Journey of a Raw Fed Cat (and Dog!)

Lucy Cat (the lesser known family member of Team Colorado Canine) was actually the one who first blazed the trail for Bella into the world of raw food.  Lucy had suffered from IBD (irritable bowel disease) for years, and after several vet visits I was finally told that her digestive system problems needed to be resolved or her outlook might not be good. She had a couple of bad teeth that need to be removed, including a big canine with exposed nerves, but the vet was unwilling to put her under anesthesia until her health improved. I left that vet visit feeling like I had been given an ultimatum, along with a quote for thousands of dollars worth of sonograms and bloodwork and a $40 bag of “prescription cat food,” inimg_0030 which the main ingredients were chicken-by-products and corn.

Lucy Cat was a stray I discovered stuck in the basement of an abandoned house when I was living in New York.  After prying the storm door up with a crow bar and pulling emaciated Lucy out, I found an organization willing to spay, vaccinate, de-flea and de-worm her free of cost as long as I would agree to foster her and take her to adoption weekends at PetsMart.  Needless to say she was an immediate foster-failure and never made it to a single adoption day.  I was going through a tough time, and I figured Lucy came into my life because we needed each other.  I bought a book on Cat health and nutrition , and was impressed with how logically and convincingly the author laid out her arguments for feeding cats raw food.  However, like many pet owners, I bought premium high-protein and grain-free kibble instead, playing into the common fears that true raw food is too expensive and inconvenient.

Seven years after Lucy’s initial rescue in New York, walking out of the vet’s office with what I felt deep down was kitty poison in a 5 lb bag, I felt helpless. I’d tried grain free kibble, limited ingredient diets, expensive wet foods, everything.  Maybe I was wrong and just needed to give this food a shot.  Feeling sorry for both Lucy Cat and myself, something told me that I needed to try one last resort before I fed Lucy what every fiber of my being was telling me not to feed her. I headed to The Happy Beast, a local pet food shop in my neighborhood.  I knew that owner Natalie was a huge proponent of raw food (they’ve actually stopped selling cat food in kibble form altogether as of this past July).  Natalie explained how many processed foods still contain high levels of carbs and other irritants to cats, and how cats in particular are designed to be dedicated raw meat carnivors.  Cats are picky eaters and don’t scavenge quite like canines might in the wild. The Happy Beast hooked Lucy up with some samples of Small Batch Raw Blends, and we were off.

It took about two days for Lucy to have literally no more symptoms of IBD, and after about 4 years of horrible bouts of digestive woes, she has been symptom-free for about eight months now.  My fiancé, Pat, a pretty huge skeptic of raw food (It’s too expensive!  You are just giving into yuppie pet food trends!), is now one of the biggest believers in feeding raw after Lucy’s miraculous recovery.  Lucy has also successfully had her bad teeth removed, and Pat’s only current gripe is the borderline manic energy that our kitty now possess.


While raw food has been amazing for Lucy, Bella has begun to reap the benefits as well. Being a 60lb dog versus a 7lb cat, it does cost quite a bit more to feed Bella raw, but we are working on at least a rotation schedule for her meals.  Ideally we would like to get Bella to be 100% raw fed.

Getting a system down for feeding raw is important, because it can be messy if you don’t have a plan.  I’ve outlined the system we’ve developed that works very well for us, along with what we hope are a few helpful tips if you are planning on trying out raw food for your furry friend.

What Type of Raw?

Raw food is sold in a few different forms.  Freeze-dried raw is convenient and great for treats and travel, but tends to not be the most economical.  Frozen raw food is oftentimes sold in patty form, which is also quite convenient.  We prefer bulk rolls or “chubs”, which are very economical and we find are almost more convenient for us in the end, because once we divide up the food we can store it in any shape of container we desire.


Freeze dried raw food reconstituted with water

Small Batch Pets is our favorite brand.  They use high quality, locally sourced foods. They prize quality over quantity, and for this reason are currently only available in the Western United States.   Small Batch sells batches (patty forms, sized both for cats and dogs, with added vegetables and supplements), as well as blends (bulk, pure frozen raw meat).  We use both, but have primarily used blends because of the economic advantage.

No matter what brand you choose, it’s important to rotate out the meat you feed your pet.  Price can vary depending on the type of meat you are feeding, however only feeding one type of meat can create intolerances.

Storage and Cross-Contamination Considerations

When handling raw meat, it is important to be conscientious.  You don’t want to spread any bacteria from raw meat to your own food or bodies.  We bought a plastic bin for storing and thawing raw meat in the refrigerator.  This keeps raw meat separate from our own food, and we line the bin with a paper towel which we replace every so often to catch any drips or leaks.  As an extra precaution, store raw food on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, so that any accidental leaks wont drip onto human food.  As always, make sure to disinfect any surfaces you cut or prepare raw food on, and wash your hands after handling raw meat!

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We find that the easiest way to thaw frozen raw food is to place the portion you want in a glass container (plastic can leach chemicals), and place the container in the fridge to thaw slowly on its own.  For Lucy, we place the entire “chub” in the fridge to thaw.  Ideally you want to divide up the roll about 24 hours later, when it is only partially thawed.  More thawed than just partially is still ok, but it is messier to slice and divide at that point. I bought small, 4 ounce Ball jars for Lucy’s regular meals, which I wash and reuse.  One Small Batch blend divides into 14 jars for Lucy’s weight, enough for 2 weeks.  I also give Lucy a daily “lunch” of freeze-dried food, which has added vitamins and minerals, and I often use it in her feeder when I am gone (see the next section).  Once the roll is evenly divided into jars, I put most of the jars in the freezer, and keep once or two in the fridge at any given time.  I simply keep rotating jars into the plastic basket in the fridge to thaw as I use them. I’ve also heard of people using ice cube trays for cats with success!

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Treats, Travel, and Vacation


Bella catches Small Batch treats on a horseback ride

For backpacking, camping, and traveling, freeze-dried food is a great option for Bella.  I also crumble freeze dried raw food into Lucy’s automatic timed feeder when we go away on adventures.  Ideally, you want to soak freeze dried food in water first, but this method is great for short weekend trips away.  For longer trips, I like to have someone come by the house to supplement dry meals with her regular frozen raw food.


Bella eats freeze-dried raw food while staying in a Wyoming fire tower.

Freeze-dried meat treats are a great, healthy, and lightweight treat option on the go!  I particularly love Small Batch’s meat treats to reinforce Bella to stay close when on horseback rides.

Thinking about making the switch to raw?  Still not convinced?  Make sure to stop by your local pet store and ask the shop owner for a consultation.  We’ve discovered that small pet food shops are more than thrilled to help people figure out budgets and customized systems that work for them as individuals! They will also have suggestions for issues that may come up such as transitioning finicky felines to a new type of food. In the end, your dog or cat will thank you, and you will be additionally rewarded with fewer vet bills!


Learn more about feeding raw through The Happy Beast’s Blog !


A Letter to Backcountry K-9 Customers



August 15, 2016

Dear Backcountry K-9 Customers,

Three years ago this September, a nice boy I had met at a running club a few years back drove up to Chautauqua Park in Boulder with a Subaru filled to the brim with all of his worldly belongings, and a sweet little black and white dog in the back seat.  He had just moved all the way to Colorado from Maine.

Yes, I’m talking about Pat and Bella.

As time went on we all ran together more often, went out for beers together, went backpacking, took walks around the lake after work, watched episodes of “Chopped” while Pat searched for jobs and I studied for graduate school while simultaneously grading my middle school students’ papers. Bella slept on a balled-up towel in Pat’s basement apartment, and only had a tattered orange collar and simple black leash to her name.


For our first Christmas together, I got Bella an orange Ruffwear Approach Pack from this little website I found called  I spent a long time searching for the best deal on the web, because I was a part-time teacher then and didn’t make anything close to a livable wage.  The money I was about to spend was hard to come by.  I was also training for my first marathon at the time, and frequently ran six miles from my house to Pat’s apartment while he was still at work, then leashed up an ecstatic Bella and ran back home with her.  One day as a kidnapped Bella and I ran up to my front steps, there was a box from BackcountryK9 containing Bella’s first pack, sitting by the door.  It was so new yet rugged-looking.  I could only imagine the adventures this orange pack would take the three of us on over the next few years.

Since Bella’s first orange pack that Christmas, we’ve all moved in together and Bella has not just one dog bed in our house, but TWO dog beds.  Bella has become an ambassador for BackcountryK9, and the poster child of their online sales.  We’ve run our first marathons and ultra-marathons, learned how to skijor, hiked 14,000′ peaks, backpacked in wilderness areas we’ve never known existed, tried stand up paddle boarding (SUPing) for the first time, and snowshoed into frigid Rocky Mountain winters.  We’ve won medals from the Rocky Dog Trail Run at the Vail GoPro Games for two years in a row, and road tripped  to Salt Lake City in Utah to represent BackcountryK9 at the Outdoor Retailer show where Bella got to wear her own official badge and eat bacon popcorn off the floor during happy hour. Thanks to quality gear from BackcountryK9, Bella has been there every step of the way with us.

Why am I telling this story?  I’m telling this story because I believe that our stories are what make us human.  It is the individual stories like mine and yours that make up what has made BackcountryK9 so great for all of these years. We all share something in common:  believing that adventures are better when our canine friends get to come along as part of the family, and wanting them to be prepared for anything they might face out there with us.

We’d like to thank you for joining us on this journey as BackcountryK9 ambassadors, for reading our stories and sharing yours, all while supporting a wonderful little small business that always had the best deals and the latest gear.  As Jason and BackcountryK9 move on to new adventures, we plan to tag along for the journey.  Just like this isn’t the last you’ll hear from BackcountryK9, this isn’t the last you’ll hear from us.  We hope you’ll join us as we explore this new territory.

So adventure on, BackcountryK9 family, and we’ll see you a little further down this fork in the trail.


Devin, Pat and Bella


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Bella’s Backpacking Gear Review

(Note:  BackcountryK9 will stop selling gear on September 9, 2016. However, they will continue to act as a resource for those of us who enjoy adventuring with our dogs. We intend to continue contributing content for the BackcountryK9 family.  We will announce further changes as ambassadors soon.)

We had a late start to backpacking this year due to deep snow in the high country, but when we finally got out for a couple of multi-day trips, Bella’s new gear from BackcountryK9 did not disappoint. We tested out Ruffwear’s Palisades Pack as well as Ruffwear’s new Brush Guard and Aira Rain Jacket for several nights in Colorado’s Gore Range as well as the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Although backpacking season in our area is relatively short, some of the best late summer and fall days are yet to come.  For all of our backpacking trips in the Colorado Rockies, we head out prepared to face wind, rain, chilly evenings, and even snow, no matter what time of year or no matter how nice it might seem in town.

In the following sections, we break down the new gear we tested, and hope you find something that you could find useful for your own backcountry pup!

Ruffwear’s Brush Guard


The Brush Guard protects Bella’s tummy while she helps Pat stalk high altitude cutthroat trout.

This is an interesting and affordable new product that Ruffwear released this past spring.  We’ve come to really like this accessory, as it enhances Ruffwear’s backpacks and webmaster harness in several different ways.  First of all, with the larger capacity Palisades

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Product image from Ruffwear

Pack, the Brush Guard effectively helps to stabilize the load and further pad the straps. The Brush Guard also protects sensitive tummies from branches, brush, downed trees, foxtails, and any other abrasive or irritating terrain.  Finally, this product makes the harness more supportive when needing to lift your dog.  We’ve used the Brush Guard for all of these purposes, and now always keep it attached to the Webmaster Harness base on Bella’s Palisade pack.  That way, we have it for hiking in and out, but also for bushwhacking and exploring away from base camp without the saddle bags.  Most recently, we used the Brush Guard when fly fishing on a day excursion away from our base camp. There was no established trail to or around this lake, so there was a lot of bushwhacking, scrambling, and rock hopping involved. We were glad to have the Brush Guard to protect Bella’s stomach and provide additional support when we needed to help her up large boulders.

We suggest this product for:

  • Regular backpackers
  • Dogs that frequently need to be lifted/supported
  • Smaller dogs that stay low to the ground
  • Dogs that oftentimes explore in extreme terrain
  • Dogs that already use Ruffwear packs and/or Webmaster Harnesses

Maybe not for you if:

  • Your dog is on the smallest end of his or her harness/backpacking fit.  Still worth a try, but the Brush Guard does somewhat limit adjustment options at the tighter end of harness/pack adjustments.  Save your receipt just in case.

The Brush Guard stabilizes Bella’s pack, even when rolling in a patch of alpine snow.

Ruffwear’s Palisades Pack


The Palisades Pack is Ruffwear’s full featured, multi-day backpacking pack. We’ve used Ruffwear’s Approach Pack for years, and loved it.  However, we like the option of having a higher capacity pack to carry enough dog food for longer trips. Next year, I’m hoping to thru hike a section of the Colorado Trail with my mother, so it is important to be able to test this pack on shorter trips first. One thing we noticed right away was that this pack looks quite large even when empty due to the larger capacity and extra outside stash pockets, and is also a bit heavier than the Approach pack. However, these factors didn’t impact Bella at all on the trail. One thing we liked were the additional storage pockets to help organize the contents of the pack. The internal divider can section off either the included water reservoirs, or bags of waste that need to be carried out.  Load adjustment straps in the outside pockets allow for the pack to be cinched down when not being used to capacity, just like a human’s pack. Small compartments on the top are perfect for bags, treats, and Bella’s mini first aid kit.

However, my favorite feature of this pack is definitely the ability to easily unclip it from the harness.  This feature is perfect to use the harness alone in camp and on excursions away from base camp.  It also makes it easy to give Bella a break from her load if we stop for lunch or a short break, and guarantees that her gear will stay dry at water crossings. We actually passed down Bella’s original Webmaster Harness to friends, and kept the base of this pack as her go-to Webmaster Harness.

We suggest this product for:

  • Thru hikers and dogs that frequently go on multi-day backpacking trips.
  • Dogs that also could use a Webmaster Harness for daily adventures. Consider, although the Palisades is one of the more expensive dog packs on the market, you also get a detachable Webmaster harness with your purchase, a $60 retail value.

Maybe not for you if:

  • You tend to stick to day hikes or single night backpacking trips.  This pack is probably too bulky for your needs. Check out the Approach or Single Track packs instead.
  • You need to limit the weight your dog carries.  Most experts suggest your dog doesn’t carry more than 10-25% of his or her weight (REI suggests healthy dogs can safely carry up to 33% of their weight), but if for some reason you are worried about weight for factors related to health or breed of your dog, this probably isn’t a good match for you.


Ruffwear’s Aira Rain Jacket


The Aira Ran Jacket is Ruffwear’s new top-of-the-line waterproof coat. This jacket is breathable, waterproof, and offers full storm coverage with leg loops and a harness attachment point opening. We’ve used this jacket many times this summer, but particularly put it to the test during a cold and rainy backpacking trip in the Gore Range.  The leg loops took us a little while to get used to, but we found were necessary to keep the back portion from sliding off.  The storm collar effectively keeps water from running down your dog’s neck.  We thought the opening for a harness attachment was wonderful, and should be included in more jackets by Ruffwear (although, we obviously couldn’t use that feature with a pack)!  This jacket is great for a wide variety of activities, and we also use it frequently when taking out guided horseback rides in inclement weather.  I’ve been hesitant to use rain jackets with Bella in the past, because I was worried that they wouldn’t hold up in brush or on the Ranch.  This jacket, however, is very rugged and has held up well for us this summer in all terrain.

We suggest this product for:

  • Dogs who oftentimes adventure in rainy and wet weather.
  • Dogs who dislike rain.  Bella usually immediately starts digging a hole and tries to curl up in it when it starts raining on her.
  • Working dogs and backpacking dogs who need to be outside in all conditions.
  • Dogs who need wind and/or rain protection, but not insulation. Also acts as a wind-proof layer.

Maybe not for you if:

  • You or your dog are very opposed to leg loops.
  • You and/or your dog tend to stay inside when it rains. DSC_0562

Also in Bella’s pack:

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Shop for Backpacking gear on  (Note:  BackcountryK9 will stop selling gear on September 9, 2016.  However, they will continue to act as a resource for those of us who enjoy adventuring with our dogs. We intend to continue contributing content for the BackcountryK9 family.  We will announce further changes as ambassadors soon)


Happy Backpacking!  –Devin, Pat, and Bella


Bella’s GoPro Game Recap



We’ve had a busy trail race season this year. Between half marathons, marathons, and ultra marathons, it’s been a challenge to make brain space for little else other than running logistics and training. Sadly, Bella wasn’t able to come along and crew any of the major races so far due to dog restrictions, as well as the fact that Pat and I have both run all of our races together. As bookends on each side of the busy race schedule, we signed up for two fun 5ks with Bella.  The last race official of the season for me was the Rocky Dog Trail Run 5k at the GoPro Mountain games in Vail, Colorado.  It was refreshing to have a shorter, fun run as the last race of the season.  I wouldn’t have to deal with a running pack, gels, hydration, salt tabs, or chaffing.  And best of all, Bella, Pat and I could all work as a team.

The GoPro Mountain Games


Bell enjoys some dirty, late-season resort snow.

The Vail GoPro Mountain Games are a three-day-long celebration that kicks off every June. Numerous competitions include everything from dock dogs, to white water kayaking, slacklining, trail running, bouldering, to mountain biking.  In addition to athletic events, adventure-loving people from all over the country gather to celebrate a mountain lifestyle with movie screenings, live music, and art. The event is dog-friendly, and dogs of every shape and size can be found at the Games.


Rocky Dog 5K

This is our second year running the Rocky Dog 5k. Last year, I was the third woman overall, and Pat won his age group, even though he slowed down to stay with Bella and I. I learned a few valuable lessons last year, which included not starting too far back in the pack at the start line. Trying to pass groups of tightly packed people and dogs connected by leashes was a nightmare last year, and it cost me some time! We also faced a few extra challenges this year, including a hefty sinus infection on my part, and irritated front paw pads on Bella’s part (she had dug a hole with something sharp in it a week before).  Luckily, Bella’s paws healed relatively fast and she was able to run without boots or vet wrap. I knew I would just have to deal.  Additionally, Pat and I had just completed the “Dirty 30,” 50k ultra marathon the weekend before and weren’t feeling very fresh, and it was still about 80 degrees in Vail by race time at 6 PM.

All factors considered, we decided before that race that we would run as a team, just as we did last year. If Bella struggled in the heat as she usually does, we would just have to slow down and go at her pace.  If one of us wasn’t feeling it, we would still stick together and cross the finish line as a family. This is the only race of the year where Pat and I run together.  Pat would be the “rabbit” and run just slightly ahead of Bella and I, and hopefully Bella would feel fast and want to pull me as she did during skijoring over the winter.

At the start line, we stacked up just behind the first row of runners.  The announcer explained the course as “you go up, and then you go down!”  The course was slightly different from last year, but we knew it would similar and there would definitely still be a climb.  I’m stronger climbing than on downhills, so I knew I’d have to play to my strengths and give it everything I had for the first half.

When the start was called out (there was no gun, so as not to startle the dogs), Bella shot off like a bullet.  Pat weaved between runners up ahead, while calling to Bella.  She followed right behind him without skipping a beat.  We plowed up the hairpin turns on the ski trail, and Bella pulled like a Siberian Huskey in her harness.  At the aid stations, we dumped cups of water on her cooling vest, and allowed her to run through a few streams along the course. I’m usually a little hesitant when running down hills on trail courses, but we flew down the mountain.  I didn’t have a choice, because Bella was pulling me so hard!  About a quarter mile to the finish, Bella was spent.  She slowed down considerably, and fell behind me.  We called her and tried to get her energy up, but we knew we had to ease up slightly for her.  Right at the finish, another woman passed us.  Even so, it was the fastest 5k time I’ve had in several years!

Race Day Gear Picks

  • Ruffwear Omnijor Harness–  We’ve trained Bella to pull ahead in this pulling-specific harness when skijoring and on leashed training runs.  It doesn’t restrict her IMG_6902breathing when working hard.  We noticed that several of the top finishers also used these same harnesses with their dogs as well.
  • Ruffwear Roamer Leash- We have the Ruffwear Omnijor Hipbelt and Towline for skiing, but like using the Roamer with the Omnijor Harness for running. Even the long length Roamer isn’t quite as long as the towline, which we like for better control around other people and dogs.
  • Ruffwear Cooling Vest- This was a must for the strong mountain sun and soaring summer temperatures.  We refreshed the vest with water at the aid stations during the race, and along Gore Creek while visiting vendor tents.
  • Ruffwear Knot-A-Collar- Low profile, which was especially nice with all of the gear she was already using for this event.

Awards and Recovery


During awards, we learned that I had won my age group, and Pat still placed third in his age group despite slowing down for Bella and I.  Once again, we earned two medals!  Bella wasn’t thrilled about sitting on the Yeti cooler, but we still managed to snap a few victory shots. After the ceremony, Bella proudly wore her medals through Vail Village, but mostly seemed to enjoy all of the attention and pets from friendly strangers.

The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely hike in Vail with friends and family.  For once, we didn’t have a goal or objective, other than to simply enjoy our surroundings and turn around whenever we wanted.  Bella enjoyed some unstructured time with her best canine friend, Maxine.

What’s Next?

Pat still has the Never Summer 100k ultra marathon at the end of July. For that race, Bella will be able to come along to crew for the weekend.  As for me, I’m hoping to run a 14,000′ peak by late summer with Bella.  It’s been a great race season for me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion than my win with Bella and Pat at the Rocky Dog 5k this year!


Bella rests up for her next adventure at our campsite in Vail.

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Running with your dog: What’s holding you back?

IMG_5562Lets face it, every winter many people make New Year’s resolutions to be more active.  Oftentimes, life gets in the way, and  by the time Spring rolls around we realize that maybe we didn’t quite get where we wanted to be.  The good news is, Pat, Bella and I believe that you can make new resolutions any day, or revisit old goals any time you want.  Why wait for January?  It’s never to late to try something new. Besides, spring is the perfect time to enjoy increasingly pleasant weather.

Or, maybe you are like us and have been running for a long time, and are gearing up for a season of long endurance runs and scheduled races. Or, maybe you are attempting a longer race than you ever have before (I’m running my first ultramarathon this spring).  Sometimes conditions, length of runs, or other factors make you question whether your dog should come along for your training run.

Running with your dog is not only an extra motivator, it keeps you focused on something other than the miles you are hoping to cover, that cramp you have, that cold beer waiting in your fridge…We find that Bella keeps us focused on the present moment, and our runs are simply not the same if she can’t come.


Our goal with this blog was to offer something for everyone, whether first time runner or seasoned marathoner.  With Bella’s extensive gear closet (courtesy of BackcountryK9) and the extremes of Colorado weather, we’ve had the chance to try out many different items which have been important to Bella’s health, happiness, and wellbeing while running the trails and roads. You certainly don’t need all of the items here to enjoy running with your dog, but perhaps you will find one particular piece of gear that improves the experience for either for you, your dog, or both of you.

So, what’s your excuse?

My Dog Has To Run on Leash


At some point, you are likely to need to run with your dog on a leash. This may be because of trail regulations, road traffic, or perhaps you have a reactive dog.  A great place to start when running with your dog is to invest in a waist-worn leash.  A leash with a little stretch really helps to absorb shock for both you and your dog, making the experience much more pleasant for everyone.  A harness is also important for dogs that run on leash, as it takes the pressure off of the neck, which can lead to neck and back issues down the road. Have a dog that likes to pull?  Consider trying out a skijoring harness to channel pullers, and give yourself an extra “boost!”

Gear We Like:

  • Ruffwear Flat Out Leash:  Can be hand-held or waist-worn. Good if you want more control and want your running leash to also be a multipurpose leash for everyday needs.
  • Ruffwear Roamer Stretch LeashCan be hand-held or waist-worn. Great for running and hiking, more freedom for you and your dog, and the shock absorption makes a big difference in regards to comfort when running.  Not as great for control around traffic, other dogs, etc…
  • Ruffwear Front Range Harness:  Great multipurpose harness, we use this almost every day and have now had ours for two years.  Very easy to get on and off, strong, and does not chafe.
  • Ruffwear Omnijor Harness: Pulling specific harness we use for skijoring in the winter.  On longer runs, we have started using this harness, because it does not restrict Bella’s breathing, and she gives us a little “lift.” She loves pulling us in it and it gives her an intense workout. A little more difficult to get on, and takes some training to get your dog used to the concept.

I Don’t Like Carrying My Dog’s Leash

If your dog runs off-leash, you probably still need to leash her up at some point.  In our area, you are required to have a leash with you at all times, even on off-leash trails.  Not having a leash can result in a ticket. However, carrying a leash in your hand is uncomfortable and inconvenient. There are many options available for leashes that are integrated into collars, small lightweight leashes, etc… We can personally recommend Ruffwear’s Ridgeline Leash, which we clip around our waist when running. It is simple, lightweight, and easy to use.

Spring Precipitation


Bella wears her Ruffwear Aira rain jacket in a cold and soaking snow shower.

We get a wide variety of precipitation in Colorado in the spring.  Oftentimes, spring precip is cold and wet.  Snow this year can soak  to the bone and cause chills. However, jackets on a spring day can still overheat overheat Bella in milder temperatures (30 degrees+). You might also have a dog with long hair that creates  a mess after running in rain, mud, and slush. On long, wet runs, Bella has recently started wearing Ruffwear’s Aira Rain Jacket, which just arrived this spring. Don’t forget to get outfit yourself with a waterproof jacket, too.  You’d be surprised how fun running in the rain can be, and chances are , your dog will be thrilled to run in the rain. Let your dog’s enthusiasm motivate you to go out the door.  We have never regretted going for a run in the rain!

Gear We Like:

  • Ruffwear Aira Rain Jacket: Breathable, non-insulated rain jacket is perfect for spring and summer showers.  This updated design is breathable, and has a velcro opening on the back to accommodate a harness and leash. Storm collar keeps precip from running down your dog’s neck.
  • D-Fa Subwoofer: We primarily use this jacket in the winter, but if you have a thermally fragile dog, this is the perfect all-season running jacket for you.  Designed with athletic dogs in mind, we love the stretchy fabric and non-restrictive design. Water resistant and lightly insulated, perfect for chilly, damp mornings or evening.

There’s No Water Along My Route

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Consider a lightweight backpack so your dog can carry her own water, along with a collapsible bowl.  These have been some of the most critical gear additions to Bella’s closet, which allow her to come on longer runs with us in the summer when there are no active water sources.

Gear We Like:

  • Ruffwear Single Track Pack:  If you are someone who enjoys running 5+ miles with your dog during warm weather, than we can’t recommend this pack highly enough.  It comes with two water bladders, and extra pockets (for a few treats, poop bags, and a collapsible bowl). Low profile design doesn’t flop around while your dog runs, and doesn’t get hung up on rocks or branches. Light color reflects the sun. Also a great pack for day hikes and crewing races!
  • Rad Dog Pocket Bowl: Folds up ridiculously small and weighs nothing.  Fits easily in the Single Track Pack. Starts to lose its shape a bit once saturated, but a great and simple way to offer your dog water on the trail.

I Hate Dealing with Poop Bags

IMG_5625Carrying out your dog’s waste while running is necessary yet extremely unpleasant.  Sometimes, you may have several miles until the next public trash can, or maybe you prefer running on trails where there are no trash cans. Anyone who has run several miles with a full poop bag in hand or gotten a wiff from a personal running backpack on a hot day can contest that this is a pretty repulsive side of running with a dog. Again, enter Ruffwear’s Single Track Pack.  Double bag, and make your dog carry it out!


My Dog Gets Too Hot


Bella wears her Ruffwear Swamp Cooler to beat the heat on Mount Sanitas.

While we don’t condone running with your dog in extreme heat (in the hottest months aim to run with your dog at dawn or dusk), there are times when you can help your dog feel more comfortable while running on a warm day.  We have discovered two products that help us take Bella along on days when we would normally have to leave her behind due to heat.  They also help her keep up her speed, reduce the amount of water she needs, and reduces the number of recovery breaks she needs in the shade.

Gear We Like:

  • Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Vest:  This item takes a little explaining, so we suggest checking our our full review here.
  • Dog Buff: Ok, so we realize that this sounds a little ridiculous.  We ourselves use buffs a lot when trail running to keep hair out of faces, protect our necks from sunburn, cool off with water on a hot day, etc…You don’t necessarily have to use the dog version of a buff, but soaking the buff in a stream really helps to keep your dog cool.  The light fabric of the buff doesn’t weigh your dog down, and the airflow combined with cool water helps your dog artificially “sweat.”

I’m Concerned For My Dog’s Physical Safety

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Bella’s Stunt Puppy collar and bear bell help to keep her safe in coyote territory.

Hunters, mountain bikers, car traffic, and low light conditions are all reasons why you might be worried about your dog’s physical safety.  We’ve discovered a few items that help us in these situations.

Gear We Like

  • Stunt Puppy Go Dog Glow Collar: Bright orange and highly reflective, a simple way to up your dog’s visibility. Rugged construction.
  • Ruffwear Beacon Light: Keep track of your dog during dark or foggy runs. Expensive for a light, but this light allows for multiple settings (on, fast flash, slow flash), is waterproof, and allows for multiple attachment options (clip or quick ring attachment). Great for many different activities.
  • Ruffwear Track Jacket: Excellent for visibility to car traffic as well as mountain bikers on the trail. Ruffwear’s visibility jacket is ideal, because the chest pieces stretch while your dog runs for an active fit. When running on shared trails with mountain bikers, this jacket is visible from across a large field, giving fast-moving bikers the chance to see off-leash Bella from far away.
  • Bear Bell:  We’ve been using the model linked here, but there are other options available.  Typically, we don’t use the bell for bears, but rather for coyotes and as an aid for listening for Bella’s proximity to us.  One of our favorite weekday evening runs is an off-leash trail that runs through meadows that are heavily populated by coyotes. People often ask us on that trail, “does it work?” We don’t really know the answer to that, because we try not to give her the opportunity to get close enough to chase a coyote, and quickly leash her up each time we see one.  Probably the best benefit of the bell is that we don’t have to stop or twist our necks every time Bella pauses to smell something or munch on some grass.  On runs through coyote territory when we want to keep her close, we can quickly realize when we haven’t heard the bell for more than several seconds and can then stop to make sure she catches up. To be honest, the bell is as annoying as heck, so we only use it when we really need it.


Final Hint…


Turbo Pup bars offer convenient fuel on the trail.

Looking to keep your dog fueled up on the trail?  Turbo Pup bars are a nutritious and convenient way to give your dog some easily digestible calories while out on a long run.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to find something here that has been useful as you set out to accomplish your running goals with your dog is by your side this season. For us, Bella is a critical part of our running team, and so far we have only left her behind for three reasons:  1) She is feeling under the weather. 2) It is too hot. 3) Our mileage gets too high…We try to limit Bella’s runs to 15 miles at a time, or less.

If you’ve gotten this far, then you are probably either a dedicated runner who already understands the rewards that are gained by running with your dog, or you are someone who already has the drive to get started on a new journey with your best running-partner-to-be. Enjoy the journey!


Happy Trails!



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Winter Dog Gear Guide: Jackets and Booties and Beds…Oh My!


The days may be getting a little longer, but winter is far from over!  There are plenty powder days left this season, which is good news for dogs like Bella who love adventuring in the snow.  We get a lot of questions about the jackets, booties, and other winter gear we use, so we thought we would share our findings here.  There are certainly more great winter items available that we don’t cover below, but we feel confident that this guide will help get you started.


Super Insulated

Best for: Keeping dogs warm when at rest or sleeping, such as during overnight trips.  Also great to keep your dog warm in the car when the temperature drops.  No, we are not suggesting you leave your dog for extended period in a freezing car, but if you need to leave her briefly while you run into the store or run in to the local mountain cafe to grab a breakfast burrito before you hit the slopes, this is a great item to have on hand.  Also perfect for dogs with thin coats or elderly dogs that feel the cold more easily.

Note: Unless your dog is elderly or thermally fragile, most dogs will overhead in this type of jacket when active. Some ultra warm jackets, such as the D-Fa Puff Doggy here, aren’t very resistant to snags or rugged handling.

Features: Extra warm and extra insulated, covers the back, neck, and shoulders, areas that tend to get chilly at a rest.

Adventures we’ve taken this jacket on: Two-night yurt trip in the Never Summer Wilderness, Summit County Skijoring Trips.

Examples: Hurtta Ultimate Warmer, D-Fa Puff Doggy (featured here)

Snow Gaiters/Insulated


Snow stays out of full-coverage jackets such as the Ruffwear Powder Hound.

Best for: Adventures in deep snow and cold temperatures.  Particularly useful to keep ice from forming on long or curly-haired dogs in the winter. Extra insulation helps to keep your dog from losing body heat, and blocks frigid winds. A good multi-use jacket for backpacking and winter camping, comfortable and warm for dogs to sleep in. Also good as an extra layer when on cold summits. If you live in an area with frigid temperatures (teens and single digits, to subzero), this would be a good jacket to use for exercise.

Features: Sleeves keep snow from collecting inside the jacket, and covers the belly when your dog runs through especially cold snow.  This is a great jacket to use in areas where snow ices on dogs’ fur.

Note: Again, this jacket may overheat some dogs who primarily go out in weather above 20 degrees.

Adventures we’ve taken this jacket on: 5-day backpacking trip in the Maroon Bells Wilderness, snowshoeing/winter hiking in the Boulder foothills, backcountry snowshoeing in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Examples: Ruffwear Powder Hound (pictured here), Ruffwear Cloud Chaser



Keep your athlete warm, but not overheated.

Best for: Exercise in chilly or damp conditions.  Great for preventing muscle strains in cooler weather, and for keeping your dog dry in sleet or wet snow.  Perfect for the athletic dog that needs a little warmth and protection during intense activity, or for light protection while taking her for a walk.

Features: Athletic cut allows for full range of motion, technical fabrics resist water and block wind. Usually, these type of jackets incorporate reflective materials for exercising at night.

Note: This type of jacket will collect snow inside on longer hikes in deep powder.

Adventures we’ve taken this jacket on: Nighttime trail runs in Boulder Open Space parks, Fat Bike excursions in the Never Summer Range.

Examples: D-fa Subfoofer 2 Softshell (pictured here), EzyDog Element Dog Jacket



Utility jackets are a good choice for layering and durability.

Best for: Use on adventures where thick brush, barbed wire, or other rough conditions could cause abrasions or snags.  Great for use in agricultural areas such as ranches.  Durable, warm layer that can be used to layer over lighter, more fragile layers in extreme cold.

Features:  Typically features a soft fleece-like lining and a tough water and wind resistant outer layer. Some use velcro or other cheaper fasteners.

Adventures we’ve taken this jacket on: Adventures at the Colorado Mountain Ranch, snowshoeing in Idaho Springs, layering on backpacking trips.

Examples:  Ruffwear K-9 Overcoat, Kurgo North Country Insulated, (jacket pictured is discontinued by Granite Gear).

Boots and Paw Protection


Booties protect from ice and very cold or abrasive and sticky snow.

Basic Booties 

Best for: Abrasive or extremely cold snow and ice. Even when daytime temperatures warm up, snow around us at high altitudes can still ice on paws quickly, causing irritation. Dogs with long or curly hair usually needs boots more often.

Features: Different brands have different features. We like Ultra Paws because their simple yet effective two-strap design and interior foam pieces keep the boots on securely, and don’t seem to irritate Bella’s dew claws.  They are cost effective and not as expensive to have to replace as more expensive brands.

Notes: Simple boots like these oftentimes don’t have extensive tread for ice, but usually traction doesn’t matter so much in deep snow.  As a trade off, the thinner soles are a little more responsive for the dog and allow her to get feedback from the ground. Snow and ice eventually tend to build up around the ankles of the boots.  We’ve discovered no boots are perfect, and you usually only will want to deal with them if you really need them! Liners are available and are effective aids for many, but don’t tend to work well for Bella with her slick fur. Be careful when securing any boots that you don’t restrict blood flow to your dog’s foot.

Examples: Ultra Paws Rugged Boots (pictured) , Woof Hoofs 

Ruffwear Polar Trex — A high-tech, winter bootie that we are in the process of testing. We found that the boots tend to run a little large, so we are going to resize and possibly work with a custom-made liner.  These boots are expensive, but we are interested in working with Backcountry K-9 to test them out due to their Vibram soles, taller gaiters, snow-friendly closures (velcro can get gummed up with ice), and the protection they offer from ski and snowboard edges.

Topical Paw Protectant and Salve

We’ve started using the product Musher’s Secret, mainly to relieve cracked and chapped paw pads.  Can be used to prevent snowballs from forming as well as to create a barrier to salt, chemicals, and hot pavement. A great item to have in a doggy first aid kit.




Bella escapes from a spruce trap

Best for: Helping your dog out of spruce traps, deep snow drifts, and providing a supportive restraint when on leash. Allows you to help your dog maneuver on icy rocks. Can help control your dog around other hikers and dogs, when you are attached to skis or dealing with trekking poles and a leash alone will tangle you. We prefer using a harness in deep snow rather than a backpack setup, because we feel that backpacks can hinder a dog’s movement when wading through powder.

Notes: Pick a strong harness with a handle. The Web Master Pro by Ruffwear features metal buckles that are cold tolerant, but require you to readjust the harness each time you use it.  This model also has small zippered pockets built in. We use the traditional Web Master with plastic buckles, which is streamlined and easy to secure quickly.

Examples: Ruffwear Web Master Pro, Ruffwear Web Master (pictured)

Pads/Sleeping Bag

Best for: Comfort on cold overnight trips, hanging out on the porch for happy hour before coming in to warm up by the fire, creating a warm and dry place to sit on winter hikes.

Features:  This sleep system by Ruffwear features a pad that can be inserted into the bottom of the sleeping bag. The pad is lightweight and fold up to be very compact. The pad can be taken separately on day hikes to give human and canine alike a dry and insulated place to sit. The sleeping bag can be used as a travel bed without zipping your dog in for warmer nights.

Examples:  Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag (pictured),  Ruffwear Highlands Pad (pictured), Chuckit Travel Bed (not pictured, but we’ve used and liked this bed too!), Noble Camper Sleeping Bag


Ruffwear’s Highlands Pad is a great item to take to provide a warm and dry place to sit on a winter hike.

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Urban Skijoring GoPro Video

After a big dump, we practiced skijoring in the streets and neighboring open space.  Bella is getting much more used to the noise and motion of the skis and poles.  I was able to skate behind her a bit in addition to double-poling, although skating was a little difficult without a groomed course!  We are signed up for a skijoring clinic in Frisco, CO this January and February, stay tuned for future updates on our training!