Review: Chico the Boat Dog Tests Critter’s Inflatable Life JacketCritters & Wildlife, GUEST BLOGGERS, Reviews, SERIES, VIDEOS — By Vicki Lathom on July 9, 2011 at 01:13
Review by guest writer Vicki Lathom. Photos & video Copyright © Vicki Lathom.
WHO WOULD HAVE thought that my article on Chico the Boat Dog would take on a life of its own? Not only did I get blog comments and Facebook feedback on the story, but I also got a request from the creator of an inflatable doggie life jacket to do a test of his device.
It’s called Critter’s Inflatable and, after looking at the videos online, I thought: any famous dog like Chico, who’s featured on a travel blog, deserves the best.
Thus began the next chapter, Chico the Boat Dog Tests Critter’s Inflatable. Dan McCormick, inventor and retired Coast Guard employee, sent me two jackets, a medium and a large, since Chico is one of those “tween” dogs. Too small to be big; too big to be small. His weight is medium; the girth of his chest is large.
Fitting Chico with the Doggie Life Jacket
It’s a little intimidating at first, with several straps you have to set to adjust to the animal. However, once you go through the fitting, it’s just snap-it-on after that.
The first thing I liked about Critter’s is that Chico didn’t even know he had it on. Most doggie life jackets are bulky—past experience with a typical PFD (personal flotation device) was that Chico just laid down rather than deal with walking around. Critter’s scored high for permitting ease of movement.
Now to the screen test. My son and I took Chico on our 26-foot power boat and beached it across the river. It was the closest to being a movie producer and director that I ever expect to be. Chico had his Critter’s jacket on and we did the setup, including kidding about getting Chico’s makeup on and his hair combed.
So it was lights, camera, action.
Critter’s Inflatable Performs in the Water
We lowered Chico into the water with the handle and slowly the inflatable part inflated. Fast enough to get him afloat but slow enough so Chico didn’t freak out. I thought that was a nice touch, since I had this image of the thing blowing up in an instant, throwing the dog into a panic attack. But Chico just swam around.
I liked the fact that the inflatable part is a bright yellow, so if he went in water with white caps, he would be visible.
When we lifted him out, he had a moment of trying to figure out what to do now that he was so fat and couldn’t get through the opening. But deflating is easy. The CO2 cartridge gets replaced and you’re ready to go again.
Dan McCormick is understated about his invention, which is the only automatically inflatable life jacket on the market. Dan has no dogs, only cats. The reason he invented Critter’s Inflatable was because a friend who is a boater asked him why something that was used for people couldn’t be used for a dog. “Never thought about it before,” says Dan, “but since I was involved in personal flotation device standards for the Coast Guard for eight years, I thought, why not?” So he adapted one for pets and got it patented.
Thus began an adventure into the world of doggie marketing. Dan’s family is his public relations firm: his son did the web site (www.crittersinflatable.com), his wife the copywriting, his daughter the graphics. Dad is the engineer.
Safety and Quality
What is so impressive about Dan is his concern about the quality and reliability of his device, no doubt a carryover from the Coast Guard’s mission to save and rescue people. He is so concerned about the quality of his inflatable that he recalled one iteration of the jacket because he wasn’t satisfied with the CO2 fitting—all at significant expense to him. “I just can’t have a product out there on the market that isn’t of the highest quality.”
So, we’re set. Next winter, Chico will meet the Bahamas, inflatable on, ready for any unexpected tumble into the water off our boat. The author and Chico’s owner will also meet the Bahamas next winter, confident that if her movie star dog accidentally goes overboard, he will live to paw-stamp more autographs for his adoring fans.
FTC Compliance: The reviewer tested this product at the request of the inventor and, according to the writer’s guidelines for this site, gave her honest assessment. Neither the reviewer nor Milliver’s Travels guarantees your results with this product. We recommend you read the product website and related literature before purchasing. See Site Policies for more details on Milliver’s Travels’ review policies.
Vicki Lathom has been a writer and sailor for 40 years. She retired from being director of public information for Montgomery County, Md., in 1996, and went to work for Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer as his speechwriter. Vicki has also done freelance travel writing and photography for such publications as SAIL and Maryland Magazine. She is currently a writing instructor for two graduate schools at the University of Maryland. Her higher education has been in journalism and public administration.