explorebigsky.com’s four-legged gear testers review their favorite products.

Black Betty

Breed: Black lab/German short hair pointer mix
Age: 3 years old

Born in Big Sky, Montana, and the daughter of two champion hunting dogs, I was bred to run and hunt. I spend winter Nordic and alpine skiing and summer whitewater rafting, all in preparation for fall bird season. I’m not a fan of porcupines, skunks or moose, finding them a nuisance. My stepbrother Cedar, who’s 14, has shown me the ropes on dealing with bears and finding the best swimming holes on the Gallatin River.

Gear: Cabela’s Ripstop Chest Protector; Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat (pictured left)
My hunter’s orange chest protector vest ($40) keeps me safe in bird season, and the comfy K-9 Float Coat ($80) keeps me above the rapids. cabelas.com, ruffwear.com

Food: GO! dog food, Dee-o-Gee’s homemade treats
GO! Fit + Free dog food (starting at $53) is a grain free mix of turkey, chicken and salmon proteins with essential Omega oils that help keep my mind and vision sharp. Dee-o-Gee’s all natural treats, hand-rolled and cut in the Bozeman store, are made without salt, sugar or preservatives ($5). I particularly like the Peanut Butter and Pumpkin flavor, with flour from Wheat Montana and local eggs. petcurean.com, dee-o-gee.com

Advice to other dogs: Get pet insurance and don’t overheat in the summer.

I suggest the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest for long hikes – it’s the best way for a black betty like me to keep cool. ($55)

Gunner

Breed: Curly tail mutt (some sort of shepherd/collie/Basenji mix)

Age: A-few-thousand-naps-in-the-sun-old

I’m well-traveled and ruff’ined. My human picked me up in Chicago, and we moved to Montana a couple years ago. This is paradise. I know how to coerce treats from a human, and one inalienable truth: If you throw it, I’ll chase it.

Toy: West Paw Design Zisc Glow Frisbee
Like I said, if you throw it, I’ll chase it. I’m also unlikely to return it right away. In fact, I may just sit in the shade and chew on it, which is why I’ll wag to the Zisc Glow Frisbee – I can’t rip it apart, and it always flies true. westpawdesign.com $12

Gear: Ruffwear Palisades Pack, Slackline Leash
Ruffwear’s Palisades Pack ($130) lets me carry my own food, water and waste, making me part of the team. The pack is comfortable and secure – so much so that when I can’t navigate a narrow spot, my human grabs the harness handle and lifts me through. The Slackline Leash ($40) keeps me attached at the hip to my human. Since it’s adjustable, I’m always at his heels or a step behind on a run.

Treat: YaffBar
I sit and stay when my human reaches for a YaffBar. This is world’s first energy bar designed for humans and dogs to share. My favorite flavor is honey almond cranberry. (six for $18)
muddandwyeth.com

Diva

Breed: Pound puppy perfect (border collie mix)
Age: 98 dog years/14 calendar years

One lifetime isn’t enough – I could snowboard, run, surf Lake Superior, chase moose, hike through wildflowers and float the river forever. I live comfortably at the base of Lone Mountain and lately enjoy a good nap as much as anything. Snacking on carrots is the secret to my youthful appearance, and keeping my puppyhood ball with me helps whenever things get rough (like fireworks. I hate fireworks).  

Health treatment: Acupuncture
Every dog should go to the spa for this relaxing and revitalizing therapy – it makes me feel like a prettier version of Wonder Dog and lets me relive my days jumping creeks and sprinting after squirrels. $53-83 360petmedical.com

Indulgence: West Paw Heyday Bed
After 98 years of strenuous activity, a cozy bed is a must. I keep the Heyday ($59) in the car so I can curl up after muddy hikes. Made from recycled materials, the super soft microsuede stays nice and clean.

Treat: Zuke’s Organic Hip Action
With glucosamine and chondroiton, Zukes ($9) help keep me feeling like I’m in my 50s. Beef flavor is my favorite – it pairs nicely with carrots.  
zukes.com

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Acupuncture for animals

By Jenny Ladd

Throughout its 5,000-year history, acupuncture has had many applications – from human medicine to therapy for Emperors’ horses.

A Chinese medical practice, it promotes natural healing through insertion of needles and application of heat or electrical stimulation at precise points. Because the Chinese never desecrated a body for science, they developed the meridians and points empirically, refining the practice through observation and treatment.  

The theory behind it is that pain is stagnation of chi, or energy, in the meridians; furthermore, an excess or deficiency of yin or yang causes disease. Yin and yang are opposite but balancing aspects of any living entity, and acupuncture is meant to balance the body by strengthening or removing these excesses.

Modern science has found many of the acupuncture points are located at nerve roots, along nutrient passageways and on peripheral nerves, and the treatment causes the body to release serotonin and other compounds that reduce pain and inflammation.

Veterinary acupuncture can help with intervertebral disk disease, osteoarthritis, endocrine disturbances and promote healing. Although it should not replace traditional veterinary medicine, using it as an adjunct therapy can slow disease progression and reduce or eliminate the need for medications.

Jenny Ladd is a fourth year veterinary student at Oklahoma State University, and a certified veterinary acupuncturist living in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Dog Days of Summer

Camp Big Sky’s third annual fundraiser, Dog Days of Summer, is Saturday, August 10, in Big Sky, Montana. The fun includes a canine costume parade, a pet trick contest, dog demos, a fun trail run/walk, a rubber duck race, a cakewalk, ice cream floats, and the dock diving competition.

This story was first published in the summer 2013 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.