Happy new year! Tom, Zora and I wanted to wish everyone a happy 2019. Here’s to another year of thoughtful, connected, joyous dog training and fun!
2018 is forecast to head out the door with a lot of rain. so Tom is ringing in 2019 with a new coat. It’s been raining a lot here these past couple of months. While I don’t much care about the dogs getting wet when we are heading back home after a walk or other outdoor outing, where I have plenty of towels, hence none of my dogs having had a rain coat prior to the tail end of 2018, now that my schedule has Tom and I out of the house regularly traveling to various locations where we both have to be presentable for hours before once again braving the elements to head home, it’s become more of an issue. Plus thinking about the sheer amount of salt, sand and slush ick he’ll be lying in on the train and subway floor all winter, ewe gross. Hence my plan for a DIY rain coat for Tom.
Tom has an odd body size and I’ve learned over the years premade dog coats don’t fit him well or at all. They either expect him to have a much thicker neck, or shorter back, or more barrel like rib cage. Instead he has none of those proportions. But Tom’s body shape and size does lend itself well to with fairly simple modifications fitting into human jackets. Usually a men’s large or women’s x-large. So off to the thrift store we went in search of a water proof coat to repurpose.
Used Men’s waterproof lightweight jacket with zippers and snaps procured for a reasonable $10 price tag and we were off to the races. Or more my basement with sewing machine and fabric scissors.
After putting the coat on Tom various ways, it seemed to fit him most comfortably with more freedom of movement with the zipper running down his back, so that was the starting point. Glad we got one with a rain flap that snaps closed to cover the zipper!
Next in the very exact science of the way I make dog clothes, I made some cautious cuts while the coat was still on my very patient dog. See, another benefit to training a stand stay cue!
First up the back of the coat (ie the part now on his under belly) so that he’d have the ability to use the facilities when he needed ideally without my having to remove the coat or him peeing on it.
Next cutting off bits of fabric to adjust the fit of the chest.
And figuring out where I was going to cut to remove the hood while also using remaining length to make a nice cuff collar to keep rain off his neck.
Cuts made and floor covered in shreds of black fabric, it was off to the sewing machine.
Sew a bit, put coat back on dog to ensure I did it where I was supposed to. Remove coat again, sew a bit more. And so on, until all that was left was the cutting and sewing of the sleeves. The trickiest bit of all. Not so long they cause a trip hazard, not so short they leave more than necessary of his legs exposed to the elements. Out of the 2hrs or so I spent all told on this thing, the legs took about 40% of the time since I did end up having to redo them. Twice. Glad I had the forethought to sew before I cut, since redoing them was then a matter of just ripping seams and not sewing material back on.
The final piece de resistance: iron on reflective stripes. It comes in a roll at the local fabric store for a mere couple of bucks. Such useful stuff!
A few final checks to ensure 1. Tom can indeed toilet comfortably and without dirtying the coat, 2. He can walk, trot, run and do stairs up and down with ease (one such test proved the sleeves still needed more work! Adjustment made and next stair test passed with ease), and 3. his guide harness fits over it and he’s comfortable and happy guiding with the coat on. Final critical test occurred when it rained just a few days after making the coat. Final test passed after a 3 mile walk in the rain, mud and slush resulted in a mostly dry dog (his head, lower legs and tail were wet of course).
Total cost of a Tom size waterproof rain coat: $12 plus my time (and that of my spouse who carefully searched racks at the thrift store to find the perfect coat for this project, because he’s a dear who enjoys bargain hunting).
Not bad, not bad at all. And Tom does look rather spiffy if I do say so myself. oh and added bonus, it was pointed out to me after the jacket was completed, the brand name of this coat? Guide Series. How awesome is that? Lol
Doesn’t he know he’s in my spot? The guy human who lives with us. Doesn’t he know? Why is he still home!? And still in my spot?!
I tried to shove him out. I tried to sit on him. I tried to make him jump out of bed with my cold wet nose to his back. Nothing worked! Mum told me I wasn’t allowed to kick him out of bed. Not allowed?! But it’s MY spot. It’s after 8am, he should be out of my spot and gone to wherever he goes most days.
I let him keep my spot warm all night. Then he’s supposed to remember it’s mine and get up so I can snuggle next to my mum in our big bed with the warm cozy blankets and my pillow.
5 days a week that’s the way it works! Mum said he’s home on vacation and it really isn’t my spot. I just happen to borrow it when he goes to work every weekday. And the guy human is wonderful and loving enough to put up with a pillow covered in my fur.
Harrumph. I beg to differ. My spot! My pillow! My snuggle time!
Woe is me now stuck on this tiny little dog bed that apparently The Pest now gets rights to as well!! Is no spot sacred anymore!?
This morning we joined a friend and her 5 month old lab pup on a walk. He’s a fun, bouncy pup. At that age where social graces are often a quite bit of a struggle. Observing him shift from in your face plowing excitement OMG DOGS!!! To hey look at us just hanging on a walk this is fun I’m pretty cool! Over the course of the walk was a joy.
By the end of our walk he was just one of the crew. Sharing sniffs. Hanging together. Exploring. Comfortable in his own doggie skin.
How did we get from social dork to one of the crew? A long line, help from his mum and me at times, and really Tom and Zora doing a lot of puppy training. T and Z are really good at reinforcing behaviors they feel are acceptable in pups.
Usually goes something like this:
Bouncy dorky pup explodes into a space. Tom and Zora ignore it. Tom being “I have a job to do, pup you ain’t worth my time”. And Zora, “ugh, you are soooo not cool.” With an eye roll and flip of her hair.
Bouncy dorky pup attempts to charge into their space. A human prevents that and using long line and space encourages pup to move in a curve, or sniff, or even just slow it down or stop moving forward.
Pup does any of those behaviors, Tom and or Zora look at pup
Pup loses his shit cuz “OMG they looked at me!!”
My dogs, look away from pup and go back to ignoring pup
Pup goes “But but but! I’m so cute and awesome you must want to love me! Don’t you know how awesome I am?! Talk to me!!!!”
Tom and Z ignore pup. Yea no kid.
Pup gets distracted and sniffs the ground. Zora moves closer to pup
Pup loses shit again cuz “OMG she’s coming to play with me!!!”
Zora goes Yea, no and moves away again.
Pup goes, but but but look I can do that sniffing thing again?
Zora comes back toward pup. They sniff the same patch of leaves. A half second passes, pup starts to lose his shit again cuz OMG Zora is right here next to me!! Human intervenes, Zora ignores pup and moves away
Rinse and repeat throughout walk until final third when pup has finally grasped the way to get Zora or Tom to acknowledge he even exists and to “OMG they let me walk beside them!! We sniffed the same thing! OMG the cool kids, I get to be one of them!!” Is to chill it out. Be cool man, be cool.
Over Halloween my nephew wanted me to put a Bandana that had been kicking around in the kid’s toy box on Tom. So I obliged, and Tom sported spooky ghosts and jack O lanterns for the next couple of weeks. He looked so cute and got many compliments so I thought I’d see about getting him a few more. Well, the cost was more I was willing to cough up, so time to figure out how to DIY some doggie bandanas. Now there are many other even cheaper and less involved ways to make these, but the plan I came up with was budget friendly enough and met my criteria for easy to maintain. Also I decided I liked having the colorful fabric pattern on both front and back of the bandana and not having to make any cuts beyond the first sizing one. I think they came out just as I was hoping. And Tom looks adorable. Goal met.
Step 1: figure out the size. I measured Tom’s neck loosely plus an inch and got 24″. Using the bandana he currently had as a base to work from I figured out fabric sized 24×18″ would work well as I wanted a thicker collar like band at the top which would take additional fabric folds. The thicker collar type top I figured would help the structure of the bandana hold it’s shape even with daily wear. We shall see how that thought pans out in real life over time.
Step 2: after establishing which way I wanted the fabric pattern to go, I placed the fabric pattern side down. I marked 5″down from the top long edge. Then folded down the top edge 2″ and ironed it. Then folded in each side about 1/4″ to the mark I made and ironed that. Finally folded up the bottom long edge about 1/4″ and ironed at.
Step 3: first bit of sewing. With my sewing machine I sewed the bottom edge, and the top 2 sides down to the mark. Did not yet sew the entire top long edge.
Step 4: fold down the top edge once more, this time to the mark, and iron. Then take the bottom left corner of the fabric and fold it up to the center meeting the bottom of the folded down top crease. repeat for the right edge. The right edge should overlap the left slightly. Iron smooth. You should now have your fabric in the shape of a bandana with triangle bottom.
Step 5: back to the sewing machine. Sew along the 2 sides of the triangle that will make the hanging part of the bandana, do not yet sew the top edge.
Step 6: more folding and ironing and sewing. One last time fold down the top edge. About 1.5″. Iron that fold. Then sew the top fold. This fold creates a tab on either end of the bandana out past the hanging pendant which you can then use for the closure.
Step 7: closure. I decided to sew my bananas closed, and just slide them on and off Tom’s head. If you wanted to use hook and loop or snaps you could instead. Or could use fabric length long enough to be able to tie it closed. A couple of different bandana plans I found created a pocket to thread a collar through, but as my dogs don’t wear collars in the house and the collar Tom does have doesn’t have a buckle that type of bandana wouldn’t work for us, hence my sewing it shut and creating a bandana with a more collar like top band for structure.
The past couple of weeks have been busy and chaotic. Between a brief VT vacation around labor day, workshops to teach, a steady stream of extra dogs, starting a new volunteer gig (that is Amazing!!), agility trials and oh Tom being injured it’s been a month so far.
The Tom being injured. After years of managing to successfully navigate glass shard covered sidewalks, thanks to irresponsible dumb ass humans thinking tossing their glass drinking containers out the car window is a suitable alternative to a trash or recycling bin (news flash: it’s not!!), he cut his rear foot. Not badly, think goodness, but enough to mean he’s been undergoing bandage changes every couple of days, boot wearing 24/7 and massively limited activity for the past 2 weeks. (if I can get there via transit and then minimal walking around for him once we are there, he comes, otherwise he’s left home and the cane comes out of the depths of the closet, and we are both then annoyed). Sliced pads take forever to heal fully. And then once the pad is healed, it’s still very soft so have to protect it for another 1-2 weeks after that. At this point I’d say it’s 90% healed which is great. Probably 1 more week of bandages for him, and 2-3 more weeks of protective boot wearing (also dogbooties.com boots and Pawz dog boots are awesome, for starters they actually stay on Tom’s feet! Easily, without constant maintenance from me! Can I tell you how many kinds of boots refuse to stay on his feet? Too many others to tell about). What is also great is he is the most tolerant dog in the entire world with the highest pain tolerance who graciously allows me to do anything to him without nary a flinch. Seriously best dog ever, as if we didn’t already know that around here.
Tom of course gets cookies for allowing me to fuss around with his foot. And the rest of the dogs, when I’m done, get cookies for Not Being Terrible. Not Being Terrible cookies work. Seriously. Over the past 2 weeks we’ve had a high turn over of visiting dogs, and every single one of them has quickly figured out that when I’m fussing with Tom, if they lie down quietly for the length of time it takes, they will get Thank You for Not Being Terrible cookies. I pay up for the effort it takes to Not Be Terrible. Not stealing bandage material, not knocking things out of my hands, not jumping on Tom, not jumping on me, not being nudgy, not barking. It’s hard work Not Being Terrible when someone else is getting undivided attention! We set the bar high around here, all you have to do is Not Be Terrible. 😉
Tom can be a very opinionated fellow. Makes what he wants very well known. Amazing how one so silent, can be so clear.
Take for example today’s walk. There is a small couple block neighborhood about a mile up the street the dogs and I were walking in this morning.
At one of the crossings, Tom puts hard pressure on the harness to the left. He wants to go across. We aren’t going that way. I don’t know how to get home that way. I don’t even know if that way goes anywhere, it could be another weird cul de sac that this neighborhood seems to have plopped down in odd places I haven’t yet fully figured out.
I tell him so, “No, Tom, right.”
He stands firm. Clear he wants us to go on an adventure. Wants to go explore that other part of the neighborhood
“No, Tom, not today. right”
He says, “fine!” And turns right. Then stops dead.
“No. I wanted to go left!”
“Tom. Forward. Hop up!”
He gives an exasperated sigh, and takes two slow steps forward. Pauses, double checking I won’t reconsider, decides I’m not going to give in, we really won’t go to the left today, and starts leading forward down the sidewalk I’ve asked for. “Good boy! Thank you!” I roll my eyes, mumble under my breathe “seriously dog”
Strong opinions. A dog with very strong opinions. Which is good in my life in the grand scheme of things. Having a guide dog who has no qualms telling me I’m wrong has saved my rear more times I care to recall. But does mean the occasional discussion.
At least once he’s decided I’ve heard him and not agreed, he does embrace what I’ve asked. Full speed ahead the rest of the walk. Good boy.
Zora and Dulce in all of this? Patiently waiting on my right. They’ve learned best to wait it out till the 2 masters of the walk sort out their differences. Lol.
Sometimes I forget how nice (and needed) it is to get away from the house until we go. One of my best friends was graduating from Canine Companions for Independence with her very first service dog and invited us to the ceremony, so off we went.
3 days and 2 nights on Long Island was a perfect little get away. Zora had fun staying with one of our walking friends, and Tom was over the moon for the change of scene, getting to work on the ferry, in the hotel and around the places we went. Hubby and I were happy get away from the house leaving work and house responsibilities behind.
Ok, giving Tom a special ice cream treat didn’t hurt his enthusiasm either
I’m so so so happy for my friend, she was matched with an amazing new partner. If you want to watch the graduation ceremony for the CCI northeast region, she was the graduate team speaker: https://youtu.be/N95Pw9gXKb4
It was a great little get away.