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Creating New Memories with Hand-Me-Down Dog Gear

“Look what I found for Titan!” my friend exclaimed as he walked out of the thrift store, holding a large red item aloft. “A PFD!”

He handed me the PFD (personal flotation device), and I noticed the old, retro-style Ruffwear logo. I ran my fingers along the stitching and turned it over in my hands, wondering about what dog had worn it before and what adventures they had been on. I smiled, “I can’t wait for him to try it out.”

At the time, Titan and Star were young pups. Their gear collection was steadily growing as we tried more activities together. We moved from warm, sunny California to freezing cold Wyoming and spent more nights camping and days exploring – from the mountains to the desert and everything in between.

A woman and her dog sit in a canoe on a lake.

Watersports would be a new one for us, and we soon got the chance to try the PFD on a canoe trip in New Brunswick. Titan fell asleep, snoring, in the middle of the canoe. We watched a never-ending summer solstice sunset, and I looked forward to more trips involving water in our future.

The years went by, the adventures piled on, and we refined our gear closet. Star and Titan aged; there were less outings with their packs. When Star’s mobility got worse, we switched her to harnesses with handles so we could assist her. The robust handles on the Web Master™ and Flagline™ allowed us to lift her over downed logs, and into the car.

When we added Colt to our family, we needed significantly more coats for his short fur. While Star and Titan were close ranging satellites, Colt operates in a much larger orbit, so all his gear is orange so we can keep track of his whereabouts in the thick Washington forests.

When Titan passed away, and then Star, I was torn at the thought of giving away their gear. Each piece held such special memories. Titan’s FLoat Coat™ PFD from all those years ago had taken him from that first canoe trip in Canada to rafting in Alaska, paddleboarding in Washington, to swimming in California. I could picture the way his fur looked after jumping in the river, his ears cocked in their signature lopsided fashion, waiting for me to toss a stick.

Two dogs wearing Ruffwear dog packs sit in front of a Lake Tahoe hiking sign.

His and Star’s packs, emblazoned with their “Tahoe Rim Trail 165 Miler” patches reminded me of the 14 days we spent circumnavigating Lake Tahoe together, the days we spent dodging waves on the Lost Coast Trail, camping in vast wilderness on the Chilkoot trail, of countless nights curled up together in the tent after a long day backpacking.

I could picture Star at the end of the bungee Roamer™ Leash, leading me up the skin track in her Front Range® Harness, ready to get to the top and bound down through the fresh powder while I skied ahead of her.

Their gear was full of memories, experiences that solidified the bond between myself and my dogs, some of the longest and most fulfilling relationships I’ve had.

A woman poses with her dog in the mountains.

But there is room for so many more memories. There is a chance for another dog and their person to have adventures and to make more memories. Memories that would honor the lives of Titan and Star.

Slowly, I have started giving away Titan and Star’s gear. Colt gets some, he used Titan’s pack just last week, and we’ll surely save some for potential future family members. But most of the gear will find new homes.

Their gear is high quality and built to last, so there’s plenty of life left in it for generations of outdoor loving dogs. Star’s Quinzee™ went to Mamas so she can stay warm during this unusually cold winter.

A dog wears the Quinzee dog jacket in the snow.

Sherman, a Search and Rescue dog in-training, uses Titan’s old leashes and Star’s old Approach™ Pack.

A woman and man pose by a helicopter with a search and rescue dog in-training.

Colt’s best buddy Zuri, has a harness that he no longer needed; she also wore one of Star’s old collars until she outgrew it and her mom passed it along to another pup.

A dog wearing a Front Range Harness sits in the snow with mountains behind her.

Two dogs on Instagram received jackets that were Titan’s in a giveaway I did in honor of his birthday. The thought of their gear out in the world with another dog brings bittersweet joy.

Two years ago I opened a used gear store and now I get to witness the cycle of dog gear passing from one dog to another on a regular basis. I see folks like myself, finding their dog’s first PFD so they can take them on a river adventure.

I get to help Doodles find booties to keep snowballs out of their paws. I help adjust harnesses, transforming them from their original dog’s shape to their new one’s.

A man and a dog walk across a log on a hiking trail.

I can take a pack from a pup that has outgrown theirs, making sure the buckles still work and the holes have been patched, before checking the pockets to make sure they’re empty, so the next dog can fill them with memories the way mine did.

Our dog’s gear is more than just a piece of equipment. It’s a time capsule of our lives together. A visual reminder of the places we’ve been, the experiences we’ve shared, and the joy of spending time together.

Ruffwear Ambassador Laura Patton and her canine sidekick, Colt, are big fans of hiking, biking, and skiing through the endless terrain of the Pacific Northwest. Follow their adventures here: @mobileroamers.