Cool Vests aid Iraq's military dogs
An entrepreneur's chilly vests help keep the military's four-legged helpers cool in the scorching desert.
(Fortune Small Business) -- The U.S. military canines that sniff the roads of Iraq and Afghanistan for deadly bombs tend to be German shepherds and Labradors. Bred for cooler climates, they suffer in the blistering heat. And when they're hot, they pant more, which diminishes their ability to detect explosives, putting American soldiers at risk. By the end of the summer, however, when temperatures can reach 135° F in Afghanistan, Ray Booska will have outfitted all the military dogs in the Middle East with his company's RPCM Chilly Dog Cool Vest, which stays at 59° F for three hours.
Glacier Tek, Booska's company, doesn't have a government contract to equip the dogs, just a desire to support U.S. troops and their four-legged friends. "These dogs save the lives of our sons and daughters," says Booska, 43, "and we're going to do everything we can to help them."
He became concerned about hot dogs when the Space Coast War Dog Association contacted him. The group, which supports military working dogs, wondered whether Glacier Tek, based in West Melbourne, Fla., could develop a dog product similar to its cooling vests for humans.
Booska, a former Army military police officer, tested several models on his retired police dog, Fritz, before settling on the final design: a shell made of polyester webbing filled with a nontoxic coolant that works like gel ice packs. The vests recharge in 15 minutes when placed in a freezer or body of water that is less than 60° F. The dog vest retails for $129, and it accounts for 17% of Glacier Tek's annual revenues of about $3 million.
As of mid-July, Booska had donated 500 of the vests to handlers in the war zones, the costs of which are covered by Glacier Tek and donors who are sending contributions to supportmilitaryworkingdogs.org.
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