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On February 26, 2019, Congress passed a package of public lands bills that protects nearly 2.5 million acres of public land and 676 miles of rivers throughout the United States. The Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) was a momentous bipartisan effort that was signed into law on March 12, 2019.

At Ruffwear, we were especially excited to see the Oregon Wildlands Act included in the public lands package. Oregon Wildlands protects 30,000 acres of the Devil’s Staircase area as Wilderness, designates 252 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Rogue and Molalla River watersheds, and protects the Chetco River from mining activity. In addition to protections in our backyard, we were thrilled to see 30,000 acres adjacent to Yellowstone National Park permanently protected from gold mining. We featured this conservation effort in our More Valuable Than Gold story last fall, and we loved following the news this winter as the legislation crossed the finish line. Read more about the public lands package and what was included here.

30,000 acres near Yellowstone National Park are now permanently protected from mining.

In early March, The Conservation Alliance and 40 representatives from its 235 outdoor & craft beer industry member companies traveled to Washington, DC. The purpose of this yearly fly-in is to align ourselves as a cohesive industry with a clear set of legislative priorities. As a group, we are a force than can make an impact. By continuing to show up in DC each year, we are able to make in-person connections and develop relationships over time. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about advocating for wild places and waterways, it’s that it takes time. The recent public lands package is a great example — it was 10 years in the making.

The DC fly-in was a quick trip. We spent one day getting up to speed on the political climate and other happenings in DC within the context of conservation. The following day, we broke into groups of 6-7 people and met with members of Congress and their staff. In these meetings, we have 20-30 minutes to introduce ourselves, express our thanks, share priorities, discuss members’ positions on potential legislation, ask questions, and make requests. Time flies, and then we’re bustling across Capitol Hill to our next meeting.

Ruffwear was in a group with other Northwest companies like KEEN, Outdoor Research, Columbia Sportswear, Duct Tape Then Beer, Superfeet, and the non-profit American Whitewater (one of The Conservation Alliance’s grantees). We met with Senator Merkley (OR), Senator Murray (WA), Senator Wyden (OR), Congresswoman Delbene (WA), Congressman Schrader (OR), Senator Cantwell (WA), and Congressman Kilmer (WA). We thanked and congratulated members on the recent public lands success. We asked them what’s next: What about the Arctic? What about the Roadless Rule that protects swaths of old growth in our National Forests from having additional roads cut through them? What about protections that didn’t make it into the recent legislation?

We asked members what we can do to help. The answer was: Keep showing up. Keep speaking up, sending letters and emails, making phone calls, going to town halls, and setting up meetings. Keep writing Op-Eds. Keep making grassroots efforts and creating campaigns. Keep working together. Keep telling stories about these incredible places that deserve to be protected for their habitat and recreation values.

Even though it’s a whirlwind trip, it’s worth our time to keep showing up and speaking up for public lands and waterways because it really does make a difference.

The Conservation Alliance and representatives from its member companies in DC.
Photo by Annie Nyborg of Peak Design

Just one week after returning home to Bend, we got word that Oregon Congressional Members, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer, would be hosting a Public Lands Forum in Portland. We joined representatives of the outdoor industry, outdoor recreation and tourism companies, and conservation organizations from all regions of Oregon — And we showed up.

We packed the house at about 150 people. After introductions, everyone had about two minutes to speak. It was incredible to hear from people who had driven across to Oregon (5-6 hours of driving) to make their two minute statement.

Here’s what Ruffwear employee Alli had to say on behalf of public lands:

Thank you, Senator Wyden and Representative Blumenauer. Thank you, Mazamas, for hosting us today.

My name is Alli Miles. I’m with Ruffwear, a Bend-based company that makes outdoor gear for dogs. Our company was founded in the outdoors, on a mountain bike ride with a thirsty dog and no water bowl. Today, Ruffwear is made up of 43 humans – and about the same number of dogs – most of whom live and work in Bend.

We bring our dogs to work every day. At lunch and after work, we run, bike, and hike on trails that are right outside our office doors. This work environment not only helps us recruit and retain talented people. It shapes our office culture, the work we do, and the Ruffwear brand.

Ruffwear’s mission is to enhance and inspire outdoor adventure for humans and dogs. Our customers are outdoor people from all over the United States and 60 countries. Our business is built on — and depends on — people sharing outdoor experiences with their dogs.

In the past year, we renovated our office building and created a co-working space called Embark. The idea behind Embark is building community, sharing ideas and resources, cultivating creativity and collaboration, and supporting the entrepreneurial spirit. When construction is complete later this year, Embark will be home to 50 companies. We believe this community will help grow the outdoor industry in Central Oregon.

Ruffwear is now a 25 year old company. We would not exist without protected lands and waterways where people and dogs can go to play. We would not have the incredible team of employees that we do, without access to wild places in Oregon.

For these reasons, Ruffwear supports protections for iconic landscapes in Oregon, including Sutton Mountain, the Owyhee, and the Rogue and Molalla watersheds.

And we mean it — Ruffwear was founded on public lands and our well-being, both as a collection of individuals and as an outdoor gear company, depends on access to wild places. That is why we’ll keep showing up.

And we hope you will, too.

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On April 14, 2019, Jack, Timber, Vilas, and Riggins teamed up with their humans to run the dog-friendly Peterson Ridge Rumble trail race in Sisters, Oregon. Jack and Timber’s humans, Jeff and Jenn, work for Trail Butter, a Portland-based company that makes nut butter blends to fuel trail adventures. Vilas’ and Riggins’ humans, Dani and Alli, work for Ruffwear and regularly share trail miles together on their lunch breaks. Both Trail Butter and Ruffwear provided product support for this year’s Rumble, and the companies’ shared ambassadors, Graham, Shannon, and Pebble came out to cheer and provide race-day coverage on social media.

A few minutes before 9 o’clock on a chilly, gray Sunday morning, 347 runners and 95 dogs lined up for the 20-mile trail race. Jenn, who was running the 40-miler, was already out on the trails and would end up finishing second in the female division and 17th overall. Dogs are not invited to run the 40-mile race, but the course overlaps with the 20-miler, so there’s no shortage of dog company for all runners throughout the day.

A sea of runners at the start.
Photo: Graham Zimmerman Vilas’ cheer squad, Kaia and Dixie, with their humans at the finish area.
Photo: Jeff Fisher

The Rumble is a laid back, grassroots race that began in 2003. It’s a favorite among the trail running community, particularly in Oregon — and for good reason. The race starts near Sisters Middle School (and raises money for the school’s track & field program) and covers many miles of rolling singletrack before finishing with a lap around the school track. The tacky dirt trail has plenty of rocks to hop over as it winds and weaves through pine forest and along ridges that provide views of Central Oregon’s Cascade mountains. Along the course, aid stations provide water and snacks for both dogs and humans. After crossing the finish line, dogs are rewarded with a pig ear and humans are treated to a burrito buffet.

Photos from the day by Jeff Fisher:

It’s a great way to kick off the trail running season and the high number of canine participants makes the Peterson Ridge Rumble a classic.

Here’s what the Trail Butter/Ruffwear crew had to say about the race:

Jenn                         

Result: Second Female/17th Overall 40-mile Finisher

“I’ve been running the Rumble since 2012 and it is the season kickoff race I look forward to every year! Since Jeff started running the 20 miler with Jack-dog back in 2014, it has become our fur family’s annual tradition to make the trek out every April. It was so much fun knowing that Jeff was on course with both Jack and the newest addition to our family Timber, while I was out trying my best just to get back to them all as quickly as possible! Not only were they not tired by the time I was finishing, both Jack and Timber followed me all the way around the track to get me across my own finish line! Can’t wait to return for more years of Team TimberJack!”

Timber joined Jenn on her finishing lap around the Sisters Middle School track.
Photo: Rachel Drake Jeff & Team TimberJack

Gear Used: Omnijore Harness and Roamer Leash (Timber), Knot-a-Collar (Jack-Dog) Result: Second Overall Human/Dog team

“Fill up the water bowl, crack the windows, and right before you close the canopy door, you bury your face in their scruff and say, ‘Be a good dog, don’t rip anything up and we’ll see you in a bit. Dad and Mom are going for a run and will be back in a few hours!’ – All too often this is the pre-race ritual that plays out for our dogs Jack-Dog and Timber, as my wife Jenn and I make our way to the start line of our respective races and it breaks our heart.  But for one magical day out of the year those rituals are kicked to the side, because it’s Peterson Ridge Rumble time! I am ever-grateful for having such a race so close to home that fully welcomes, and pays homage to our loyal four-legged adventure buddies who, without trepidation, follow us in pursuit of our passion for trail running.”

Jeff and Timber
Photo: Graham Zimmerman Jack-Dog show his post-race smile.
Photo: Jeff Fisher Dani & Vilas

Gear Used: Hi & Light Harness, Ridgeline Leash, and Trail Runner Bowl Result: Second Female Human/Dog team

“Vilas and I have shared many things. We’ve shared food, a bed and many miles in the car together. But by far, my favorite thing to share is the finish line. Watching Vilas carry her pinecone across the finish line brought so much joy, happiness and laughter not only to me but to those around her.”

Vilas hydrating after the race.
Photo: Jeff Fisher Alli & Riggins

Gear Used: Front Range® Harness, Quick Draw Leash Result: Fourth Female Human/Dog team

“Riggins and I run trails all the time, but racing together was extra special. I loved watching Riggs interact with other runners on the trail and at the start/finish. We had a blast! I am grateful for this dog-centric race and our trail running community — as well as our friends who came out to support. We’ll be making the Rumble our new tradition!”

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A Street Dog Named Gilly

Story & Photos By Ruffwear Ambassador Maria Schultz

When Hurricane Irma ripped through St. Thomas in 2017, hundreds of shelter dogs were quickly displaced and left homeless. Gilly was one of them.

Aloof, uninterested in people, on her own schedule, and of all things for a dog from a Caribbean island, she also was scared of the water. Through the Humane Society of St. Thomas, then a group called Island Dog Rescue, Gilly made her way north, landing at the Fredericksburg, Virginia SPCA. It took several weeks for social media to work its magic, but when my assistant SUP PUP instructor, Amy Barlow, spotted Gilly’s picture on Facebook, both of their worlds began to change.  

“Something about that dog with the big ears and the smile,” she said. “I couldn’t get her out of my mind.” She went back to the shelter three times to visit before deciding to bring her home. But it would be a challenging adoption. Gilly was underweight and malnourished, and she had heartworm. Amy didn’t care – she was in love.

After six months of grueling heartworm treatments, and trying but failing to train her new dog, we were standing in my driveway when Amy reached out to me for help. She apologized in advance for the process we both knew would be challenging. But, intrigued by this laidback island dog, I remember thinking that training her could be fun. Then Amy told me she wanted to be able to paddle with her.

That’s all I needed to hear!  

When I was in Peru earlier this year, I spent a lot of time observing the street dogs. It was easy to tell which ones had owners and were simply free-ranging between meals, and which ones were true strays. The dogs that had families would solicit attention from people, accept belly rubs, and readily look into the eyes of a stranger – a key trait of domesticated dogs. The dogs that didn’t have homes were the complete opposite. Just like Gilly, they were aloof, did their own thing, and weren’t willing to trust people for attention or needs. 

It was pretty clear to me that Gilly had been a street dog who was now confused and in culture shock. No one had ever asked her to go to the bathroom in a specific spot. No one had ever asked her to sit, or lie down, or sleep in a crate, or eat from the hand of a human.

And that’s where we started. Gilly would now have to earn her meals from my hand, as I slowly earned her trust and affection. Bonding with her would be critical to training her. 

It took three weeks to peel back the layers, but slowly Gilly started to come around. She started learning and trusting, and rolling over on her back for belly rubs. By the end of her time with me, she could sit, stay, down, heel, climb, and come when called. 

Now she was ready to learn how to paddleboard. 

In class Gilly had two major challenges. She was afraid of the paddle and she was afraid of the water. Most of the dogs I train can pick up the sport in two days, but Gilly took longer. We worked on desensitizing her to the paddle as much as we could in our July clinic, then invited her back in August. 

By then, she was noticeably more confident sitting and staying on the board, with a paddle waiving over her head. But that was on land. Getting her to feel secure on the water was still proving to be a challenge. Time for a secret training weapon! 

Amy was working with Gilly on the beach, and I was about to push them off into the lake, when, unsolicited, Kona hopped onto their board and the most amazing thing happened. Gilly’s whole body relaxed, as if a switch had been flipped. Just a few sessions before, she refused to take treats from Amy out on the water. Now, all of a sudden, she was scarfing down kibble and wagging her tail while Kona sat close.

I’m never joking when I call my dogs the head canine instructors. They’ve always helped with our classes by willingly demonstrating in front of our students and by just being confident on the board. There’s no doubt that dogs learn from other dogs, and Kona helps prove that.

“Gilly and I have come a long way in the past year,” Amy said. “She’s more confident, chooses to interact with me more, and our bond is continuing to grow. ‘Who rescued who?’ fits us perfectly.”

I’m glad Gilly was a challenge to train. She taught me as much as I taught her. Her story is a testament to the fact that any dog, even the most unlikely, can be an adventure dog and live an awesome life.

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Field Notes: Employee Field Days

When it comes to Employee Field Days, the rules are simple:

Get out. Have fun. Be curious. Take notes. Relish in your adventure.

We’re constantly using and testing product with our dogs in our everyday pursuits, but twice a year, Ruffwear employees and their dogs get to swap out a day in the office for a day in the field.

It’s a tradition born out of our belief that the gear that performs best is gear that’s been thoroughly-tested. It’s an opportunity to make sure our gear is doing what it’s designed to do: enhance the time we spend outside with our dogs.

Here’s an inside look at a few reports from the field.

TESTERS: Baxter & Ernie

ACTIVITY: Snow Day at Oregon Badlands

PRODUCT BEING TESTED: Grip Trex, Powder Hound, Front Range® Harness

CONDITIONS: Lots of snow, cloudy

FINDINGS: It was Baxter’s first time in snow and cold for an extended period of time, and his first time wearing a coat or boots. I was curious how quickly he’d acclimate to the gear.

The Powder Hound did really well, even when Baxter decided to explore an old log and fallen tree. Snagged the jacket a couple times but no permanent or visible damage.

With the Grip Trex, Baxter did the “boot dance” for about the first 15 minutes when he tried them on at home. He was fine out in the snow, and I didn’t have to worry about Baxter getting cold, or ice and snow building up in his paws.

HIGHLIGHT: I didn’t have to go on the hunt for a missing boot! Honestly, I was worried for the first 30 minutes that the boots would slip off in the snow.  I checked every minute, and finally, I gave up and trusted they were going to stay on. And they totally did. Baxter loved them. No rubbing or issues after 4 hours of some pretty hard running.

TESTERS: Riggins & Alli

ACTIVITY: Touring and Skiing South Sister

PRODUCT BEING TESTED: Harness prototype

CONDITIONS: Sunny, windy/cool, then HOT

FINDINGS: We tested the harness for fit, comfort, and performance as Riggins ascended and descended the mountain.

Riggs seemed really comfortable all day and he was totally unfazed when we lifted him by the handle. I was impressed with the comfort, fit, and structure of the harness. I liked how it performed, even with a more low-profile style/design. If anything, I’d recommend more user-friendly buckles.

HIGHLIGHT: Watching Riggins wiggle with joy as he ran down the Prouty Glacier, as well as watching him ski a steep, classic Central Oregon ski line!

TESTERS: Dahlia, Oliver & Jeremiah

ACTIVITY: Green Lakes Hike and Swim

PRODUCT BEING TESTED: Jet Stream

CONDITIONS: Sunny, warm

FINDINGS: Jet Stream was lightweight and appeared to fit very well.  My understanding was it was supposed to fit snug and it did on both dogs. It kept the dogs cool on a long, hot hike! The functionality seemed to work great, and they stayed damp for at leas an hour.

The XS that Oliver wore rubbed him in the armpits because it rode too high. The Product Team evaluated the product and are actually changing the cut of the belly panel to prevent the rubbing from happening before it releases in the Spring. Successful product test!

HIGHLIGHT: Putting jackets on the dogs is always hilarious. They do full-body wiggles for the first 15 minutes as they get used to wearing jackets.

TESTERS: Marv & Mary

ACTIVITY: Trail Run on Soda Creek Trail

PRODUCT BEING TESTED: Singletrack Pack and Quick Draw Leash

CONDITIONS: Warm and sunny

FINDINGS: Marv was comfortable the whole time. I did have to re-tighten the pack a couple of times at stop points to keep it from sliding on his lower half, but the sliding wasn’t bothering him. I am not sure if that was user error on my part? Once a water bladder gets emptied, the backpack got lopsided, which is expected but more drastic than I thought. Next time I think I would try to evenly take water from both bladders. I’ll run these things by the Product Team.

I LOVED the Quick Draw. I used it about 5 times as we met other folks/pups on the trail or when I needed control in a specific area.

HIGHLIGHT: We were passing a group of older people, and I said “Come here bubba” to Marv for him to maneuver around them. I passed them again going the other way on the return trip, and they said “There’s Bubba! What a good runner you are Bubba!” Marv has no idea who Bubba is, but he did like the extra attention.

Sound like fun? Take your pup for a field day – we bet they’d be stoked. Then come back and let us know what you discover with your own field notes in the comments below, or bark at us at bark@ruffwear.com.

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FROM PUPPY TO GUIDE DOG

March 23 is International Puppy Day, and to celebrate, we’re sharing the story of some of the hardest working puppies we know.

From puppyhood to full-on working dog, the path puppies take to become a guide dog or service dog is designed to set them up for success. The goal? Confident, well-trained, and dedicated guide dogs and service dogs that will enhance the lives of people with disabilities.

Let’s follow along as pups from our friends at the Guide Dog Foundation begin their journey at the Foundation’s headquarters in Smithtown, New York.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Just like any puppy, Guide Dog Foundation pups benefit from essential bonding with mom from Day 1. They snuggle up close and learn their first lessons about being a dog from her.

ALL THINGS NEW

Bring on the funny smells, odd sounds, curious textures, and fascinating things. These 6-week-old future guide dog pups are experiencing things for the first time in a positive setting. It’s the first step in creating comfortable, relaxed dogs in a range of environments.

PAIRED UP

At 8-10 weeks old, each puppy gets matched with a puppy raiser. They’ll go to a home and begin learning basic obedience and house manners.

The pup adjusts to a new environment and expands its repertoire of skills with the puppy raiser. Learning basic obedience and being exposed to new experiences around town gives them the chance to investigate all sorts of new sights and smells. Socialization, positive reinforcement, and a connection to their handler is important for a future guide dog.

ONE STEP CLOSER

At about 14 to 16 months old, pups return to the Foundation’s campus. For the next three to four months, they will undergo training and evaluation to determine a well-suited career path. This stage helps further shape the pup to be a confident and successful guide.

GRADUATION

At the Guide Dog Foundation, dogs who progress well through the training and show promise as a working dog can follow a few career paths. Some become guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired. Others will become service dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness. Whichever path they take, they end up being a life-changing means of independence and mobility for people with disabilities.

And even those who don’t make it all the way through training to become guide or services dogs – those who end up making a “career change” – still end up with an important job: bringing joy to everyday life for their new family.

Ruffwear office dog Artie made a “career change” as a pup to become a full-time river dog.

Have you ever volunteered as a puppy raiser? Want to give a shout out to the amazing work these pups are doing? Let us know in the comments below or on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. If you have any questions, feedback, or ideas, please don’t hesitate to bark.

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Our relationships with our dogs are shaped by the adventures we share. They’re with us on our pre-dawn runs, all-day trail rambles, multi-day mountain treks, and rest-day strolls.

Whatever the adventure, Ruffwear offers harnesses that take canine explorers anywhere they want to go. They’re built from a dog’s perspective and offer solutions for everyday wear, training or leash pulling, or lift-and-assist.

Below, we share some key features of three of the dog harnesses we’ve developed to help you choose the harness that’s best for your pup’s needs.

Front Range® Harness

A padded harness dogs can wear all day, every day.

  • Foam-padded construction for comfortable extended wear
  • Leash attachment point on the dog’s chest makes it a great training tool for dogs that pull
  • Side-release buckles for easy on/off

For all-day, everyday wear, our popular Front Range Harness is a great choice. It features two leash attachment points: one is an aluminum V-ring centered on the dog’s back for everyday walks, and the other is a reinforced webbing loop at the dog’s chest for teaching polite leash manners. With four points of adjustment, the Front Range Harness fits a range of dog shapes and sizes. Try our matching Front Range Leash for the complete setup.

Hi & Light Harness

A minimal, low-profile harness for fast and light pursuits.

  • Lightweight construction minimizes bulk
  • Debris-resistant liner
  • Side-release buckles for easy on/off

The Hi & Light Harness is our minimalist, low-profile harness option. This lightweight harness has a single leash attachment point on the back and offers four points of adjustment for a sleek, comfortable fit. The Hi & Light is scaled to fit even the smallest canine companions, with size offerings from XXXS to L/XL. And the debris-resistant liner will shed dirt and fur, making the Hi & Light Harness a great option for any adventure, from neighborhood jaunts to running trails.

Web Master Harness

A structured, multi-use harness with a handle and belly strap.

  • Ideal for hiking, scrambling and mobility assistance
  • Five points of adjustment and a belly strap for a secure fit
  • Foam-padded construction for comfortable extended wear

If exploring with your canine companion takes you into challenging terrain or your dog can benefit from mobility assistance — our Web Master Harness is the solution. It’s a supportive, multi-use harness built for maneuvering and assisting dogs up and over obstacles. It’s also the harness of choice for many working dogs and amputee dogs. It has a handle on the back and five points of adjustment for a secure fit. Padded chest and belly straps make the Web Master comfortable for all-day use.

Learn more about our harnesses on our website, and please share your stories with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. Let us know what your dog means to you using the tag #mydogismy.

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For a woman who has summited mountains, trekked the Grand Canyon, paddled alpine waters, and inspired countless lives, a bus stop seems like an unlikely obstacle.

And yet, it was. Nancy Stevens and Abbie, her guide dog, were on their way to a concert in downtown Bend, OR. They stood waiting for the bus, but it was dark out, and there were no street lights. The bus driver couldn’t see Nancy and Abbie. Nancy couldn’t see the bus. And by the time she heard it drive by, it was too late.

AN EXPLORER FROM THE START

Blind from birth, Nancy started using a cane at the age of 6 and taking buses at the age of 10. Thanks to mobility instruction all throughout school, she developed the skills she’d need to cross streets, navigate residential and downtown areas, and tackle busy intersections.

Nancy looks back and expresses such gratitude for the role her parents played in preparing her for a life of independence and adventure. “My parents were big advocates of me. We camped as a family – and hiked and biked and canoed. We all started cross country skiing when I was 12.”

At the age of 23, Nancy landed in Winter Park, CO and began ski racing. Her time in Colorado held countless life-shaping memories, including competing in the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano in cross country skiing, taking up rock climbing, and – oddly enough – finding herself unable to cross a busy intersection in Denver one day.

NEW CONNECTIONS

6-lanes across. Cars flying by and turning. Nancy just couldn’t figure out the street. So she turned to the woman standing next to her. “I asked her if she could help me get across the street, and so I took her arm and we crossed.”

Once they reached the bus stop, the woman turned to her and said, “You know, it’s really funny you asked me to help you.” Nancy, confused, asked why that was. “Well, I have my seeing-eye dog with me,” replied the woman, who was also blind.

Nancy had long been hesitant to get a guide dog – she was a skilled and confident cane traveler. But that encounter in Denver started to change her thinking.

In a way, crossing that busy intersection that summer day was the first time Nancy followed the lead of a guide dog. And over the next three years, the woman who helped her across the street became a mentor. In 1988, Nancy ended up getting her first guide dog: a golden retriever named Dani.

Nancy & Abbie in their element – hiking together on some local trails.

Nancy has now had a total of 4 guide dogs so far, the most recent being Abbie. They’ve guided her on some grand excursions: summiting 14-ers in Colorado, hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, exploring countless miles of trails, paddling alpine lakes.

The companionship and time spent outside with her guide dog are a true delight for Nancy. “I love hiking with my dogs, that’s been my biggest joy. Three of the dogs – Dani, Koko, and Abbie – they have been just terrific hikers.”

In fact, Koko’s trail skills were on another level. “Say there were two steps down, she would stop on a rock and wait for me to put my hiking pole where she wanted me to step, and then I would say ‘forward’ and take my step. Then, she’d wait until I moved the hiking pole to the next place she wanted me to stop. It was crazy, I don’t know how she figured that out!”

CROSSING PATHS

Fast forward to 2017, when Ruffwear product designer, Timothy Gorbold, met Nancy – who was now living in Bend, OR – and heard her bus story. It got him thinking. He’d been interacting with the blind and visually impaired community a lot while developing other working dog products, and he began to hear the same story over and over again: the story of not being seen, and how that ultimately puts them in unsafe situations, especially with cars.

Inspired to develop a tool with the entire blind community in mind, Timothy took Ruffwear’s existing safety light – The Beacon – and added audible accessibility. It was something that could provide added visibility, peace of mind, and confidence.

So how do you audibly communicate specific functions like powering on, running, powering off, low battery, and charge complete? Timothy began his research, aiming to use sounds that were informative but not obtrusive.

Nancy operating the Audible Beacon on a walk with Abbie.

Nancy had insight and feedback to offer. In their collaboration, Nancy mentioned that she loved the sound of her washing machine: scaling up when it starts, scaling down when it’s complete.

“I wanted to be sure it would be something people would remember, so I played the sound for Timothy, and he liked it – so the audible beacon sounds kinda like my washing machine.”

Taking cues from Nancy and others, Timothy fine-tuned the sounds and added further accessibility by integrating tactile indicators into the design. The result? The Audible Beacon– a waterproof, rechargeable safety light with active visibility, audible accessibility, and a silicone mount that attaches to canes and most guide dog harnesses.

MAKING AN IMPACT

Nancy is an incredible, inspiring person with a contagious passion for life, often with Abbie by her side. So when you look at Nancy and all she’s done and her zeal for raising the bar of what’s possible, it’s almost perplexing when going out to catch a concert isn’t so, well, simple. But for the blind community, that’s a reality.

Abbie working hard and leading Nancy safely through a crosswalk.

If the Audible Beacon can help make everyday life just a little more seamless for the blind and visually impaired, and their working dogs – then that’s a step in the right direction.

Bus stops are a little less stressful for Nancy and Abbie with the added confidence the Audible Beacon brings.
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FIELD TESTED: WORK HARD & PLAY HARD

Working dogs and their human partners have been part of Ruffwear’s heart and soul since we launched the first collapsible dog bowl in 1994. From mountain snowstorms to urban disaster zones, working dogs and handlers have put our gear through rigorous testing in every type of environment and have provided invaluable feedback on fit, durability, and performance.

As a young company in the nineties, these partnerships and learning experiences helped to shape our journey toward who we are today – and where we’re going next.

Picture Credit: Jaymi Heimbuch

Collaborating with working dogs like Conservation Canines and Avalanche Rescue Dogs helps us to better understand the work these dogs do and to provide the gear they need to perform.

If it works for them, we can be confident –and you can trust – it’ll work for you.

AVALANCHE DOGS

Avalanche Rescue Dog teams are made up of dedicated handlers and specially trained dogs skilled at locating victims buried in and under the snow. They train at their home mountains every day during ski season to help keep skiers and snowboarders safe.

Using input from rescue teams, we designed the Web Master Pro Harness and the Patroller Leash to withstand the extensive wear and extreme weather conditions encountered by avalanche rescue dogs.

In work and in training, most avalanche rescue dogs enjoy a play session with their handler following a successful search. That training method inspired the resilient Huck-a-Cone, which was put through its paces by avy dogs across the country before being released this year.

CONSERVATION CANINES Picture Credit: Jaymi Heimbuch

The dog-handler teams at Conservation Canines put our gear to the test in the harshest environments for days or even weeks at a time. It accelerates the wear testing process, and they end up providing valuable feedback to our product development team on things like harnesses, boots, and bowls.

The scat detection dogs of Conservation Canines are intensely focused and have an insatiable urge to play. They’re happy to work all day traversing plains, climbing up mountains, trekking through snow, and clambering over rocks and fallen trees, all with the expectation of reward – playing with their ball – after successfully locating wildlife scat.

Who better to test the durability of toys like our Turnup, Huckama, and the Pacific Gnaw-west series? Their testing and feedback resulted in toys that perform and last among even the most zealous work-hard-play-harder dogs out there.

Picture Credit: Jaymi Heimbuch

Sniffing scat for scientific research in remote wilderness and locating and digging for avalanche victims in the backcountry – these are just two examples of how the value of these teams extends into society through the critical roles they fill. We hope you’ll join us as we continue developing gear to meet the needs of working dogs and their human companions – and sharing the stories of their diligence and invaluable service along the way.

Give a shout out to the incredible work these working dogs are doing in the comments below or on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. If you have any questions, feedback, or ideas, please don’t hesitate to bark.

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The following is in response to the feedback we received since our February 1, 2019 product launch:

You all have greatly contributed to an important on-going conversation around the working and service dog community – one that we too have been navigating for the 20+ years we’ve been working with and learning from working dogs.

Our communications around our Feb. 1 product launch have created frustration, confusion, and hurt for many people – we are deeply sorry. We want the entire working and service dog community to know that we value each and every dog and handler.

We’d like to add a little clarity to the confusion.

Nothing has changed for working and service dog handlers currently enrolled in our Pro Purchase Program and receiving a service dog discount. All the same products as before are still available. For those interested in our Pro Purchase Program, you can contact us at bark@ruffwear.com.

On Feb. 1, we shared a story about a few new products that we designed specifically to meet the needs of the working and service dog community. Several of these custom-made products are not available to individuals and have limited distribution.

We recognize there is a large number of owner-trained service dogs that perform specific tasks and improve quality of life – we hear you and know that you’ve put extensive time and resources into your service dog. We in no way intend to diminish your legitimacy by limiting the distribution of our new working and service dogs products.

We’ve learned from our work with service dog handlers that the fake service dog issue is a real problem. There is no perfect solution, and just like the wider working and service dog community, we are learning as we go. By limiting our customized working and service dog products to be distributed directly to ADI and IGDF schools and organizations, we aim to minimize harm or hindrance to the working and service dog community. Making these products available to individuals could create opportunity for these products to be exploited, risking the reputation and access of all working and service dogs.

While these products have limited availability, we believe sharing this story with a wider audience elevates the visibility of working and service dogs in our community.

As a company dedicated to making great products for dogs and their humans, we want to embrace our responsibility to the working and service dog community. Sometimes stated as “doing well by doing good,” to us this means conducting our business in a way that maximizes the good we can do in the world while being mindful of the impact we have on the greater community and to do right by it.

We are committed to a continuing process of reviewing and improving our products and practices to increase the positive impacts while reducing unnecessary harm.

If you have more questions or feel like you still have not been heard, please contact us at bark@ruffwear.com.

With gratitude,

Patrick Kruse
Founder and Director of R&D


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Forward Together The Inspiration Behind the Spring 2019 Season

In some ways, this season is different than any that has come before it. Venturing into unchartered territory, we pursued an idea of what might be possible. We pivoted from the familiarity of outdoor gear for dogs and blazed a new trail. This season, we focused solely on the needs of working dogs and their handlers.

Like many great adventures, this one began years ago, on a road trip. Ruffwear visited a guide dog school in Oregon. Ideas sparked and began to simmer on the back burner. Meanwhile, a guide dog school in New York began tinkering with a Ruffwear harness. They were developing a running program for guide dogs and searching for a solution that would offer comfort and performance.

[image of Timothy, Tom, and Ben, sewing at Ruffwear HQ]

Simmering ideas began to take shape, in the form of a guide dog harness unlike any other. One that would fit comfortably all day long. One that would incorporate modern outdoor technology and materials. One that would perform in daily life as well as outdoor activities. Acquaintances became partners. We were inspired by the people we met and the stories they shared. We poured their experiences into the design details. And, we stirred in our own experiences — 24 years developing gear from a dog’s perspective.

[image?]

As ideas became iterations, and iterations were tested and developed, we moved the guide dog harness from the back burner to the front burner. In fact, we cleared the kitchen and committed ourselves to both this product and our partners.

In many ways, this season is different. Unchartered territory. Yet, this season is also like going home. We tapped into the core of what drives us: curiosity, collaboration, learning by doing. Innovating. Failing faster. Cultivating relationships. Offering solutions to dogs and their human companions that will enhance their lives.

We learned that having a vision doesn’t mean being able to see with your eyes. It means working together, collaborating and sharing, and taking steps according to what feels right. Sometimes, setting out on a journey means more than knowing what the destination will be. We’re excited to share our journey with you, along with stories about the people and dogs involved, and the products that came about as a result.

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