Friday, November 28, 2014

Dog Coat Upcycle - From Jeans and PJ's to a Warm Mutt

I'm not a "seamstress" and I'm not a sewing blogger, but I had a need and I had some fabric in the form of a pair of jeans and a pair of PJ's. I have 2 dogs that go to pack walks every other week, and the weather has been getting colder. I didn't do this pack walk thing last winter and didn't have a "need" for dog coats until this fall.

 2 weeks ago it was REALLY cold and one of our fellow "pack members" gave us a coat for one of my boys. The other one didn't get to be "warm" - not that he seemed to mind, but I want to be sure he doesn't get cold, he's my senior boy after all.

I used the coat as a "pattern" by lying it on top of the fabric pieces. Never have I done this-but I am glad to say I was successful.

First I took the jeans and pj pants and cut the legs off, making sure to cut them longer than the length of my dog coat.

Next I opened the legs. You can do the seam-ripper thing if you feel the need, but I just sliced each pant leg up the front center and spread them out.

This next step is for a large dog-mine is a lab... if you have a small dog you may not need to do this:
After I had my 4 pieces (2 fleece and 2 denim), I could see that they were each too narrow for my coat so I had to sew the two legs together. Take the PJ legs and line them up (match the hem-you won't need to retain the hem, but for this step it keeps the fabrics lined up) right sides together and stitch, press the seam open and set aside. Do the same with the Jeans legs.
Now you can start cutting your pieces. Lay your dog coat on top of the pieces (I cut each fabric separately or you can cut them together. It all depends on your sewing and cutting confidence). You can even make a paper pattern first-which I totally should have done, but did not. Don't forget to allow for a 1/4" seam allowance and make sure you get all pieces (mine had a collar).

Sew together the denim and fleece fabrics right sides together-be sure to pin the belly strap (if not part of the body shape) to the inside and at the bottom end of the coat, leave a large enough opening to allow for turning.

Snip and clip corners and rounded edges for a flat edge when turning.

Turn right side out and press edges. then topstitch entire piece, securing the opening as you do. Add velcro closures at the neck and on the belly strap. I did my velcro lengthwise on one side and crosswise on the side it attaches to for added grip and adjust-ability, since the two dogs that will use the coat are built just a bit differently.

I know this isn't as clear as it could be-no photos to match the steps. Perhaps I'll make another and update with photos-after all the holiday sewing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reflections . Thanksgiving Edition

I'm sitting next to my golden Sheldon boy. He's warm, but still snuggled under some fuzzy blankets, breathing hot air on my leg, snoring gently. I can't help but think about dogs... it's always on my mind, but this week, more than might be healthy. I could just repost this post from January 2013: You Don't Always Get the Dog You Want - but I have new things to say (of course, you can still read all about how wonderful my dogs are...), besides, I no longer follow the Cesar Milan philosophy... this post is about reflecting and about things I've learned, and I think I've learned a few little things since then.

Twelve and a half years ago, when we got Harlee, I knew nothing about dogs. I Googled this-and-that about potty training and faked it about teaching her anything else. I did more Googling about dogs about 6 months after getting her-when we found out her possible breed mix, and I was trying to figure out how to "deal with" her "personality". She was a heeler and border collie mix... ideally, not the ideal breed for a novice lazy dog-owner... but we got lucky. Puppy nibbles seemed to be her biggest "flaw" and she grew out of them rather amazingly fast. YAY I am a dog person! I can do this!

Enter Mickey... chewing on everything, getting into everything else, destroying books, but as SWEET as can be. What had I done? Could it be the Heeler? the Lab? --- oh? Labs are "puppies" for the first 5 years, Oh good lord! Thanks Google... Mickey turned 5 just before we got Sheldon... He was mellow and then, there was... well, Sheldon. 

Oh, Sheldon... he ate through sofa cushion fabric and foam and then sofa slipcover fabric, electronics and remotes and tried to chew through walls. Oy....separation anxiety? Yeah... He escaped the crate, he enlisted help from Mickey (and Harlee?) for to escape the crate... man... I can't even remember how many times we were told "if that dog were mine, he'd be {insert "gone", "dead" etc, here}". Well, he's still here, breathing hot breath on me, making trapped puppy noises in his sleep and he's a popular little joy in our new pack... take that haters.

Obviously dog universe figured I hadn't had enough challenges yet. Yeah, I must have been terribly deprived of challenge by the time Sheldon stopped chewing through things, because that's about when Gibbs came into my life and heart. He started out just rambunctious and curious, chewing a sofa cushion cover (only) and lots of my scrapbook paper (only my favorites). A few months later, after we had learned that he thought pillows were the same as stuffies and that I need to put my scrapbook stuff up higher and thought all things were going great, he started attacking Harlee. Her health was declining, was that the cause? We still don't know, it seemed so out of the blue. Then he went after Mickey - because he tried defending Harlee? or because he cowered? Yes or no(?) we still don't know. This triggered the doggy shuffle, keep the "victims" away from the aggressor. Two and a half years later, we're still shuffling. We lost Harlee, but Mickey could still be at risk.

In addition to that, Gibbs started just over a year ago to show fear aggression by redirecting on his people and on Sheldon in a couple of instances. It is this change that was the most heartbreaking and has made me the most thankful. Thankful that in the course of these happenings, I've been able to focus on what his response triggers are and in some instances, even figure out what the outlying source is so that I can actively and proactively distract him and try to reassure him in a positive way.

Fortunately (or if you're my ego unfortunately), I have started reflecting on my initial reactions to his aggression and my practices in the beginning and I admit that they stem from Cesar Milan. The "Alpha" thing doesn't work. I worry that I broke my dog. I need to rebuild his spirit where I bruised and bent it. No more "alpha roll" no more of that nonsense. I need to bring in a science based trainer who can not only work with his initial issues but help me repair the damage I did being a "Googler".

He's a good boy. Very loved by me, and by his "coffee shop girlfriends" who have been successful in drawing the sweetness out of him in the way of him leaning out the car window and giving them kisses. Much better than the reserved nonchalance and occasional barking. He's also learning things through my new approach (pre trainer) and I'm learning things too. We were even able to take him to a local shop where we were able to have his picture taken for Christmas. I didn't think it was possible yet. But our photographer and another of Sheldon's pack walk friends helped encourage me to bring him and get it done.

I can see him going into that place where he's worked up and I have been successful on multiple occasions in redirecting his attention before he redirects on us. Kong dog toys make a Wubba that he really loves, and if that's handy (which I try to ensure) I can grab it and initiate a game before he knows he would otherwise be upset.

  • I'm so very thankful that we have had these small victories (really, they feel quite HUGE).
  • I am thankful that this hot-breathed little golden dragon will give me kisses and won't destroy things and that he's such a popular, mellow guy.
  • I am thankful for our pack walk group SLC StrutABulls. I've learned so much about dogs, dog people and even training. I've learned more about the dog person I want to become.
  • I am thankful for the sub-group of support people / friends I've gotten by reaching out of my comfort zone and joining the pack.
  • I am thankful that I was able to introduce Mickey to the pack walks so successfully, he's ordinarily leash reactive to other dogs so I have been nervous about bringing him. What I didn't know was that we could have brought him months ago. He's been a champ.
  • I'm thankful for these nutty dogs and for the every tough and easy lesson they have for me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rescue Update-Happy to be Wrong

I'm the light of a new day, when the weekend is through and answers can be found, I am happy to be wrong. Happier yet to report that the little senior dog we found yesterday was not abandoned. Rather, her senior "dad" said when he called for her that he had thought shed wandered off to die. They'll be reunited without her setting foot in a shelter. An adventure under her belt and hopefully a happy reunion. Heelers are so dedicated to their owners. She must miss him terribly!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Walk in Their Shoes - Animal Rescue

Today was supposed to be an ordinary Sunday. My best friend and I had just barely decided that instead of going to a movie as planned, we would spend the afternoon with the big Gibbs the Troublemaker (my American Bulldog) since he was slighted more than just a little bit yesterday while I celebrated my birthday.

We had the family room's wealth of blankets and were off to drop them at the laundry after getting our morning caffeine.

We arrived at the laundry and there was a cute little dog. "Oh she must belong to this lady or that guy..." I thought as I scoped out her stocky but sweet little heeler build. You see, heelers ALWAYS remind me of my first little dog, Harlee.

She came right up to me, checking me out and wandered around the car-all the while being barked at menacingly by Gibbs who was in my car. She had no fear.

She had a keen interest in me though. She watched my every move while I was inside the laundry. I asked Cindy to run next door to the store for some food and water. The little dog ate eagerly. She drank thirstily. As I frantically tapped my VERY FEW animal rescue friends for info, I sat with this senior dog and worried about her near future. Would she have one?

Messages were answered, clues given-who to contact, what could I do? I've been blasted online with stories of animals taken to the shelters. Shelters are vilified so regularly that people often make their decisions based on that. The good thing about shelters-and shelter people-is that the animal can be safely kept off the street. They can be fed. They can be checked out for their health AND they can be checked for a microchip! (Read-Returned to their Owner) The average Joe can't do that last one on their own.

I did not get any resolution in the time that it took for Cindy to make 2 trips to the neighboring store for food and treats (both for the senior girl and for my big guy who was still sitting in the shady spot in the car with the air running. I tell you, when I did get in the car, it was nice and cool!), so we talked when she came back. I would take Gibbs home and she would watch the senior girl I'd started calling "Honey". They bonded over cookies and a sense of peace that allowed the sweet girl to fall asleep on the warm concrete while I was gone.

I returned with Sheldon's leash (it's our best option to make a slip lead) and we walked the opposite way to the neighboring farm supply store for a crate-we had decided that since answers were slowly coming from our limited circle-we were probably going to doggy-juggle with one more dog for the night until we could get her to the shelter.

"Honey" didn't want to leave the spot she was in-she kept looking back. With the way she earnestly searched every car and driver and kept her eye on the spot she was in with such fervor, I started to REALLY think she'd been dumped there, in this blind little corner where the wind collects trash and bug carcasses and little dogs. Since she can't tell me her story, the only thing I can do is surmise.

We got the crate (an expense we can't exactly currently justify) and loaded dog, crate (and clean blankets from the laundry) into the car to come home for one of those "this should be interesting" kinds of days (and nights).

The good ole boys (Sheldon and Mickey) came out to greet her and after Mickey gave her a "this is my house" growl/bark/air-snap he shrugged off her presence. Sheldon greeted her like he does all other dogs. Proper butt sniff and carry on. We got her (hobbling) up the stairs. We suspect arthritis-hope it's not more serious-caused her hips to hitch.
She was going to be safe in "Nana's" room and it would only be until operating hours at the shelter. Then I got a message from one of the Facebook resources that networks shelter and rescue animals. One of the girls who transports animals would be able to take her and keep her safe for the night AND take her to the shelter. Best News Ever for me. It meant that Gibbs (who was starting to get a little squirrelly in the family room) wouldn't have to live on edge for the next 24 hours! It (selfishly) meant that someone else would do the tough part of relinquishing this sweet senior girl to the shelter.

We drove her over to this kind woman's home and the little stinker recalled that cookie-warm-concrete-nap bond she had with Cindy and wouldn't get out of the car. Cindy had to pick her up. Then she wouldn't walk to the curb. Cindy had to pick her up. After we took our leave, I was told she spent some time wandering around IN the wading pool!

It's been several hours since we left her with this rescue angel of mercy. I am crazy-tired and I can't even imagine, after walking 50 yards in the shoes of a rescuer what a mile would be like??

Animal rescuers-I salute and applaud you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Draw Me Like One of Your French Girls

The lazy mornings with Gibbs can be the most rewarding-He's such a needy love bug. Pet me, pet me he whines. Today It was foot rubbing tummy time-and I looked over to see these poses... which makes me happy that my phone was handy. I instantly thought of the Titanic meme that's going around. "Draw me like one of your French girls". Sketch Guru app to the rescue!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gibbys' Gotcha Day Anniversary

It's been 2 years.
click to enlarge
2 years ago today, I went to the Denny's parking lot on Redwood and North Temple in SLC. It was for a pickup. Cindy's cousin needed to rehome this dog and I had pretty much fallen for his face on facebook. I couldn't believe the behemoth that clamored out of the pickup truck.. he was a giant and he seemed to recognize that I was someone he wanted in his life.

He got in the car and he didn't look back. I didn't either, even through all the trouble he caused in the coming months. Even when I sat on the stairs and cried like a baby after pulling him off my Harlee. Even after having to do so again and again with Mickey and once even Sheldon. I never looked back. Just wept out of fear and frustration that I might fail him.

He's still got some issues. I know he's a quick learner on some things and stubborn as the day is long on others. I still have hope for the big guy. Meanwhile I celebrate him - because he's a dog, with a shorter lifespan than humans, who looks for me every moment I'm not around (or anticipates my reappearance at the very least). I've learned through the loss of my Harlee that you have to grab on to those little moments. Create memories. They're gone too soon and so terribly missed.

So, since today is the anniversary of the day we both said "Gotcha" and didn't look back. Instead we chose each other, and because of this I celebrated with a people/dog cake (which still could use some improvement for the people, maybe a little more honey and some cinnamon...). 

Recipe: Cake for People and their Dog (we doubled the honey in both cake and icing-suggest tripling honey in cake and adding cinnamon. Icing was perfect).

Read some of our adventures over the past 2 years:
Meet Gibbs
Gibbs Big Day
Smart Puppy
Dog. Walk. Dog.
You Don't Always Get the Dog You Want...
More Dog Aggression
Dog Days
Pets in the Heat (this one was particularly educational for me)
Merry Christmas 2013 (this one is mostly for the sweet Google Auto Awesome picture of me and my boys)
Gibbs the Troublemaker's Gotcha Day

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Gibbs the Troublemaker's Gotcha Day

It's just around the corner, the 2nd anniversary of the day we brought Gibbs home is on Monday, 3/31. What a big change he's made in my life, in good ways. In stressful ways. In ways I have to do things. He's a bundle of love. And Trouble.
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My life will never be the same because of this dog. I'm not complaining, because I wouldn't trade him for the world. I would only trade his anxiety and his selective aggression issues with other dogs. And his startled-fearful behavior.

Luckily those things I can do something about-With a little help. Which is why I've decided to 'crowd fund' my needs. Gibbs has some wonderful admirers on his facebook page and maybe, just maybe we can get him the training he deserves to be a happy, social and fearless pooch! After all, he's only 2 and a half. He's got a long life to live yet!

If you're interested in helping with our crowd funding project, the link is below: