The Best Crate for your Australian Shepherd

Because each Gunner Kennels customer story, and relationship with their dog, is different, we’ve started to document a few for you. This week we’re with Lori Coleman, a Florida resident whose dog Deacon is the unofficial mascot of Clay County Humane Society, where she works. Last year, Lori and Deacon were in a car wreck that almost went very, very wrong. Read about their experience below.

Gunner Kennels Customer: Lori & Deacon

Gunner Kennels Customer: Lori & Deacon

OWNER’S NAME: Lori Coleman

DOG’S NAME: Deacon

DOG’S BREED: Australian Shepherd


DOG’S WEIGHT: 50 lb.

CITY, STATE: Keystone Heights, Florida


GUNNER KENNELS PRODUCTS YOU OWN: G1™ IntermediatePerformance Pad

DESCRIBE DEACON IN A FEW WORDS:Loyal, friends with everyone he meets, intuitive (he always knows who needs his attention the most). He’s exactly everything I didn’t know I needed in a dog… 

Q&A With Lori

Lori, it looks like you’ve dedicated your time – if not much of your life’s work – to animals. Can you tell me more about that? 

I work for a local humane society, been here over 22 years. Deacon comes to work with me every day and is the Clay Humane mascot. One of our many responsibilities is to our Pet Therapy teams that visit 6 different nursing homes in our area. We also do Humane Education presentations in the local schools, visit at the libraries, airport, and we’ve just recently been certified as a HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response team, deployed to natural and man made disasters in our southeast region. 

There was something pretty traumatizing that jumpstarted your specific interest in pet travel & product safety research. Can you tell us about that?

Lori's car, immediately following her wreck – as well as Deacon's former crate
Lori’s car, immediately following her wreck – as well as Deacon’s former crate

I was in a car accident in March of 2017. Deacon was with me, riding in his wire crate in the back of my Toyota Sienna minivan. 

A woman in an SUV pulled out in front of me when I was driving down a main highway. I t-boned her vehicle, totaling both it and my own van. 

Deacon was forcibly ejected from the wire kennel (the welds did not hold) and landed in the front seat. At that point he was panicked and loose. Thankfully, my arms were unaffected during the crash and I was able to grab a hold of his collar. I wouldn’t let any of the bystanders open my doors until they got me a leash from the back of the van…it was a scary couple of minutes with them frantic to get me out because my engine would not turn off, and me frantic to secure my dog because there was no way I was letting him get out of the car without a leash on! 

He certainly would have bolted and likely would have been hit by a passing car.

Now that we’re back on the road again, I knew that I needed to keep him safer than I had been previously in that wire crate. I was always apprehensive when passing the crash site (I pass by on the way to and from work every day). 

It weighed heavily on my mind, and I knew I had to do some research. We looked at a lot of different kennels and containment systems. We watched a LOT of videos. And in the end, it was super clear to me that Gunner Kennels were the way to go. I feel SO much better driving down the road knowing that my buddy is safe and secure.

Why are you sharing your story now? 

I’m hoping my experience will prompt people to start making changes in the way they carry their dogs in the car. 

It’s amazing to me, once I started asking around, how many people hadn’t really given much thought to keeping their dog safe in the car. And how many other people, like me, mistakenly believe they ARE doing all they can to keep their pet safe. I’m hoping that people will understand this: I thought this would “never happen to me” either…but it did. Prepare for the unexpected! I had enough sense to ask for that leash because someone else shared their crash story.

After this experience, if you could give one piece of advice to every dog owner, what would it be?

PLEASE consider your pets when you think about car safety! 

They become flying objects and can not only be seriously injured but can also cause injury to others bouncing around during an accident. I thought my dog was “contained” and pretty safe. I was WAY wrong. And he would have been even *more* severely injured had he been loose in the front seat with me at the time of the crash. 

Air bags are NOT designed to be safe for pets. Expect the unexpected and plan for it! Do all you can to keep your pet safe while traveling. 

Do you have other tips for owners who travel with their dog? 

Get a PVC tube and fill it with your pet’s information card/tube/pouch that you can put your dogs information in. I got a 9″ tube which holds all of Deacon’s vaccination records, his and mine emergency contact information, medication information, a pre-designed lost dog flyer, and a slip lead (see an example of Lori’s here).

This can be especially helpful for first responders to know what to do if your pet is injured. I was way anxious because I had to be transported to the hospital and they of course wouldn’t let me take Deacon with me. I refused to leave until they locked him in the back of a police cruiser and assured me that they wouldn’t open the door to anyone but my husband who was on his way to get him.

That’s a good one that most people probably haven’t thought of. Now, more about Deacon…how does he fit into your family?

We rescued Deacon from the shelter when he was a little over a year old. He had been through five different homes before we adopted him. Each one just didn’t know how to handle an active herding dog. He wanted to chase the cats and herd the kids… Now that he has a job, he’s the mellowest couch potato on the planet!    

Where’s your favorite place to travel with Deacon? 

To the agility field where we can play on the obstacle course or anywhere that we’re doing therapy work and I can share the love he has for other people…

Anything else you’d like to add?  

If you don’t have a Gunner Kennel close by to try on for size… here’s what I did: I taped off the interior area of the crate I was interested in. Then I lined it with taller cardboard boxes on three sides (or, as in my case, two cardboard boxes and a recliner, lol!). I asked him to kennel so I could see if he could comfortably settle in that sized area. He fit great, so we ordered that size. Worked like a charm and it’s a perfect fit!

Lori and Deacon
Lori and Deacon

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