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Rocks + Dogs Leashes looking for used, expired and damaged climbing gear

Don McKeown with Rocks + Dogs Leashes is looking for old, damaged and expired gear from climbers in the Bow Valley to re-purpose into leashes and collars. He said the leashes are versatile and functional, while his company's message promotes gear safety within the climbing community.

BOW VALLEY – A Calgary-based entrepreneur is reaching out to the Bow Valley's climbing community for its used, expired and damaged gear.

Don McKeown with Rocks + Dogs Leashes made the pitch on social media in February. His business takes the ropes and gear no longer useful for climbing adventures and turns them into leashes.

"I have been a professional in the climbing industry for over 20 years," McKeown said. "In that time, I have seen a lot of really great equipment and a lot of old really beaten up equipment being used. 

"I have seen a lot of retired equipment, but it has never gone to a good home or a new purpose." 

McKeown started the company several years ago. He had an adventurous dog – an Airedale terrier named Kayla – and was looking for more functional leashes for their outings. 

Around the same time in 2006, well-known climber Todd Skinner died in a high profile climbing incident. The cause of his fall was determined to be equipment failure. 

The incident, and others that involved climbing gear that was too old or damaged to be useful anymore, got McKeown thinking about his own gear and how he could re-purpose, or upcycle it, to create the functional leashes he was looking for. 

"I ended up retiring a bunch of climbing equipment and ended up making leashes for dogs," he said. "Friends liked what they saw and wanted me to make them some and it grew from there." 

In the past two years, he said the work has taken off and for the most part, he has been able to source materials from his circle of friends. 

Earlier this year, in need of more material, he posted in the Bow Valley Climbing Facebook group looking for more material to work with. In addition to being able to re-purpose climbing gear, he hopes his message also prompts the climbing community to be a bit more cognizant of the status of equipment being used. 

"The post I made was kind of to put the word out there and generate a bit of buzz," he said, adding at least one Bow Valley pet store is interested in carrying his leashes. "But it was also to put the bug in the ears of climbers and the climbing community that they should often inspect and replace their gear as necessary." 

The awareness around making sure his climbing gear had not yet expired, or is being used to the point it was no longer safe, has formed part of the emerging company's messaging. He said it is a good practice to inspect your climbing gear regularly.

"Just because the rope is not good for climbing anymore, or webbing or carabiners, does not mean they would not work great for dog leashes and collars," McKeown said. "Many people would appreciate the versatility and functionality of the leashes I make and the whole mission behind promoting gear safety and re-purposing climbing gear." 

The Rocks + Dogs Leashes are available through the company's Facebook page and Instagram. McKeown is in the process of developing an Etsy page and is also looking at developing one on Shopify. They are also available for sale at Devil's Head Coffee in Calgary. 

He also accepts custom leash orders, and for every one he receives, he donates a leash to a local rescue organization. 

Email McKeown at for more information and to arrange for him to pick up any climbing gear that is no longer useful, or visit his social media pages. 

Tanya Foubert

About the Author: Tanya Foubert

Tanya Foubert started as a news reporter at the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2006. She won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best news story for her coverage of the 2013 flood. In December 2018, she became editor of the Outlook.
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