Circumstances have altered my review plans for the these are a few of my favorite things series. We’ll get back to dog trainers next time. Today’s installment is brought to you by the collective partnership of a stop-sign violator, a spectacularly well-designed Volvo XC40, a Gunner Kennel, and the most badass person I know, my wife.
A few weeks ago, I got an early-evening call on my cell phone that I thought was a spam caller. I was with Lincoln at his favorite doggie swimming pool, doing his favorite activity outside of an autumnal bird field, throwing balls for him to fetch / retrieve in the pool. I got increasingly annoyed at my phone buzzing in my pocket after having ignored it twice, not immediately recognizing the number, and figuring it was a telemarketer. “That’s weird, spam callers don’t usually call three times,” was my thought when I finally picked up, only to hear a friend on the other line. “Hey Robb, this is Ron. Here’s Heather.” Heather came on, sounding very upset, but immediately assured me that she was okay.
Heather explained that she’d been in a very bad accident during her commute home from her new job over an hour away from our home. I was finally assured that she really was okay after triple-checking with both Heather, very much in shock, and our friends Ron and Tara, who bizarrely just so happened to have their kids out shopping for furniture, again, over an hour away from where we all live, and who were the very first on the scene of the accident. They had pulled over to run up to help whomever was hurt (we are very fortunate to know such good people), having no idea that Heather was the person in the smashed and upside down car on the side of the road.
Here’s the rest of what I was able to piece together, first from that phone call and then from the Virginia State Trooper who very kindly greeted me after I’d made the hour trip to the hospital where I insisted Heather let the ambulance take her to be checked out after the accident, even though she had walked away from it: Heather had been on a two lane highway, traveling home at the 55 mph speed limit, when a car ran a stop sign, going about the same speed, and very nearly T-boned her in the driver’s side, impacting the forward left side in the wheel well, spinning her completely around and off the road, and up an embankment, where she flipped upside down, the car coming to rest on its roof, dangling Heather upside down from her secure seat belt.
Because she was in a new Volvo XC40 when all this happened, Heather was able to unbuckle herself, kick her way out of the door, and walked away from that horrible accident with only a massive seatbelt bruise and a sore torso, some scratches from the shattered glass, and a back in a little need of some physical therapy, but luckily, and so far, nothing more serious than all that. The anti-whiplash seats and the veritable cocoon of airbags that immediately deployed on impact held her safely through the madness of the impact and the subsequent spinning and overturning. I’ll spare you the rest of my newfound love for this marvel of automotive safety engineering since I can’t really tie it to bird dogs, dog training, or upland hunting, which are of course the subjects of this blog, but couldn’t help featuring it and signing its praises since it - without a doubt - saved my wife’s life in an incredible accident. I will say more, however, about the other product that was involved in the collision and more than proved its worth, both in preventing serious danger to Heather and in providing a very good test of its ability to keep our boy safe: Lincoln’s Gunner Kennel.
Lincoln was not in the car, but his Medium Gunner Kennel was. It took us a week to coordinate our schedules so we could go together to the rural wrecker’s to see the car and get the kennel and other items out of it, so I was very curious as to how the kennel had held up. I was thankful I’d installed it in the Volvo with the recommended Gunner straps so that it hadn’t become a large and deadly projectile in such a high-speed accident. Upon inspection, its straps had not only held but seemed absolutely pristine. The kennel was, I think, the only thing in the car that wasn’t a part of the car that was in the exact same position and in the exact same condition as it was before the accident. Distinguishing them from most other SUV cargo hooks I’ve seen, which are not sturdy enough to hold in a serious accident, the Volvo XC40’s cargo hooks, welded into the frame, worked in concert with the outstanding Gunner straps and stability bars to keep the kennel from becoming a large and dangerous projectile upon impact and, in fact, kept it from moving even an inch. Despite my investigating the straps and the kennel thoroughly, there just wasn’t the slightest sign of damage on either the straps or the kennel. I’m very confident that had he been in the car and kennel at the time, our boy would have walked away from this horrific accident together with Heather.
You just can’t put a price on the safety that these two products afforded us in Heather’s accident. The Volvo was a lifesaver in that its legendary abundance of safety features permitted little intrusion of the other car into the passenger cabin and performed as designed in destroying itself in a variety of ways to keep the human passenger safe. Likewise, the Gunner Kennel and straps amply demonstrated and confirmed not just their combined ability to keep it absolutely motionless, protecting the human passenger from being hit by it as a deadly projectile in the interior of the cabin, but also tested its ability to bridge the gap that even the safest of cars present for a canine passenger who necessarily wouldn’t benefit from any of the restraints engineered for humans. Let me tell you, the thing is essentially a lightweight armored compartment that would withstand substantially more violence than any other kennel I’ve seen to date. We have two and they are among my most prized dog-related possessions: an intermediate size that I keep in my Jeep Grand Cherokee that we purchased before they offered a smaller medium, fit more precisely for a sub-45 lbs pooch like a Brittany, and the medium I installed in Heather’s new Volvo. I’m even more impressed after the accident by the peace of mind they give us when transporting Lincoln in one or the other than we had before, and we were already very satisfied and enthusiastic customers before the accident.
There is nothing quite like a near-miss catastrophe and the prospect, if only imagined, of losing those you love to make you appreciate how good design and engineering and just a little luck - and perhaps a significant dose of divine beneficence - might preserve life and health that otherwise very easily could have been irretrievably taken away from us with only slightly different circumstances and/or lesser products in play. And so it was that one night, in the week following her accident, I awoke during those liminal wee hours of the morning in which over the past couple of years I had found myself sometimes worrying over some threat my sleeping mind had dreamed up for either Lincoln (what might he have accidentally eaten on the dog walk the day before?, what about ticks?, and then what about the danger of tick preventatives?, what about foxtail barley?, what about pythiosis, etc., etc., etc.) or for Heather, my anxiety characteristically amplified by the hazy, deep quiet of our dead of nighttime house. But instead of my customary anxiety for the safety of those I love, this night I awoke to hear our boy breathing deep in sleep and, laying my head back down on a cool pillow, I slipped my own hand into Heather’s warm hand as she slept. Even though I was impressed by the realization that life wouldn’t forever be like this, and that I must always be grateful while it was, I felt a profound peace that in this moment at least, just on the other side of a near-miss, we were all together, very happy, and healthy, and relaxed in rest and sleep, due in large part to these two of my favorite things, now imbued with my tested and confirmed confidence of knowing exactly how they’d perform when we needed them most.
Find out more about Volvo’s new entry-level XC, the sporty and tricked-out XC40, in the video above