Monday, July 14, 2008

The dog boxes are finished!

As many of you may know from reading my earlier blog entry, Everything But the Dogs: Mushing Equipment, Eric has been in the process of designing and building integrated dog boxes into our dog truck, which is a Ford Expedition SUV.

With a little chicken jerky the dogs were all happy to load up.

After approximately two weeks of planning and construction and about two hundred dollars later, those boxes are now completely constructed and ready for the dogs' use. Indeed, we took the boxes for a short "sea trial," as dear old Dad would say, yesterday when we took the dogs up to a nice little swimming hole in the Gunpowder River for a refreshing swim in the icy cold water of the river. The boxes passed, although when we returned we did make a tiny adjustment to the latches to make them more secure. The dogs were much calmer riding in the boxes than I expected. Since all of our dogs are crate trained, they all took to the boxes right away (a little chicken jerky didn't hurt none either!). T-Bone and Zoe really seem to enjoy the view they get from their "penthouse" boxes (especially when we pass horses, cows and other farm animals)!

The boxes have now received a coat of epoxy resin on the floors and the wooden thresholds to make them more waterproof. We have ordered a plastic boot tray for one of the five boxes (the center upper) and plastic sheet matting for the other four boxes to further water proof and make the bottoms of the boxes easier to clean if necessary. We have also placed a plastic barrier below the the boxes between the carpet of the truck's floor and the bottom of the dog boxes.

As built, there are five boxes, two over sized bottom boxes and three smaller upper boxes, that will hold five dogs. The boxes' framing is wood with wire shelving material between the boxes. The wiring grating, allows us to see and check on the dogs, lightens the over all weight of the boxes, and allows the rear AC vents to reach the dogs so that we can control their temperature more effectively. Because the boxes are within the confines of our SUV, they should still be plenty warm enough for our thick coated dogs to sleep in during the winter months.

Side view of the dog boxes through the lift gate

Sobo chills out in his box

There were several design goals when we built the boxes: (1) fit them within the truck but make them big enough for the dogs; (2) have them comply with Mush with Pride guidelines for the dimensions a dog box should be; (3) build the boxes as modules so they can be easily removed; (4) keep the weight being added to the truck at a minimum; (5) preserve as much rear window visibility as we could; (5) build well ventilated boxes but with floors that are easy to clean should a pup get sick or have an accident; (6) build dog boxes that are secure; (7) because we use a hitch mounted carrier to carry our rigs, the dog boxes must be able to be loaded from the rear doors and the lift gate which is not able to be raised or lowered with the rig in place on the hitch carrier; and (8) we wanted to still be able to raise and lower our back seat so that we could carry dogs and passengers. Adding insult to injury on this long list of "wants," there isn't a straight line to be had in the back of our Ford Expedition which made designing and building the boxes a lesson in patience and perseverance. Particularly difficult to deal with was the irregularly sloping nature of the ceiling of the truck (it has AC/Heat conduits in it) and the curved exterior edges on the two outer top boxes.

No straight lines! A fishy view (taken with a fish eye lens)

From the inside of the truck with one third of the rear seat up

Another interior view of the boxes (this one is kind of dark)

With a lot of patience, a lot of cutting, a lot of designing, re-designing, and a fair dash of creativity, Eric managed to build boxes that met just about all of our criteria.

Close up of Zoe, an Alaskan Husky

"Unless you have more chicken jerky, I think I'm going to nap," says Okemo