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December 19, 2014

Dog Dish/Make This Keep calm and stroll on: DIY dog stroller puts the friendly back in pet-friendly

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Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 3:28 pm | Updated: 9:50 pm, Sat Jun 14, 2014.

Last weekend was the 35th annual Do Dah Day festival in Birmingham, the biggest and longest running dog-friendly event in the state. And being the dog-friendly enthusiasts we are, you better believe the Dog Dish family was in attendance.

Since the two of us attended last year, Koopa fancies himself an expert Do Dah Dayer and I wanted to believe he’d show his wide-eyed little sister the ropes. After all, the pair breezed through Bark in the Park at McClellan — decked in a sparkly tutu and bejeweled pirate sword, respectively, no less — but then we had a couple of perplexing episodes at Newollah on Noble and Heflin’s St. Pawtrick’s Day parade. They weren’t really what you’d call socially awkward, but saying they threw my arm out of socket and barked like a couple of lunatics at the sight of other dogs makes me sound like a bad mom so … yeah, let’s say socially awkward.

This might be a good time to also mention the third canine member of our entourage, Kix. Last month I came across this tiny copper daredevil playing in traffic on Quintard Avenue. Sucker for strays that I am, I pulled into the CVS parking lot and called out to him. He hesitated for half a second before trotting over, tail wagging, and spending the duration of our ride home planted firmly in my lap — let me tell you how much Kollee enjoyed that, by the way.

I get him home and the kid’s all legs and curlicue tail with this ridiculous little button nose I can’t stop booping. Neutered, housetrained, sweet as he can be — two collars on but no tag or microchip, of course — so I figure somebody must be looking for him, right? Apparently not. So long story short, I have my first foster dog.

Which brings us back to last weekend. You see, I’m still pretty shaky on two-leash dog walking. Toss in a third, especially one with a textbook Napoleon complex and a knack for coaxing my two lunatics’ barking into a riotous howl session, and you see why I might have concerns. I decided before descending on a city park filled with more sights, sounds and unsniffed dogs than you can shake a double leash at that we’d better have an exit strategy. Not for all of us, mind you — just one unruly pup at a time would do the trick.

See, when you’ve got them one on one, it’s all chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool. Put them together and suddenly they’re a couple of guys making trouble in Fresh Prince’s neighborhood. All I needed was a quick way to split up the posse.

I’ve seen many a dog stroller in my extensive pet-friendly travels, but assumed I’d never find one to fit my sorely limited budget for portable dog containment. After a Google search confirmed my suspicions, I took a cue from my editor, Make This! maven Deirdre Long, and decided to DIY it.

Step one, hit the thrift store: Right off the bat at Center of Hope on U.S. 431, I found a sturdy convertible stroller — one of those that transforms into a car seat — for $20, which they knocked down to $15 when closer inspection showed the bed part to be a little bent. Then I did a quick run through the store for something to use as netting because, while I’m sure the single padded seat belt works like gangbusters on the infants for which Graco intended it, my wiggly, wily ones would be on the loose before I turned off the wheel lock. On the baby aisle I found what I took to be the mesh siding from one of those portable playpens. It had snaps on either end and was plenty big enough to cover the front of the stroller, so it seemed as promising an option as any.

Step two, decide where to sit: I had two options: the removable car seat or the storage basket below. Kollee’s long legs and longer ears had me leaning toward the basket and all the headroom it offered. But printed in big letters was a maximum capacity of 10 pounds so the car seat seemed the smarter choice. Plus it had the retractable hood and that little tray for Cheerios and sippy cups — not that they’d use it, but who doesn’t prefer their transportation fully loaded? Opting for the best of both worlds route, I removed the storage basket, wedged the car seat into the vacant space and voilà — all the headroom with none of the weight restrictions.

Step three, secure the contents: Here I made the first of two serendipitous discoveries. Remember those snaps on either end of my netting? Well, when I removed — or should I say, unsnapped — the basket from the frame, left behind were two snap sockets that matched up perfectly. Then I just used a couple of extra-long shoelaces to tie the sides of the netting to the stroller frame. I didn’t lace them all the way up at first, figuring the easiest way to get the dogs in and out would be to fold down the top of the net. But then I made serendipitous discovery No. 2.: Once the netting was in place, that retractable hood made one heck of an entryway.

Step four, clean out your trunk: You’re trading portability for reliability here so keep in mind that once everything is secured, that stroller is never folding up again. It worked so well though, why you’d want it to is beyond me. Now I’ve just got to train Koopa to push it...

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