Style and Substance
A local company makes dog goggles, and also a convincing case that they are for more than just funny photos.
By Dina Mishev
BEFORE JESSE EMILO and Aiden Doane (now also Emilo) were married, within the span of several weeks each of their dogs, respectively Yaz and Tuckerman, were diagnosed with eye conditions. Yaz, a sled dog Jesse adopted at six weeks old in Alaska (and who Jesse is quick to note is named after baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, who played twenty-three years with the Boston Red Sox, and not after the birth control pill), got repeated sunburn in her lighter eye and on the skin around her other eye, a condition not unusual for fair-colored dogs. Tuck, Aiden’s German Shepherd, had pannus, a genetic condition that, untreated, can lead to blindness. There were daily eye drops for Tuck and surgery for Yaz but neither of these was enough. The vet also told the couple that Yaz and Tuck would no longer be able to spend much time out in the sun. (UV exposure exacerbates pannus and, of course, causes sunburn.)
“We were told not to bring the dogs out into the sun as much as we used to,” Jesse says. “Like not really take them outside on sunny days. We live in Jackson, so that wasn’t an option. We thought protecting the dogs’ eyes with goggles sounded like a better idea.”
The couple bought a brand of dog goggles that had been on the market for about twenty years, “but didn’t work as well as we had hoped for our more active lifestyle,” Jesse says. “We’re skiers, so our next step was starting to cut up ski goggles to find a better solution.”
The couple went through about thirty pairs of Smith Phenom goggles before getting the design right. Along the way—after talking with the veterinary ophthalmologist that diagnosed Yaz’s and Tuck’s eye problems, the couple decided that their goggles shouldn’t just be marketed as a medical or an outdoor lifestyle accessory, but also as a must for personal-protection and working dogs.
RexSpecs debuted at the 2015 Police K-9 Magazine Conference & Vendor Show in Las Vegas. Today, working dogs use about 70 percent of RexSpecs sold. You can see Secret Service and U.S. Marines dogs and ski patrol dogs at Arapahoe Basin, Tahoe, Copper Mountain, and Keystone wearing RexSpecs. Sales have been almost doubling annually since 2015.
People have contacted the company to ask if their goggles would fit goats and pot-bellied pigs, and if a gerbil could wear the extra-small size. “We’re going to stick to dogs for now,” Aiden says.
Goggles for Dogs?
Think the idea sounds silly? After all, dogs have been around for millennia and have never needed sunglasses, right? “But dogs, when left to their own devices, will not spend the day out on a boat, on a SUP, or skiing,” Jesse Emilo says. “As we start to do more and more with our dogs, and ask more and more of them, we’re exposing them to conditions that aren’t natural for them and that they wouldn’t expose themselves to.” So yes, goggles for dogs. The police departments that RexSpecs works with have a motto: “If you’re wearing sunglasses, it’s not a bad idea for your dog to be, too.”