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.