Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: Made by MeadowCat Coats and Collars

Get it off! Get it off!
Maisy does not wear clothes. She hates them. Also, she doesn’t really need them. Even in the most frigid of Minnesota winters, she is perfectly warm in her own fur. However, we are going on a backpacking trip in Northern Minnesota in May, and because we will be spending prolonged periods of time outside overnight (when it’s much cooler, of course), she has to wear something. 

Of course, discovering you need a dog coat in the spring is bad timing. Even worse, because Maisy is actually quite petite under all that hair, it is next to impossible to find something that is small enough to fit but also long enough for her corgi-ish body.

Which is where Made by MeadowCat comes in! The owner, Nicole, makes custom coats and collars, and they are awesome! We got to test a coat and two collars. Here’s what I think of them:

Oh! This isn't so bad. And it's so cute!
The coat is freaking adorable. I love the colors and the patterns. So sweet. Here’s the coolest part though: Nicky made this coat for Maisy WITHOUT her measurements. And it fits really well! My only complaint is that I’d like it to be just a teensy bit longer in the back (like two inches would be awesome), but even so, it fits well enough that I will pack this for our trip.

 The construction is nice; she does some fancy stitch on her sewing machine that prevents the seams from tearing out. Always an important consideration! There is a nice turtleneck effect on the coat to keep Maisy’s neck warm (although I did roll it down because she wasn’t crazy about it).

I’ve seen a number of other coats Nicky has made, and the fleece she chooses for each dog is adorable. I’m amazed by what she finds to suit everyone’s taste. Some of what she has is in stock, and some are custom-ordered. The same holds true for her collars. She has some absolutely adorable ribbons. Maisy has a pretty blue one. (I’d show you, but you can’t see her collars under all that fur!)

Nicky (the cat, not the shop owner)
 models a small dog collar.
The quality is great on the collars, too. She sews the ribbon onto a coordinating nylon base, and let me tell you, as a fellow seamstress, I’m absolutely blown away by her neat top stitching. That is NOT easy.

Anyway, I love these products, and I’d love it if you’d support my friend! Because she’s awesome. And because your dog deserves awesome stuff.

You can check out photos of her satisfied clients (and adorable products on hand) on her Facebook page (just search "Made by MeadowCat"), order directly through her Etsy Shop, or email her at madebymeadowcat(at)gmail(dot)com

Full disclosure: Not only is the owner of Made by MeadowCat a friend of mine, but she also gave me these products for free. That said, she and I agreed that if I hated them, I didn’t have to post about them. So, although I do love Nicky, I also love her products, which is why I’m posting!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Modeling, Take 2

Maisy had another modeling job a few weeks ago, this time for Halloween costumes! It’s a little weird to think about Halloween when we still have snow on the ground (even Maisy, the snow-bunny, is getting tired of this), but there you go. Anyway, I’ve never been one to dress my dog up, but HOLY COW you guys. She was so freaking cute that I might have to reconsider.

So here’s what happened: When Maisy and I arrived for her photo shoot, Barbara (Maisy’s agent), the art director, and the animal wrangler person (dang it, I can’t remember their names) all exclaimed, “It’s Maisy!” I guess she’s memorable! Barbara told me that when they were casting, the art director saw Maisy’s picture and requested her again because she was so awesome. Yay!

The set was largely the same: white backdrop, lights on three sides, huge camera attached to a computer that automatically pulled up the pictures. The only that that was different from our first shoot was the addition of a table that the dogs were to stand on. Then the costumes were brought out. Maisy shot three different costumes. For each one, she needed to sit at an angle with her butt facing the camera. They shot the body first and then had her look back over her shoulder to shoot the face. 

She can wear a T-Rex on her head, but heaven forbid
she have to wear a coat! This, by the way, is a
Made by MeadowCat coat. They do custom coats and
collars. Super, super, super cute stuff and great quality!
The first costume was the time-honored long-dog costume of a hot dog. It was pretty cute. Next up was an adorable seal, which included a head piece. But my absolute favorite was the T-Rex. The head piece was a bit big for her actual head, making it absolutely hilarious!

Throughout the shoot, Maisy was amazing. She gave tons of personality- at one point the art director came over, looked at the computer screen, and said, “That’s the money shot!” She also had to deal with some pretty difficult stuff for a recovering reactive dog: the intimidating set; me and the wrangler person moving how she was sitting; wearing costumes (not her favorite thing!); having the costume person adjust the way it was laying, smoothing out wrinkles, using a lint roller to remove loose hairs, etc. She was awesome!

After her nearly hour-long shoot, she was tired, hot, and uncooperative. She kept laying down. Thankfully, everyone was fine wrapping up her shoot at that point. They all understood that if you push a dog too hard, she might not want to do it in the future. I was grateful for that.

It was a very fun experience, and I am now excited for Halloween. We don’t get to see the photos or even find out if our dogs will be used until the products are out in the store. It’s a total bummer, but it does make going shopping more fun!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

APDT/WCRL Rally Trial Report!

Last Saturday, Maisy and I went to an APDT/WCRL trial hosted by our breed club, the Minnesota Mixed Breed Club. It was a smashing success in a lot of ways!!

Maisy's Reactivity
It feels weird to write that heading; I don't really think of Maisy as reactive anymore. Still, I know that the neural pathways for reactivity will always be in her brain. They may become dusty or overgrown, but in times of stress, she may head down that path. Because of that, I continue to be cautious about what I expose her to.

This trial was no exception. I pre-entered Trial 1, Levels 1 and 2, figuring I could enter Trials 2 and 3 if she was doing well. I wasn't sure how she'd do because previous to this, the longest she could stay at a trial before getting stressed was about two hours.

Well, by the time Trial 1 was over, we'd blown past the two hour mark. We were closer to four, actually, and Maisy was fine. Well, she'd barked a few times while she was in her crate and I was away (walking the course, chatting, whatever), but I wasn't too worried about that. I decided to enter her in a few more runs. Because Trials 2 and 3 were being run simultaneously, I went ahead and day-of-show entered her in Levels 1 and 2 in both.

Maisy did great up until the six hour mark, when she got a bit edgy. Nothing big, just a small bark and lunge toward a white shepherd. (Of course she did that right after I bragged to the judge about how she used to be reactive!) Although I was bummed by that, she did come right back to me. I moved her to the car crate so she could get some downtime, and she was able to come back in to work with no problem.

All in all, she spent 9.5 hours at the trial! Other than being very tired by the end, she did very, very well. Crating in the car was clearly the right choice because as I was trying to pack up our stuff, she kept going in the crate in the building to eat her chewy... something she won't do if she's stressed. I was really proud of her!

Ring Nerves
Another huge success came with my ring nerves. They've always been bad. Seriously bad. Like can't-eat-and-need-stomach-meds bad. Of course, Maisy would realize that, and between the two of us, we'd end up in an out of control anxiety spiral.

I did get nervous a few times while at the trial, but it was nowhere near as bad as it has been in the past. I've started a meditation practice over recent months, so every time I felt the nerves fluttering up, I would close my eyes and take a few deep breaths the way I do during my formal sitting times. Then I would gaze into Maisy's face, continue breathing, and tell myself that I was calm, I was relaxed, I was at ease, I was having fun.

And I was! Meditation is amazing.

The Results
Okay, okay. Yes, I need to tell you how we did. Maisy and I did a total of six runs:

Trial 1, Level 1: 206, 4th place, A nice run. Nothing to really say about it.

Trial 1, Level 2: 206, 3rd place, Another nice run, and probably my favorite. When we got to the moving down sign (not a true moving down, the dog just needs to down instead of sit when you halt), Maisy did a play bow instead of a down. I laughed hysterically because it was so ridiculously funny.

Trial 2, Level 1: NQ, I missed a sign. No, I missed the last sign. Seriously didn't even see it. The judge (Charlene Swainamer, who was awesome and I loved her) was so sad. It would have been a 206 if it hadn't been for that missed sign. I shrugged, told her it happened, and that we still had fun. I meant it, too.

Trial 2, Level 2: NQ, Again, my fault. We got to a sign where you halt and leave the dog and I got confused over what to do, handled Maisy poorly, and she broke the stay. I looked back to the judge, who confirmed it was an NQ, and took advantage of this fact to reinforce the really nice moments of heeling with cookies. Afterward, the judge was practically crying. She was so sweet; she really liked Maisy and was so bummed out for us. I told her was just a dog show and that it really didn't matter. She agreed, but was still sad. I told her that honestly, I didn't care. And you know, I've said that before, but inside I was still totally disappointed and upset. Saturday I wasn't. So we NQ'd. Big deal.

Trial 3, Level 1: 205, 3rd place, A nice run. Nothing to report... well, except we clearly need to proof against the presences of Auntie Sara. Maisy got distracted when she saw her ringside. It was kind of cute, actually.

Trial 3, Level 2: 197, 4th place, We lost ten points on the bonus because Maisy did not do the moving down (a true one this time), even though she'd done it flawlessly in Trial 2. I wasn't upset, though. She was just so very tired.

In the end, we picked up two QQs towards our ARCH (out of five needed), and 23 Level 2 points (you need a total of 100, 30 from Level 1, 30 from Level 2, and the remaining from either level. We have plenty of Level 1 points).

The Aftermath
I gave Maisy a preemptive clonidine when we got home so she would be able to sleep. I think that was a good choice, because she didn't sleep in bed with me that night. (A sure sign, if a bit unusual, of stress.) On Sunday, she was tired, tired, tired. My friend Laura came over with her dogs Piper and Allister to go for a walk. Maisy hid. When we left, I asked her if she wanted to go and instead of bouncing around, she lowered her head and avoided contact. Poor baby.

I felt bad for her, but it had been a big week for her; a party the weekend before with 5 or 6 dogs in the house, a modeling job on Wednesday, and then the trial. In July, we'll try another full day, and if it's still hard for her, we'll cut back on the length of time we spend at trials in the future. I don't think we'll need to, though. She's amazing!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


When you have a reactive dog, life is full of difficult emotions.

There is sorrow over mistakes that we think we made. There is embarrassment stemming from yet another barking outburst. There is jealousy that our dogs cannot do the things our friends’ dogs can. There is anger that this is happening to us. There is fear that we are not doing enough.

In this way, we are wasting what little precious time we have with our dogs.

Life is not about doing. It’s about being.

Whether that is hanging out at home, hiking in the woods, or competing in a trial is immaterial. The place does not matter. The activity does not matter.

Being together is what counts.

It’s not worrying about the past. It’s not about figuring out what went wrong. It’s not about assigning blame. It’s not about “should have” or “could have” or “if only I had.”

We cannot change what has come before.

It’s not about planning for a different future. It’s not about wishing for something we do not have. It’s not about “someday” or “when this is over.”

Tomorrow may not come.

Life is about now. When we decide that the present is unacceptable, that it should be avoided, we lose the only thing we ever truly have- this one moment.

Be present.

Take in the sight of your dog’s sweet face. Feel his fur beneath your hand. Experience the joy that comes from chasing a ball. Listen to the symphony of your footsteps mingling with the jingling of your dog’s tags. Lose yourself in the smell of rain… or dirt… or fresh-mown grass.

Bask in the small moments.

Life is not perfect. Dissatisfaction is always possible. You will never have everything you want… but you have so much. See that. Feel that. Live that.