The Greenest Grocery Bag Ever: A Dog Pack


When I lived in downtown Knoxville walking to the grocery store was common practice. It was only a few blocks from my apartment, so if I ever needed a few things I could either hoof it with a canvas bag or opt to take my bike (which was outfitted with an array of baskets.) Of course, most of you folks already do this. But there are more alternatives to plastic grocery bags than you realize, and some of them are asleep on your couch right now.

Dogs at WorkIf you have a large dog loafing at home while you peddle to the store — you're both missing out on some serious useful exercise. Dogs have been used for thousands of years to haul sleds, pull carts, and yes, even carry groceries. Your dog can be of use too with the right training and gear. Enter the dog pack.

Dog packs are saddlebags used mostly for backpacking and hiking.They aren't burdensome loads but specially made items ergonomically formed to your dog's body. A healthy dog can easily carry a quarter of his weight. So if you have an 80-pound Labrador at home, that's 20 extra pounds of groceries you could be taking home while he gets decent walk. And that 20 pounds might be the breaking point between taking the Schwinn or taking the car. If you can employ the bored, save some gas, and spend time with your best friend, why not dog pack?

If your new to all this working dog business make sure you do some research before jumping in. Be certain to buy your dog's pack from a reputable outfitter like Ruffwear or the wonderful people at Wolfpacks. Kelty also makes a great little pack called the Chuckwagon, and all can be ordered online. What you don't want are those big cheap generic "dog packs" for sale at chain pet stores. A proper pack needs to carry weight the same way a sleddog pulls, in his chest and shoulders and not across his back.

When you get the pack, introduce it to your dog slowly. Put it on him without anything in it every single time you go outside for a walk or the dog park. In a few weeks he'll associate his pack with a great time. Which is exactly what you want from a happy working house pet.

Besides the obvious benefits of padding to the grocery store together, there are subtler ones too. Walking with a dog opens you up to other locals. People just seem more friendly when you've got a dog with you. Strangers who wouldn't normally talk to you strike up conversations. I'm a firm believer that good dogs build communities, and even the best cars cut us off from them. And unlike bikes, a dog can maneuver through a city crowd or farmer's market with ease. I've had my dogs both packing behind me in busy markets unbeknownst to vendors and crowds. When I unzip a pack and load it up with carrots, people say "Well, there's an idea!" and my dogs agree.

9/27/2008 8:15:33 PM

As the "mother" of 2 beautiful collies, I enjoy taking my dogs everywhere. However, in my community, dogs are not allowed at the local farmers market. In addition to fresh farm raised produce, we also have baked goods, farm raised eggs and meats. It would be the same as taking my dogs into the supermarket...not proper. My dogs are trained, and well behaved. Their favorite outings are the parks and trails that were intended for people to share with their dogs. They do pack along their own water and bowls though. JJ

9/26/2008 1:36:53 PM

Bryon, I believe you may be missing the point of Jenna's article, she clearly states "If you have a large dog loafing at home while you peddle to the store " "And that 20 pounds might be the breaking point between taking the Schwinn or taking the car." She wasn't suggesting to go out and purchase a dog to do this, only better utilize what you already have. Hving grown up with working dogs, I can't think of a better use for urban folks with dogs, this is a great way for them to get excercise, burn energy, keep interested, and earn their keep. It is hard to argue that there are way to many people with pets that use more than their share of resources but give little back, this is an awesome compromise. Personally, my husky not only gives me companionship, but also pulls a wood cart, keeps squirrels and rabbits out of the garden, and keeps the mole population in check. John

9/26/2008 10:01:51 AM

I've got a slight problem with the claim that a dog pack is the "greenest grocery bag ever." Whether one feeds a dog meat or a vegetable-based diet, their food has to come from somewhere and that certainly increases the dog owner's environmental impact. That aside, one would still need dog pop bags and even if those bags are reused plastic bags or compostable bags, they still have an envirnomental cost. These factors certainly preclude the claim "greenest grocery bag ever." If you want to be as "green" as possible ditch fido and stick to canvas or recycled plastic bags.

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