Whoever said puppies grow out of their chewing phase never met Manny. Going on four years old, and that guy can still masticate with the best of ‘em. Maybe your adult dog loves to gnaw, or is still a pup and exercising his jaws or teething. Whatever the reason, it’s your table leg or a great chew toy.
I’ve (okay, Manny has) tried them all, from rawhide “bones” to Kongs, and only one has survived trial-by-Wire: GoughNut. Silly name, probably a great story somewhere back there. But you could call it Obamacare and still love it – it’s that indestructible. That’s a good thing. I’ve seen X-rays of dogs with bits of chew toy, bone, rawhide, or worse lodged in their intestines; you don’t want to take that risk.
Manny has a morning routine that concludes with 15 minutes of chasing and attempted murder of his GoughNut. It’s the same one he got upon arrival here 45 months ago, and there’s nary a dent in it. This doughnut-shaped, black rubber miracle has saved countless chairs, shoes, and marriages.
It has no flavor, sports no funny face or squeaker, but for a brief part of every day, entertains and enthralls my dog. The maker explains that should a dog (more likely, T. Rex) penetrate the black exterior, red will show through and you should send it back for a free replacement (you pay postage).
GoughNuts are available in several colors, shapes and sizes with varying chew-resistance, and there are other GoughNut-branded products not designed for intense chewing, but stick with the original black and you won’t regret it. It will probably be the last chew toy you ever buy. Find them at http://www.goughnuts.com.
Admit it, once in a while you’ve wished for a miracle dog-tiring device. You’re bushed, but the pooch needs exercise. Or the sun’s plummeting in the West and there’s no time for a decent run.
That’s where the Jolly Ball “Teaser” swoops in.
The Jolly folk cut their teeth on horse versions, and obviously learned a lot about keeping critters occupied and exercised. The Teaser doesn’t resemble their horsey versions which have a “handle.” But someone put deep and perceptive thought into what motivates a dog and how an inanimate object might babysit said dog for a while.
One characteristic we love in hunting dogs is prey drive. Teaser elicits it. There’s about a four-inch diameter ball inside this 10-inch diameter ball, visible through the holes and rattling around enticingly. Do they really think it’s a live, edible critter? I don’t know or care. So far, my wires haven’t gotten it out and it’s not for lack of trying. That small-ball-in-a-big-ball is so tempting, so much like a critter I guess, that my guys can’t resist chasing, carrying, shaking, and doing their darndest to get the little ball out of the big ball.
Manny in particular is crazy for his Jolly Ball. He will carry it as he races the length of the yard, shaking the (so to speak) life out of it and checking in periodically to urge me to toss it, where the rattle-bounce-temptation cycle begins anew. An that’s the secret, I guess. It’s not a chew toy, but a chase toy. So even when you’re dead tired, be prepared to throw it. A lot.
The big ball must be made of Kryptonite – neither of my Olympic-class chewers have destroyed it after months of play. (It’s really some type of rigid plastic, impervious to tooth and nail.) The softer, more pliable inner ball will eventually lose air, but the size of the hole vs. the ball makes it virtually impossible to extricate, at least so far. A nose can get in, but the mouth can’t open enough to snatch the ball out of the er, other ball.
Nope, it’s not a full-on training run, or even a walk in the park. But Jolly Ball’s “Teaser” is one way to take the edge off a pup who needs some stimulation and exercise when you can’t lace up the boots.
DUBARRY GALWAY BOOTS
Ten inches of snow reminded me why I love my Dubarry Galway boots. Waterproof, reaching almost to my kneecaps … they obviate the need for gaiters or even chaps in some cases. It’s one less gearing-up step in the morning, and if you’ve wrestled with gaiters recently you’ll immediately see the advantage.
If you read those magazines with a bent toward bespoke guns and waxed cotton you’ve seen these kicks on many of the sports at driven shoots, and for good reason. Dubarry’s boots are rugged but good looking, practical and stylish.
The DryFast-DrySoft waterproof leathers are fine quality (and live up to their name), but not near thick enough to suffer the indignities of lava rock or 50 degree slopes. The sole is a bit thin for rugged terrain – enough support for a quail hunt, but not a chukar chase. But the Gore-Tex lining is rock solid – when I first met Dubarry, the sales person was standing in 12 inches of water. (That’ll get your attention.) Specially developed by Dubarry, the soles are directly molded to the upper to create one piece, with no gluing or stitching, creating a seal that prevents water intrusion. It is a perfect boot for a field trial, driven shoot, training session or knocking around town in sub-zero weather.
The tops are wide, so even my gunboat size-13 feet slip in and out easily. The lining helps, just a little slick but not enough to let your foot slide around like a baby in a bubble bath.
For most uses, there is plenty of traction in the shallow lug sole, and even a bit of ankle support (though not as much as a lace-up boot would provide). Even if you’ve never worn your boots outside your pants legs, you will when you don these – they are that cool. if you’re currently shopping for a new Range Rover or have just been fitted for your next Purdey, you should have no trouble forking over the $479 for a pair. FYI: while Dubarry is a venerable Irish bootmaker, these are actually made in Portugal.
Meindl “Perfekt” boots
I just counted 26 pairs of boots in my closet and shop. Most were sent by manufacturers hoping I’d wear them on TV, and some I did. Others are special purpose and serve their function well.
But I actually buy my Meindl “Perfekt” boots from Cabela’s. Why?
They fit my goofy feet perfectly. Snug enough to prevent slipping and blisters, wide enough for the inevitable swelling after a long day afield. They are engineered for rough terrain in the European Alps, and perform the same protective job on the lava rock that harbors chukars out here. Stiff enough, padded enough, with a sole that yields a bit for easy walking but rugged enough you don’t feel the stones you step on.
They are tall enough so that many stream crossings are minor inconveniences, feet still dry on the other side. The leather is hefty enough to actually provide ankle support on squirelly terrain. They lace quickly and because the laces reach almost to your toes, this Digafix system allows fine-tuning the fit – helpful when you have a “surfer’s bump” on one of your insteps. Why anyone needs 400 grams of Thinsulate is beyond me, but if you’re sitting still in a treestand, I guess that will come in handy.
Some of the mundane details: cork footbed, which explains the fit – it molds to my feet; Poron heel insert cushions your footfalls; GoreTex membrane ensures waterproof construction and relatively good breathability; the lug sole is not so deep it retains mud and stones like many, yet is grippy enough to keep you upright in all but the hinkiest situations.
I have one gripe: on the larger sizes, there is a band of black rubber encircling the sole, attached to the upper. It cracks and separates from the upper quite easily but doesn’t seem to hamper performance. A little Shoe Goo or Barge Cement puts it back where it belongs.
I buy them like I buy puppies – bringing a new pair into the rotation so they are well broken in when the old pair is relegated to the yard, deserving a well-earned retirement. They are that good. If only Herr Meindl would send me a couple pair.
DARN TOUGH MOUNTAINEERING EXTRA CUSHION SOCKS
These days it seems company and product names are conjured up out of thin air, with macho-sounding verbs or adjectives that ultimately are supposed to make up for the actual product’s failings. Not Darn Tough.
I have a lot of pet peeves, including socks that sag, lose elasticity, and wear out at the toes. You can imagine, I’m often disappointed. Or at least, I used to be. These socks hug your calf all day, over hundreds of washings. They stand up as tall as your boot, and stay there whether you’re sauntering through the grouse woods or crunching up a scree slope after chukars.
Terry loop cushioning provides just enough warmth (I wear them throughout the season in all types of weather). Darn Tough says they manufacture their goods differently, and I agree. From more knit stitches per inch to form fitting toe boxes, to sculpted heel pockets, these socks rock.
They stay where they’re supposed to stay, too, thanks to elastic at the arch. No heel scrunching down toward your toe as the day turns into night. They are a blend of shrink-treated Merino wool, Nylon and Lycra Spandex that is machine washable and – take my word for it – they won’t shrink. Have you ever seen a lifetime guarantee on a sock? Darn Tough offers one. I doubt if you’ll ever have to take them up on it though.
PEET SHOE DRYER
I’m writing this while wearing warm, toasty boots … even though I’m on the edge of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada at chukar camp.
This seemingly-minor creature comfort is thanks to a propane-fueled Peet shoe dryer. One of a growing family of dryers from this venerable company, it might be the handiest of the lot. No voltage required with this model, just one of those ubiquitous green propane canisters. Simply attach the cylinder, light the pilot, and a small flame wafts warm (not hot) air up and into each boot from top to toe. Not too hot, and no fan needed – warm air rises, right?
And learn this the easy way, unlike yours truly: don’t dry your boots at the edge of a campfire unless you want crumbling, brittle boots in the morning that fall off when you tighten the laces. Pungle up a few bucks ($49-$69 depending on where you buy) and get a Peet dryer and protect your footwear investment.
Peet makes dryers for gloves, waders and even motorcycle helmets but for me, it’s all about the feet. They sweat a glassful of water per day, and most of that is trapped in your boots, eagerly awaiting your feets’ return in the morning. If you’re lucky, your tootsies only encounter cold, cruel moisture. On a bad day, your boots froze. Or the sweat cultures up a primordial soup of bacteria and mold … the principal ingredients of toe jam and funky foot smell. Yuk.
Practice first, as lighting the dryer requires a little familiarity. The package is a bit bulky, what with a base, tubes and the patented “Dry Ports” that support each boot, but it all bundles neatly in a padded soft nylon travel case. Pack carefully, as the tubes can become detached from the base if they’re bumped at the right angle. The metal parts in the base where the flame is generated are a little delicate; with rough treatment the mounting wire can jiggle apart, so handle with some care to ensure years of dry boots and happy feet.
The Peet dryer comes with a one-year warranty, and it works on all materials, from leather to neoprene. One propane canister dries for 60 hours.
World peace, economic parity, a Republican president … all mere dreams, possibly attainable. Dry, warm boots? Eminently accessible with a Peet dryer.
Okay, so I’m lazy. Well, not indolent or slothful … just careful about doing extra work or carrying too much on those all-day chukar hunts.
That’s why I like my Bushnell Backtrack. Just enough GPS to keep you out of trouble, but no bells, whistles or gewgaws. At just a few ounces, even I am willing to pack this little treasure if it will help me find the truck at the end of the day.
If you’re old enough to remember pocket watches, Backtrack is about the same size and shape. A lanyard is included (everything I take must stay attached to me or my vest). A basic one-color screen has a few icons for the three (yep, at this price you only get three) waypoints, battery status, a self-calibrating digital compass with bearing and distance to your waypoint, and a fundamental direction-of-travel arrow.
You won’t get latitude and longitude, breadcrumb trails, maps or well, anything else. And opening the dang thing to replace the two AAA batteries is a bit of a challenge the first couple times. You’ll also need a few practice rounds to remember what the two buttons do, and in what order. But for $60 or $70 who cares? Nobody should be away from their truck without GPS and this little unit trumps all excuses for not owning one.