Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The perfect collar...

Accidents happen all of the time.  More so, it seems, when you are constantly shadowed by an oversized and needy Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross who thinks he is a miniature poodle.  I have lost count of the times that I've tripped over, been knocked over by or stood on Caesar.  This is mainly because he likes to stay as close to me as is possible.  Sometimes, he's so quiet that I don't even know he's there!  Last night, Damien and I spent ages shouting him and looking for him when it turns out he was under the table by my feet.

Accidents happen.  And, I of all people, can vouch for that fact.  I've had some strange and colourful accidents in my time.  Including the time when I trapped my head in the shower door and gave myself a fat lip by smashing my face off it when I sprayed myself with cold water.  And I've lost count of the times that Caesar has knocked me over by running into me full pelt.

However, recently, I began on an accidental adventure that I didn't see coming at all.  It all started with a shopping trip to IKEA.  The same shopping trip that led to my buying Caesar's tent.  A few minutes after choosing the tent, I paused for an unknown reason at the fabric isle.  Standing on the end of the isle was a rather nifty looking sewing machine; small, compact and colourful.  My first thought was that, for £45, I could make a nice pair of curtains for Caesar's cage.  This should make it look a little more homely and mean that it has less of an impact on the dining room.  So, I chose some red spotty material and picked up the light weight machine feeling pleased with myself.

Since discovering I could sew, I've moved up in the world!

A few days later, I finally pulled it out of it's cardboard box and rummaged around for the instructions.  I'd put off using it because I wasn't exactly sure how to and the week had afforded me little time to learn.  When I had finally followed the step-by-step guide to setting up, winding, threading and eventually sewing, I decided that a crate cover featuring a set of curtains was a little pie in the sky for my current sewing ability.  So I searched around for something else to make.  To begin with, I found a few scrap pieces of material and made a tiny cat face with sewn on button eyes.  I smiled to myself as I completed it.  Although not exactly sure what to do with the odd looking cat, I felt as though, at the least, I'd experienced a minor sewing achievement.  However, still not ready to tackle the curtains and cover, I searched about for something else.  I had a few pieces of ribbon left over from Christmas but nothing more.

OK so I'm a bit bonkers about ribbon...

It was around this time that Damien's gym bag decided to break.  It had been looking a little worse for wear for more than a short time and, finally, the rip in the top had turned into a rather large hole.  Despite his best efforts to ignore this, it wasn't long before the strap of the bag fell of completely.  Damien was about to throw the bag in the bin when a thought crossed my mind.  On this bag were webbing, straps and clips.  I'd quite fancied having a go at making a dog collar but I wasn't sure that my little machine would hack it.

A week and several trips to the haberdashery later, I'd not only made one collar; I'd made several!  And, people were asking me to make them one too.  Suddenly, I was being offered money to create these collars.  Armed with left over Christmas ribbon and off cuts from Boyes, I began making little collars.  Suddenly, the collar world was my oyster.  If there was something I fancied for Caesar; I could make it!

Hello sailor?
100% British?
.....maybe not
....surely one of these must be right?!

This led to much dithering.  I kept making collars for him and then deciding to sell them or someone might simply take a shine to them and I'd feel bad for keeping them to myself.  Sometimes, I'd choose a random collar for Caesar to model but none of them grabbed my attention.  Now that I had a choice, I wanted a collar that defined Caesar.  More than Batman and Superman.  Something that spoke out loud about him and his nature.

It's alright....but is it really me?

Finally, one evening on Facebook, I spotted a post by a friend.  It was perfect!  The ribbon showed a simple paw pattern and 2 very important and very true words.  The very collar that would define Caesar:

I chose yellow for the webbing because Caesar is a 'yellow dog'.  For those of you who have missed the yellow dog campaign, give the website a visit (Yellow Dog UK).

Thank you to Sue at Sue's Pet Tags  for the wonderful ribbon and support with the business start up.  Sue provides excellent pet tags made to match collars beautifully.

STOG for your dog is now officially a business.  If you would like to order a collar or discuss custom made collars, please follow the contact on the STOG website.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Test your dog's IQ...

Firstly, I apologise to anyone who has found this post and does actually want to test their dog's IQ!  Anyone who is a regular reader will know that, for the vast majority of the time, I offer completely moral-free tales of a dog who quite possibly has an undiagnosed special need.  However, this was always the aim of the blog.  To let others who find themselves in a similarly difficult situation know that they're not alone.

Wonderful and absolutely bonkers all at the same time!

When you have a dog like Caesar, the worst thing to feel is alone.  Without the support of many people telling me 'this has happened to me too,' I may well have given up on Caesar within the first few weeks of ownership based on the fact that I just didn't understand what was going on!  However, I've come to not only accept this but embrace it due to the fact that many others have let me know that they have experienced similar and sometimes worse scenarios with their own dogs.

It's bad...but it could be worse.  Right?

Last night was the first time for a while that I'd felt alone with Caesar.  It wasn't because he had done anything naughty or damaged anything or eaten anything; these things I have learnt to live with.  For a change, it was my silly behaviour that had caused him damage.

To understand my behaviour at all you first need to know this fact; Caesar likes to jump.  In the short time that I've owned him, I've seen him jump fences, walls, stair gates, chairs....and more.  His current favourite hobby is jumping on and off the coffee table in the lounge.  And, when that bores him; on and off the window sill.
Caesar likes to jump on and off of the coffee table.

Close to where we live there is a beach and on the beach there are fences that section off parts.  Parts of the fences cover about 20m in width and range from 50cm to almost 2m in height.  When walking Caesar on the beach, I used to allow him to jump over them until someone kindly pointed out that I didn't know what was on the other side - thankfully before I found out the hard way that people don't necessarily look after our beaches and leave broken glass or shards of metal lying around.  I stopped this game as soon as I realised.

Caesar LOVES the beach.

I'd always dreamed of doing a sport such as agility or flyball with Caesar and would love to see him running a course.  I'm certain he'd be great as he has a good attention span when it comes to training.  There is only one problem; other dogs.  When I last attempted to get Caesar to do flyball he abandoned the run in favour of jumping a fence and chasing after a load of other dogs.  It's not that Caesar doesn't get enough exercise or variety because I'm constantly being told that he does.  However, like a proud mother, I can never escape the feeling that he could achieve more so I'm always looking for new things to try.  Failing that, I look for safe things to jump over on walks for a bit of fun.

Caesar sitting on a wall he'd jumped onto

Yesterday, on the beach I spotted a mild looking wall.  It was waist height on me and so, at a jog, I pulled Caesar, on his flexi-lead, toward it.  I let the lead loose and kept running as we approached.  Caesar seemed to be enjoying the run and began to make headway in front.  When he reached the wall, I gave the usual "up up up!" command....

Caesar can run really fast if once he gets going.

The next thing that happened was a blur.  Caesar hit the wall with a thud travelling at quite a speed.  He had seen the wall approaching yet somehow failed to jump and just ran face first into it and then collapsed into a pile.  My first, and very unmotherly reaction, was to laugh; fancy not noticing there was a wall there.  But then, having noticed the nasty looking mark on his cheek, I suddenly felt very concerned.  How would you explain to a vet that you ran your dog flat out into a wall?!

Ouch!  How much of a bad mum do I feel?!

In summary, to test your dogs IQ level; run them full pelt towards a wall and see if they jump.  If they do they have a higher IQ than if they don't.....simple!
And, since I'm now far too aware of legal mumbo jumbo that I shouldn't be bothered about, please do not do the above...it was a joke!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

For Crufts sake!

Last week I made possibly the most brave decision of my life so far.  No, unlike the friends I was talking to the previous weekend, I didn't jet off to Australia alone for months or decide to use the deposit for my house in order to leave work and travel the world.  I booked myself a train ticket to Birmingham.

Uh oh...she's packing!

If you ask Google to define 'brave' this is what it will tell you:
Brave (adj) ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

If you had to pick an adjective to describe me, it wouldn't be 'brave'.  Perhaps 'anxious'.  My dad used to call me 'windy' but I had to stop him because I was worried that people might take that the wrong way.  Worried.  Always worried about something or other.

One of my many phobias....bees!

For most people jumping on a train to somewhere a few hours away may seem like a walk in the park but for me it required bravery.  Firstly, I'm not a keen lover of trains.  That, though, is the least of my troubles.  I'm also worried about travelling alone and I don't much like getting in taxis alone either.

However, one of my worst fears is missing out on something amazing because I was too frightened to do it.  And this was the reason I boarded a train, alone, one evening at 5:05pm.  The train would arrive at Birmingham over 3 hours later and from there I would climb aboard a smaller train to Birmingham International Airport.

Thankfully, the reason for this was not because I needed to catch a plane - perhaps I'm not yet brave enough to go that far and certainly not alone.  The reason was that, for the first time in my life, I was going to Crufts.  And, I was going with some online friends from the lovely Staffies R Us.

Nearly ended up with another dog after this little angel jumped up to give me a kiss!

There's something about being a member of a close-knit forum.  It feels like meeting some kind of extended family.  People who you feel extremely connected to but, at first, you're not exactly sure who is who.  I ended up finding myself asking "what's your dog called?" in order to recognise each person.  Caesar got a few smiles and his blog was mentioned too.

By the morning of the show, I was thrilled that I had made the trip and could not wait to begin exploring.  For anyone who has somehow managed to avoid ever hearing about Crufts; it's the world's largest dog show.  And, around the hotel there were many nationalities of people and dogs staying to attend.  I'd watched the show on television since being a child when dad and I would tune in just in time to see the weekend showings and I'd always wondered what it would be like to attend.

The show itself was amazing and I couldn't believe that it only cost £18 to enter!  It's impossible not to spend the first few hours in absolute bewilderment.  I've never seen so many dog products and stalls or breeds of dog or dog sports all in one place.  There were so many rings and halls and stalls that getting lost was virtually inevitable but it was like being lost in an dog lovers Disney Land.  I was gobsmacked by the crowds of people and some of the amazing sights that could be seen around the National Exhibition Centre.

...And I thought they were called 'sheep!' 

By 4 o'clock, I had just about stopped gawping and got into some serious shopping.  Here are Caesar's goodies:

Sheep fleece!

Union Jack Polar Collar

Leather Staffordshire Knot Collar

Who has been to Crufts?  Share your experience in the comments section.