Pet Carriers

January 9, 2010
Curious Charley

Charley pops out of his Sherpa carrier at the Seattle Airport

Charley has used a Sherpa pet carrier since he was ten weeks old. We have tried some other carriers, but Charley is so used to his Sherpa that we just stick with that. In particular, he’s used to hopping in and out of the opening in the top. He is not as comfortable getting into a bag that doesn’t have a top opening.


We’ve tried a few different Sherpa models (Delta, Ultimate, and the Roll-Up) and sizes (Medium and Large). Sherpa also makes a wheeled carrier, but I haven’t tried it. For me, the Roll-Up model is the best. It has flaps on three sides that can be rolled up allowing air to pass through fabric screens — great for warm weather. It is also smaller and lighter than some of the other models. It has two slim zippered compartments on one end for carrying a few supplies. It doesn’t have as many pockets as some other models (like the Ultimate), but having fewer pockets also means it is slimmer and easier to carry.

Medium and Large Sherpas

Medium (left) and Large Sherpas

Charley weighs just under 18 pounds (8 kg) and fits fine in the Medium bag. He will hop right into it and go to sleep for several hours, no matter where we are going. After a few hours, he does seem to get restless, so I got a Large size bag to give him more wiggle room for longer trips. Both feel equally comfortable on my shoulder. The Medium is perfect the trips on the subway, to the vet and around town. The Large is a little bit bulky maneuvering through crowds and narrow aisles, so I prefer to use the Medium when I can.

My one complaint of the Sherpa bag is the strap is not very good. Specfically, it does not have a proper snap closure, but a rather flimsy sliding closure. With my first Sherpa bag, the closure slid open and the bag slipped from my shoulder. Luckily, I caught it and Charley was not hurt. You may wish to consider adding a different strap, perhaps from a messenger bag or some other piece of luggage. The strap I use came from a Tenba presentation case, but I think other luggage or camera gear straps would be good too. Just something with a comfortable wide strap and secure closure snaps or clips.

Tutto Pet on Wheels

Tutto Pet on Wheels

I also use more comfortable cushions than the ones that come with the Sherpa. I think this helps Charley from becoming restless on longer trips. Precision Pet’s SnooZZY OrthoAir Inflatable Bed (size 1000) is very comfortable and the SnooZZy Cozy Comforter (size 1000) is also good. ( is a good place to find these.)


If you are interested in a carrier with wheels, you might want to take a look at Tutto’s Pet-on-Wheels case. Charley fits in the Medium size and has tried it for short trips around town. He goes right to sleep, just like with the Sherpa. It is sturdy and well-constructed and looks more like a traditional suitcase. And if you already have Tutto luggage, it works well with that. Sherpa also makes a wheeled carrier, but we haven’t tried it (mainly because I don’t like wheeled luggage). On one occasion I saw a Sherpa stroller, but never saw it anywhere else, so it may have been custom-made.


Extra Large SturdiBag


I saw someone else using the SturdiBag and thought I would give it a try. The one I tried is the Extra Large — it is larger (taller) than even the biggest Sherpa and is big enough for Charley to stand in, but is also quite bulky to carry around. A smaller size, like the Large, would probably be OK for him and would be easier to manage. It has some nice details that the Sherpa lacks, namely a comfortable strap, better zipper pulls, buckles, etc.

Unfortunately, despite its name, the SturdiBag is actually quite flimsy. It is made of lightweight fabric held in place by flexible struts — sort of like a tent. The first time we tried it, I said “Get in the bag” and Charley jumped on top, just the way he gets into his Sherpa bag and he flattened it completely. It did spring right back to shape as soon as Charley stopped standing on it. This shows how flexible this bag is — which allows it to fit under seats, but also demonstrates that it offers zero protection for the dog if something fell on the bag. The Sherpa bag is a little sturdier, offering more protection. It is for this reason that I cannot recommend the SturdiBag. It seems a little too bulky for a shoulder bag and not sturdy enough for luggage.

Spike goes for a ride

Spike in Manhattan Portage


I also tried the Scout Messenger Pet Bag which seems like a great option for traveling on the subway, but unfortunately was too small for Charley. It says it is for pets up to 12 pounds. It is well-made and would be fine as a shoulder bag. (It is soft and does not offer the dog any protection.) I used to use a Large NY Bike Messenger Bag (1610) by Manhattan Portage for Charley’s friend Spike. I could carry him everywhere in that.

What kind of pet carrier do you use? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Creeping Salt

December 7, 2009
Road Salt

Salt used to de-ice roads and sidewalks can be painful to animal feet.

Road and sidewalk salt is probably my least favorite thing about Winter. It can be extremely painful for Charley if he gets a piece of it wedged between his pads. He’ll limp for a few steps, until he can no longer walk and then he’ll cry out and howl in pain. It’s really awful (and he’s normally quite stoic). I’ll pick him up and brush his feet with my gloved hands to get rid of the salt. Obviously, the best thing is to avoid any patches of salt but they’re not always easy to spot. The worst is when there’s a watery “soup” of melted snow and de-icer that coats his feet.

Salt Overkill

Salt-covered steps

First off, one thing I do year-round is wipe Charley’s feet when we come inside. His vet suggested this to prevent him from ingesting whatever we’ve walked through when he licks his feet. I usually just use a damp paper towel (or wet washcloth for dirtier feet). I used to use special wipes made just for this, but that seemed kind of expensive and I wondered about the safety of ingesting whatever was in the wipes.

If Charley needs more cleaning than that, a great tool is the Rinse Ace Pet Shower Deluxe (available from Petco, Amazon, etc.), although I’m sure any shower head hose attachment would work. It’s great for rinsing off feet or a dirty bum. I just put him in the tub, spray his feet then dry them off. Easy.

Here are some other ideas for feet cleaning short of a complete bath:

  • Dipping or soaking your dog’s feet in a bowl of water
  • Doing the same with a sink filled with water
  • Holding you dog’s feet under a running faucet
  • If you have a utility or laundry room with a large sink, that’s a great place for a quick rinse (or even full bath)


Thanks to Charley’s friends for these great suggestions on what they use to protect their dogs’ feet in Winter:

Musher's Secret

Useful for protecting paws in Winter.

Lia in NYC recommends Musher’s Secret as a salt-protectant. She suggested sticking Charley’s feet in a tub of it and twisting it back-and-forth 6-8 times. I’m not sure if I ever really got the hang of it, but it does help reduce salt burns unless we hit a really bad patch of it.

Boots probably offer more protection, but they’re often such a struggle to get on that I’m not sure they’re any better than dealing with the salt. I’ve tried Muttlucks, but found them very difficult to get on. Buttons in Alexandria, MN is used to cold Winters and wears soft, sock-like fleece boots from Dicken’s Closet. These are easier to get on and Charley minds them less than other boots. They’re not waterproof—if it’s warm and there’s a lot of slush on the ground, they can become soaked. Still, because they’re more comfortable, they’re the best boots we’ve tried. Unfortunately, I don’t see them online under this brand name anymore, but Arctic Fleece Dog Boots look exactly the same. Muttlucks’ Hott Doggers also look like a soft fleece shoe, albeit more expensive.

I’ve just ordered REI Adventure Dog boots (size small) as worn by Juneau in Anchorage. (I tried ordering last year, but they were sold out). These were not inexpensive, but with rubber soles they should have the added benefit of protecting against stray voltage. REI offers other dog boots, too.

Juku and Kami in Long Beach use disposable dog booties called Noobys.

Of course, there are pet-friendly salt alternatives, but I’ve rarely seen them used.

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. What do you use to clean or protect your pet’s feet from salt in Winter? Please feel free to leave a comment below.