At my age, discovering for sale a nifty tool or gadget I’ve dreamed for years some backyard tinkerer might invent and patent is the equivalent of a Christmas Eve visit from Santa. To learn of such a unique gadget’s existence from an unexpected source only adds to the thrill.
Such a revelation came while watching Jay Leno recently as he talked with actress Hillary Swank. A dog lover, Swank owns two large dogs who need to get out and exercise every day. She also enjoys biking. She mentioned she now combines the two activities, using a Springer.
The Springer is a metal arm shaped like the drain pipe under a kitchen sink you can attach to the frame of your bike or under the seat to lead your dog about two feet away from your bike. The dog’s harness (they discourage using a collar) is attached by an 18-inch long cord to a hook on the top of the coiled spring outer portion of the arm. The dog trots at a safe distance from traffic, your legs and your feet. You can ride with both hands on the handlebars, assured that your dog cannot chase off after some distraction dumping you to the pavement.
In the event the dog tangles around a tree or fire hydrant – I can’t imagine where you might be biking or how wide astray your attention must be to let this happen – a patented plastic “safety release” called a breakaway will free your dog, without any discomfort to either of you. That’s a literature promise.
Manufactured from heavy-duty steel and assembled in Norway since 1988, this gadget has only recently become available in North America. Its low mounted, heavy-duty spring absorbs up to 90 percent of the force of your dog’s unexpected tugs, making it so much easier to maintain balance. It can be mounted on either side of almost all bikes, and is easily removed by pulling out a cotter pin.
The complete Springer is available in a kit with a leash, three safety releases, and a hook where you attach the cord. Available locally by special order in this off-season, each kit costs $129.99.
The literature says more than 600,000 Springers have been sold in Europe to be used by families, individuals, mushers, and K9 corps. Yet only now am I learning about this handy dandy gadget for riding safely while leading a dog.
In my younger years, when I was more inclined to bounce than break if I tumbled from my bike, I had two dogs I could ride with, one dog on either side, clamping their leashes while gripping the handlebars. Neither ever spilled me. They kept their attention on the front bike wheel and ignored birds, chipmunks, and cars.
But as I grew older, the height from the bike seat to the pavement seemed to increase, making me have second and third thoughts about training replacement dogs to run alongside me. But just knowing the Springer is available should I dare to try it pleases me.
A second item that would make an excellent Christmas gift for anyone with a dog that spends much time outdoors is a heated water dish that doesn’t freeze.
Through countless winters I poured hot water into a frozen pailful, or brought the water pail indoors every night so I could set it out next morning to offer the dogs a decent drink. Otherwise I would find they had licked a tiny hole through even thick ice to lap a drop or two before I got there after breakfast.
Now that I have no responsibilities to wake me early, and I tend to forget things, which could lead to a frozen water pail with a ruptured seam, I’ve invested in an electrically heated watering dish which maintains the water at lukewarm temperature. The dogs have water available around the clock. Even if snow blows around the dish, I think it will keep itself melted out.
Had I known about this convenience years ago, I would have bought one for my pets.