My dog now has a handle

By Carol Vinzant
Updated May 12, 2009 02:59 PM
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Ruffwear designs its Web-Master harnesses for taking your young, fit dogs on an adventurous hike and helping them over boulders and logs. But the Oregon company has a cult following among an unlikely group: the owners of senior and disabled pets. The sturdy harness–ergonomically designed for both you and your dog–has been a huge help for me and my senior dog Jolly. Without the Ruffwear harness we would’ve had to move out of our third floor, walk-up apartment a long time ago.

I had their old version for a while and just tried their new one, which is even more sleek-looking and balanced for Jolly. What makes it so special? It’s got a big handle and two straps under the body that cradle the ribcage (usually harnesses have just one strap behind the front legs), making it easy to lift Jolly and easy to get the gear on him. And it’s comfortable for him–so comfortable, in fact, that he’s fine if I just leave it on him all the time.

Designer Lindsey Clark says Ruffwear gets about a letter a day from grateful senior dog owners. Hydrotherapy and rehabilitation centers and vets also use the Web-Master harness. Clark initially created it so handlers could lift search and rescue dogs onto chairlifts and snowmobiles–while being “escape-proof for those with Houdini dogs.” The harness can even safely hold hundreds if not thousands of pounds, Clark says, because she used the same kind of stitching that human climbing harnesses employ.

The harness is so well built that Jolly looks like a police dog in it–I often get asked if he’s a service dog–and the new version even has reflective piping. Next up for Ruffwear: They’re coming out with a harness with support for the back legs. And a bonus for Clark: Her own pup Kaya often gets to be a model for the new products. “On any given day there’s at least one dog here,” she says. “My dog loves wearing paper mock-ups.”

Where to get it: Ruffwear, $50