three dogs, maybe you could do a story on that?” She hesitated. I hesitated. That Scion is going to get really smelly, I thought. But, OK Mom, this one’s for you.

The dog days of summer are here, and if you’re a canine owner, that usually means shuttling Cujo to the local parks, swimming holes and doggy bakeries. Yes, doggy bakeries. Around the country there is a business called Three Dog Bakery, which caters just to dogs and serves up “a healthy all-natural, bone-i-fied treat to give their favorite four-legged friends.” And these people who go to the doggy bakery probably bought a car just for their dogs, or at least have numerous car accessories for their vehicles.

Berkeley’s tony Fourth Street area boasts a doggy accessory store called George, Very Splendid Pet Gear. They sell “eye-catching accessories for all manner of quadrupeds.” I talked to the owner Bobby about any trends in car-buying for dog owners. He couldn’t name any one hot car but said he has a Volvo station wagon for his wire-hair terrier, George, “with one of those cage things in the back. Dogs should always be kept out of the front seat because of air bags. As with children, a front air bag will kill a dog.”

To keep pup comfortable, Bobby recommends throwing one of his shop’s stylish quilts in the back seat, which come with straps that attach to the back headrest. Quilts come in a variety of colors and patterns and are fully machine washable ($130).

Vallejo resident Gretchen Zimmerman owns two dogs and two cars: one, a pristine midnight-blue VW Golf; the other, a Mercedes station wagon covered in dog slobber. “The best dog car has AC,” Gretchen opines. “They get so hot in the car, and I refuse to roll my window down to let them hang out. I mean, I’ll roll it enough that they can stick the tips of their noses out, but when I see dogs almost hanging out of cars, it makes me feel so nervous. What if there’s an accident?”

Gretchen also doesn’t allow the dogs in the front seat because of air bags. She recommends getting cloth seats, not leather, because dog toenails aren’t retractable and will cut right into the leather. Though she doesn’t shop at George, she does recommend some kind of throw for the back-seat area. She uses a medium-sized rug draped over the back seat and attached by pushing the head rest through it. The very back area of the Mercedes is fluffed up with a variety of blankets, throws and towels.

What about the smell? I asked Gretchen.

“It’s getting a little smelly, especially when we go to the beach,” she says. “I’m not good with proactive cleaning, just every couple of weeks I get out the Shop-Vac and hose down the outside and wash the dog slobber off the windows.” Gretchen admits that she isn’t the kind of person who’s anal retentive about her car. “I don’t care if my car looks great all the time,” she says. “It’s just a car, not a fashion statement.”

But she knows some people who use having dogs as an excuse to buy another, bigger car, like a couple who have two Great Danes and drive an enormous Ford 350. “In that case, the truck makes sense. But for me, I don’t want them to have too much room; they get tossed around too much.”

Another tip Gretchen offers is to always have water and a dog dish with you in the car. I had no idea that dog safety in the car was such a hot issue for pet owners! Remember to keep little Lulu safe this summer season.

Send your favorite dog/car combination to [email protected]

From the June 29-July 5, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.

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