Saturday, April 30, 2016

What's Inside a Flexi Leash?

My good old 2006 Flexi Comfort retractable leash died recently. It stopped retracting at a speedy eye-injuring pace and began leisurely rolling itself back in with the occasional pause. Ten years of solid service isn't too bad, though today's Flexis come with a lifetime warranty. The responsible, adult thing to do would be to toss the tired, worn out leash and buy a new one. Obviously that's not what I did.

Flexi Leash Safety

broken Flexi leash
Years of Flexi propaganda had me convinced that within the case there lurked a Death Spring that could fly out and kill me and everyone I loved. Flexi leashes come with a lot of warnings, but I mostly stick with the more visible belt or tape ones, and only use them in places where my dog can safely be 15' away from me, so I like to think I'm safe from traumatic finger amputations and nasty cord burns. As long as the Death Spring Containment Case wasn't opened, we were all safe.

Then my Flexi leash stopped retracting and I threw caution to the wind, by which I mean I googled "flexi leash repair" and looked at pictures of other people taking them apart to bolster my confidence. Apparently the case could be cracked open without immediately unleashing the Death Spring.

Tool Time

prying open a retractable leash case
After removing the two screws holding the case together, I carefully pried the thing open with a screwdriver. No Death Spring in sight. Inside, there was a white plastic wheel holding the length of the leash, the brake and lock, and that was it.

I had hoped that an obvious and fixable problem would immediately become apparent when I opened the case. Maybe there was a twist in the leash, or something needing lubrication, something other than "spring's fucked, buy a new leash".
the inside of a Flexi leash

The Secrets Within

The leash remained functional with the case opened, so I was able to see the mechanisms and the action. I pulled out the tape and let it retract, during the pauses there was still something moving inside the wheel. Maybe the Death Spring was slipping?

Clearly the next step was to remove the white wheel. I had always envisioned the Death Spring as a huge coil, and I assumed it must be held between the wheel and the other side of the case.
retractable dog leash in vise

Convinced that the green peg in the center was all that contained the Death Spring, I trapped the leash in a vise while I pried the wheel loose. To my great disappointment, there was no great burst of primal energy, and the other side of the wheel looked pretty much the same. There was still no obvious reason why the leash wouldn't retract smoothly.

In the hole in the center of the ring though, I could now see a strip of metal with a big kink in the end.
internal mechanism of a retractable leash
The inner part of the white wheel was clearly a separate part that could be removed. This must be the lair of the Death Spring. By this point though, I was pretty sure that nothing was going to pop out at me. This spring probably wasn't even tightly wound anymore. 

I could spin the end of the metal strip around with a screwdriver, coiling it tighter until it popped back to its original position.
coiled death spring

It looked similarly nonthreatening with the cover removed. Just a piece of wound up metal. It's difficult to tell from the picture, but this is a very long strip of very thin metal. The coils together looked a lot like a solid cylinder of solid silver material.

With the cover off, I again spun the end of the strip around with a screwdriver and...

Retractable leash death spring

HOLY SHIT! It exploded out of the wheel in a huge jumble of twisted metal!

Death Spring Located!

I had been playing with the very end of this huge spring without realizing that the wheel around it was holding it in tension. As soon as I pulled it a tiny bit sideways, the whole thing shot out.
uncoiled retractable leash spring
See that straight bit at the bottom? That part has lost its tension entirely. It's likely the reason why the leash would reel in very slowly at certain points. While it's possible to re-tension a spring by hitting it with a hammer (I do this with clarinet springs), I don't think I'm up to the task of re-tensioning this monster. Even if I could get it contained again. Yikes!

So yes, the spring's fucked and I need to get a new Flexi leash. I'm saving this one for parts, though. I'm thinking we need a pink Flexi Vario with interchangeable end pieces that stretch or light up. Plus there's various attachment for the handle, like a cargo box and a flashlight. So many option! Flexis made after September 2011 have a lifetime warranty, so it could be the last one I ever buy. This green one is the only retractable leash I purchased new, all my others are thrift store finds because I walk on the wild side and use potentially unsafe equipment. 

Thanks for joining me on this journey of discovery!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Food Friday: Dogswell Nutrisca Lamb and Chickpea Recipe Dog Food

Dogswell Nutrisca was the first non-potato, low-glycemic kibble I can remember seeing. When it first hit my local pet stores, they sold promotional 2 lb bags for $3. Brisbane was eating a homemade raw diet at the time, but I used kibble for training treats and this was a great option at the time. I could buy a small bag and not have to worry about it going bad before we used it all. Nutrisca kibble originally came in lamb, chicken, and salmon recipes. The concept of making dog food out of chickpeas seemed so radical a decade ago!
dog food and dinosaurs

The Company

Dogswell has been around since 2004, their flagship product is their Happy Hips glucosamine-fortified chicken jerky. Obviously they must have branched out into dog food fairly quickly, since I was buying promotional bags of it in 2006. 

Dogswell does use a co packer, Tuffy's Pet Foods actually produces Nutrisca. For this reason, Dogswell is more of a dog food marketing company. Tuffy's is the maker of Pure Vita though, they have some pretty serious manufacturing technology and very few recalls of products from their facilities. It's proably impossible for a little startup like Dogswell to make a state-of-the-art kibble production facility so I'm glad they chose Tuffy's as their co packer.

The Food

I bought this particular bag of Nutrisca Lamb and Chickpea Recipe kibble for Sisci and Ru. Brisbane can't eat it because it contains chicken fat. I used to use the salmon version for training treats for him, until I discovered his issue with eggs. Poor allergy dog.
dog food and dinosaurs
Nutrisca kibbles are very small, so they should be great for little tiny dogs. Unfortunately, Ru won't eat them. He's a picky beast, and mostly refused to eat this food at all. Sisci loved it, though.

This is a grain-free, potato-free food that I like to recommend for diabetic and overweight dogs, as well as ones with yeast issues. It seems to be a very digestible food too, I've had several clients and work switch to Nutrisca and see improvement in their dog's stomach issues.

The Verdict

This is a very high quality dog food. The Dog Food Advisor site rates all of the Nutrisca foods as five out of five stars. They are suitable for all life stages, and this particular food has a moderate caloric content of 370 calories per cup. I don't think I would choose this as an everyday food for my dogs at this point because Brisbane is allergic and Ru won't eat it, but it would be a perfectly reasonable choice for Sisci.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Product Review: Dog Is Good Tote Bag

I know I had to have this tote bag from Dog Is Good the moment I saw it. I mean, seriously. Look.At. It. While yellow and retro comic art aren't my favorite things, there was no way I could not own this. As someone who has firmly decided on the child-free route, "OMG I forgot to have children!" is a sentiment I can get behind. Plus there's a chihuahua on it.
Photo by Erin Koski

Super awesome dogs-not-kids graphics aside, this is a pretty awesome bag. Dog Is Good was not kidding when they said it was roomy. I normally cram all my workday stuff (lunch, sunscreen, water bottle, extra leash, book, grooming tools because I'm too big a nerd to use the ones there) into my obnoxiously large purse. With Brisbane needing lunch, meds, and occasionally a sweater, I found the industrial purse a bit small.

That was when the tote bag arrived. It conveniently fits everything I need for myself, Brisbane, and my dog-brushing ego, with room to spare. I can even cram my work sweatshirt in there, rather than forgetting and leaving it somewhere yet again. It's not even a tight fit, I could probably stuff an entire change of clothes or something in before it started looking full.

Other features include a magnetic snap at the top to keep it from gaping open and spilling my stuff across the shared employee closet, and a little zippered inner bag for holding my keys.

Pros: Durable, spacious, and snarky.

Cons: If it were pink, purple, or black it would match better with my personal "perky goth" look.

Bottom Line: Upon arrival, the bag immediately became indispensable and is now a cherished part of my daily life without which I would be lost.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Loving Pets Pure Buffalo Treats

I found these Loving Pets Pure Buffalo treats at a local Ross discount store. Most of the stuff I find at Ross is discount store quality, from brands like Kensington Kennel Club. I also see a lot of low-quality treats branded American Kennel Club, and all of my Mod stuff came from Ross as well. Still, I occasionally find something unexpectedly awesome there, like these Pure Buffalo goodies from Loving Pets. Most or all of our Loot Pets treats have been from Loving Pets.

buffalo dog treats
Photo by Sebastian Wallroth
I couldn't help but notice something, though. The packaging is very much American midwest-themed, with images of prairies and farm houses. The dog on the bags is even wearing a cowboy hat. It's enough to make you think these were made out of American bison instead of these bad boys. Yup, anytime you see the word "buffalo" on an ingredient label, think "Asiatic water buffalo". That explains why the Loving Pets Pure Buffalo horn chews look like all the other water buffalo horn chews on the market. Deceptive marketing tactic? You bet! I'm not particularly annoyed by this one though, it turns out I'm ok with taking advantage of the general public's lack of knowledge about bovine species.
digestible dog treats

Loving Pets Pure Buffalo Beef Paddy Whacks

Good For: Long-lasting, high-value chewing. Not being horrendously smelly. Being slightly less exciting than a bully stick, but more exciting than a rawhide or Himalayan yak chew.

Not Good For: Dogs that have just had mouth surgery and still have stitches. Dogs that try to swallow their treats whole.

How Much We Like Them: Well first I had to google what the hell a "paddy whack" was because I suspected they were making this up. Turns out it's a neck ligament. Also turns out the "This Old Man" song lyric actually refers to this animal part. Who knew? Anyway, Sisci Godzilla really loved chewing these, and so did Brisbane once his mouth had healed.

Loving Pets Pure Buffalo Lung Steaks

the smelliest dog treat ever
Good For: Cutting into tiny pieces for super high value training treats. Making other shoppers at Ross give you dirty looks. Making the cashier ask you to please leave the store with your purchase. Smelling really, incredibly bad. Adding to treat trail mix to make the other treats smell horrible. Gifting to people you don't like.

Not Good For: Training without making your hands and general atmosphere emit a miasma of undefinable horror. Carrying around Ross as you browse the throw pillows and picture frames.

How Much We Like Them: I think I may have found something more exciting than freeze dried liver. My dogs love stinky treats, and these are so epically awful that I was forced to apologize for them everywhere I took them. The cashier at Ross was seriously offended that I brought them within smelling distance of the front of the store. The stench doesn't have a lot of range, but when you get close enough it's amazing. I need to find more of these.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Perfect Chihuahua Brush

Ru recently blew his already incredibly sparse coat, resulting in tiny hairs everywhere. The owners of some of Ru's favorite laps suggested that I brush him. This turned out to be a rather tall request. First, I tried the Furminator. Though I have at least five of these things, most of my stuff is currently in storage and the only one available was the large size. The width of the blade is about the same distance as Ru is around. Still, I gave it a go. It picked up a single hair in several strokes. Ru hated it.
tiny boudoir dog

Next I asked my large body of internet dog nerd friends for suggestions. These suggestions were all for the same thing: rubber curry combs. I have several of these, but they are all quite large compared to Ru, and the rubber bristles are rather far apart. The result is that only half the rubber teeth end up touching him and none remove any hair either. Also, Ru hates them. I can't really blame him, it's like being rubbed with a large piece of luggage, kinda weird and threatening.

Finally, I Googled it. Search terms included "chihuahua brush" and "perfect smooth chihuahua brush". I found a discussion on a chihuahua-centric forum in which several people extolled the virtues of soft boar bristle brushes. Amazon has a bunch of inexpensive ones, but most of the reviews are complaints that the brushes labeled "100% boar bristle" turned out to have a bunch of plastic bristles in them. Someone on the chihuahua forum mentioned finding theirs at Sally Beauty Supply.

And that was where I found it. Sally's had nearly a dozen brushes labeled "100% boar bristle". On closer inspection, all but one had definite plastic bristles mixed in with the pig hairs. There was just one brush that was very definitely made from all boar bristles and no plastic. I bought it for $5. So fancy. It works though!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April Loot Pets by Loot Crate: Quest

Our Loot Pets subscriptions box from Loot Crate arrived yesterday, just in time for Brisbane's birthday! The theme this month is "Quest", and there was something in there for everyone! For me, the most exciting thing is that they changed the fit of the dog shirts so Ru can now wear them. So Happy! This is the first month that LootPets boxes also include a matching human shirt. Normally I avoid being all matchy matchy, but Ru exists largely for comedic purposes so the matching shirts work out.
bacon scratch'n sniff sticker
But seriously, when was the last time you saw a scratch and sniff sticker?
As soon as I opened the box, I knew this was going to be a good crate. The box was lined with bacon paper, sealed with a bacon scratch and sniff sticker. I sniffed it. It didn't smell like anything. I scratched it. It smelled like bacon.

There was no Loot Pets Magazine this month. Instead, we were introduced to the products via a sheet of trading cards. These were cool enough to send me into a fit of hand-flapping glee. For a moment I even considered whether I should separate the cards or not, as it might decrease their value years down the line. Then I told my vintage toy collector brain to shut up. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm hoping the cards are a permanent change.
Loot Pets bacon Quest crate with bacon sticker and bacon paper

This month's shield-shaped charm features a 20-sided dice. I can't decide whether this one or the Alien vs Predator is my favorite. Maybe Brisbane will wear the D20 charm and Sisci will wear the Alien charm. Maybe they'll only wear them on special occasions. Do dogs have special occasions?

We got a bag of beef jerky Questrips, which is a delightful portmanteau word. If you don't know what a portmanteau word is then I am clearly a bigger nerd than you. These are semi-soft, and made of pretty much just beef, perfect for Brisbane! The card and actual package both say they are from Loot Pet Labs, but I suspect they were made by the Loving Pets company. A quick trip through their treat selections reveals some very familiar snacks, including sweet potato crisps, some puffed chips, bone-shaped chicken jerky, and some chimichanga-shaped dental treats.
This month's toy is a strip of crinkly, squeaky, floppy bacon. It's big, it's stuffingless, and Sisci thinks it's pretty awesome. She's a fan of crinkly toys, unlike the boys. The bacon toy is made by Jakks Pacific, who made the plush cheeseburger we got in our July Pet Gift Box. I guess they make a lot of food-themed toys.

In lieu of Loot Pets Magazine, this month we got a Battlepug graphic novel. In case you can't tell from the picture, this is a novel about a fearless barbarian who rides a horse-sized pug. Yes, really. It's a real graphic novel too, with binding and art and a copyright page and everything. And a burly dude riding a giant pug. I don't know if I'm going to be able to read this with all these tears of mirth streaming from my eyes. A giant pug. I just pick it up and start laughing. Check out more at Battlepug.com because this is actually a thing.

Lastly, we received a pair of matching Adventure Tim shirts that fit perfectly. I wasn't sure which size to order for myself because unisex t-shirts tend to either be too short or too wide, but the XS fits me perfectly. The small dog shirt now fits Ru perfectly, too! All of his previous shirts have been far too wide in the neck and body, as if they were made to fit a pug or a French bulldog. I need to break out the sewing machine and take them in a bit so he can wear them. In the meantime, we have Adventure Time shirts. Not that I'm
Adventure Time dog and people shirts
Matchy matchy.
particularly a fan of Adventure Time, but I don't dislike it either. I just haven't experienced much because I don't have time to shoehorn another obsessive fandom into my life.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Happy 11th Birthday Brisbane!

Brisbane is eleven years old today and we're celebrating! Not too long ago I thought he wouldn't make it this far. His cancer diagnosis makes it uncertain whether this will be his last birthday, but for now he is happy and active.
Brisbane party hat

dog in party headband

The Annual Birthday Cake Photo

Every year I make Brisbane a birthday cake, decorate it with a number candle, and take a picture...
Brisbane's eleventh birthday

Friday, April 22, 2016

Food Friday: Honest Kitchen Kindly Base Mix

After giving up on Honest Kitchen foods for a while due to Brisbane's poultry/egg/barley/sweet potato allergies, they've hooked us again with their allergy-friendly Kindly base mix that has been perfect for his recovery. This is a dehydrated food that needs water and meat added to make it complete meal. It is chicken-free, duck-free, turkey-free, egg-free, corn-free, barley-free, and sweet potato-free. The major ingredients are carrots, flaxseed, parsnips, peas, celery, coconut, pumpkin, and chard.

The Company

allergy-friendly dog food
Honest Kitchen is a pretty neat company, they are generous with free samples and do a fantastic job of keeping it positive when sharing information. They are allowed to market their food as "human grade" because they make it in a people food facility using people food ingredients. They did have a recall due to possible salmonella contamination in 2013, but not because anyone got sick or even because a product tested positive. One of their suppliers had some parsley intended for human consumption that tested positive for salmonella, and some of that parsley made it into the Honest Kitchen food so they recalled everything just in case.

I appreciate that Honest Kitchen sells their products on their own merit, rather than demonizing the competition. They're not howling about how "Other pet food is literally killing your pet!!!" (I'm looking at you, Wysong.) There are no pages on their site devoted to the evils of kibble or canned food. They do mention the reality of the pet food industry and what ingredients are allowed into the supply chain, but these are brief notes with a wistful tone. "We wish every company could do this because it's so darned cool!" Again, the focus is on Honest Kitchen and why they are awesome. Thanks for not telling me I'm killing my dogs!

The Food

dog food and dinosaurs
Coming from a rabid evangelistic raw feeder background, the idea of mixing something with meat has always felt a bit weird. Like, why don't I just skip the rest and just feed them meat? My first venture into the homemade cooked food world was with Dinner Pawsible, a book of recipes consisting of several cups of rice and veggies with just a little bit of meat mixed in. It felt very wrong.

Honest Kitchen's Kindly base mix comes with mixing instructions for two different energy requirements. The one for highly active dogs uses almost twice as much meat as it does Kindly mix. The one for average activity levels uses equal amounts of meat and mix. This ratio feels much more comfortable. When Brisbane was recovering from surgery, I fed him the highly active ratio. Now that his stitches are out and his weight is back to normal, I've switched to the average ratio. Both include plenty of water, I've been using bone broth instead. 

I think my favorite thing about this product is the range of choices it allows. The meat added can be cooked or raw. I've been using cooked meat because it is more digestible and was easier for Briz to eat with a mouth full of stitches. Any meat will do, so I've been buying whatever is cheapest at the store and cooking it up. Brisbane has had manager's special discounted porterhouse steak, crockpot pulled pork, and even roasted goat in his Kindly meals. I'm not a huge fan of feeding my dog the exact same thing every meal, and that's usually what happens when I buy one kind of food and feed it exclusively. With a freezer full of pre-cooked, pre-measured portions, Briz can have a different meal every time.

The Verdict

There are not a lot of options out there for a dog with a bunch of allergies that needs to eat really soft foods for a few weeks. Wet food gets pretty ridiculously expensive, and Brisbane is particularly fond of anything that cost $6 a can. During recovery he was also a bit picky, and generally refused to eat the same thing two meals in a row. Feeding him Kindly with inexpensive cooked meat has been a significantly less expensive way to provide high-quality soft food. I haven't done the math to figure out how much money I'm saving (because 2.5 cans per day at $3-6 per can hurts to think about) but it's a lot. Honest Kitchen base mixes are way less expensive than their complete formulas, too! As an added bonus, I get to cook for my dog!

Honest Kitchen has also added a new allergy-friendly complete recipe that Brisbane can have. It's the most expensive product they offer. I'll probably end up buying that too one of these days.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

DIY Training Treat Trail Mix

When Brisbane was younger, I used to buy him something called "beef trail mix". It was a sizable canister of various bits of jerky, freeze dried lung and liver, and I don't even know what all else. There were all sorts of sizes and textures and flavors, all in just the right size for training treats. I loved it because some of the bits were higher value than others, and I was grabbing them at random to Briz was never quite sure what he was going to get.
dog treats
Ziwi Peak dried meat dog food, Fruitables Bacon Whole Jerky,
Loving Pets Buffalo Lung, and cheese.

I was pretty devastated when the product was discontinued a couple of months after I discovered it. Still, the idea was brilliant. I love using a variety of training treats in one bag. The uncertainty makes the whole game more exciting for the dog. Karen Pryor likens it to the difference between a soda machine and a slot machine, there's a reason people get addicted to gambling and not Coca-Cola machines.

Trail mix is also an awesome way to stretch those high-value treats by sneaking in some lower-value stuff as well. Most of my crew find kibble to be pretty boring anywhere more exciting than home, but will happily accept a piece now and then while working for better stuff. Everyone except for Ranger, who will only accept freeze dried liver and spits out every lesser offering.
dog treat mix prep
Preparing to chop dried lung, cheese, and bacon jerky.

There are some important considerations when putting together a random bunch of dog treats, and storage is important unless you will be using it all up in one training session.

Rule 1: Never mix freeze dried liver with anything moist. Whether it's ground beef, hot dog bits, or boiled chicken, don't do it. Wet freeze dried liver tends to fall apart when it rehydrates, and the result is pretty vile.

Rule 2: The refrigerator is your friend. If anything in your mix is perishable, keep the whole bag in the fridge between training sessions.
training treat mix
All chopped and ready to mix.

Rule 3: Keep it airtight. Soft treats like Zukes Minis and Ziwi Peak food tend to get hard and stale if you let them hang out in a treat bag for very long. According to my dogs, this makes them significantly less awesome.

For this week's agility class, I made a bag of trail mix based on dried buffalo lung, which is super smelly and therefore very high value. I'm not sure if it rivals freeze dried liver though, I haven't asked Ranger yet. Some Ziwi Peak dried meat dog food went in, as well as some bacon Fruitables Whole Jerky, a little bit of Acana Singles lamb kibble, and a couple sticks of cheddar jack cheese. This was enough treats for a couple of trick training sessions and Sisci's entire agility class, which usually involves continuous reinforcement for allowing obese labradors, spooky show border collies, and hordes of baseball kids to exist in our vicinity. (I have no idea why Sisci is terrified of conformation border collies, she also finds baby dolls and stuffed horses similarly horrifying).
training treat trail mix
Trail mix!

Trail Mix Ingredients

  • Meat (chicken, steak, pork, ground beef, hot dogs, cooked liver, bacon)
  • Dog Food (kibble, air dried, freeze dried)
  • Commercial Dog Treats (whatever your dog will work for)
  • Cheese
  • Cereal, crackers, and other people food
  • Veggies (higher value when swimming in a bag of meaty treats, but my dogs won't work for them)
  • Fruit (banana chips, apple slices, dried apricots, anything that will hold together)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Product Review: TreatToob by Paww

The Paww TreatToob is a soft, squeezable, reusable silicone tube for dispensing squishy training treats. It can be filled with any number of things, baby food, peanut butter, canned dog food, cream cheese, the souls of unbaptized infants, whatever your dog really likes. The neck of the tube is wide enough to fit a butter knife or baby spoon for easy filling, and the whole thing comes apart so there's no uncleanable crevices. There are several types of treat labels around the outside, with a rotating window to show your choice. The TreatToob is food-safe and come with a lifetime guarantee.
2-oz GoToob, 3-oz TreatToob, 2-oz GoToob

The TreatToob holds 3 ounces of...whatever. I own one of these and three 2-oz GoToobs. The GoToobs are from the humangear company, which has a fun, informative, and rather silly website that looks almost exactly like the Paww site. Obviously the same people are behind both companies, as the GoToob and the TreatToob are identical except for the collar labels. GoToobs have labels like 'sopa' and 'lotion', TreatToobs have 'pate' and 'meat'. That and peanut butter being slightly easier to squeeze out of the TreatToob are literally the only differences between the two products.

These things are pretty awesome for taking peanut butter places. I've also tried canned pate-style dog food, but it just doesn't get their attention like the peanut butter. It's a definite must-have around here for FitPaws balance training time, Brisbane likes to hang out on the inflatable stuff and lick his chops.

TreatToobs are also amazing for taking super high-value treats to highly distracting environments. At home, they have been amazing for Brisbane's recovery from surgery. He has been eager to learn new tricks, but unable to eat anything but soft food for a few weeks.

A couple of snags in our TreatToob experience: I filled it with peanut butter without getting the cap super duper dry after washing it, left it unrefrigerated for a couple of days, and ended up with mold growing anywhere there was air. In an air bubble at the bottom of the tube, around the inside of the cap, gross. Also my dogs are afraid to lick the peanut butter off the end of the tube like the dogs in the stock photos so I end up putting it on my finger for them to lick off. This would never work if I needed to wear gloves or something.

Pros: Portable, mostly leak-proof, dishwasher safe. Hold all kind of cool treats. Pretty easy to fill with peanut butter, especially if you squeeze all the air out, set a glob of peanut butter on top, and let go so the expanding tube sucks the peanut butter down.

Cons: Cleaning all the nooks and crannies in the cap can be kind of a pain, especially if something really gross was allowed to go bad in there. Needs to be really truly dry before use or can grow mold in there too. My dogs fear the no-drip silicon valve.

Bottom Line: I have yet to find anything as convenient for peanut butter dispensing on the go, but my best friend got some refillable fruit squeeze pouch things for her toddlers that look promising. Maybe she'll trade me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Treat Tuesday: Yaky Stick

Another goody from the Himalayan Dog Chew Company, this Yaky Stick was the very first thing Brisbane was allowed to chew following his cancer surgery in March. It's a bully stick wrapped in a thin layer of Himalayan Dog Chew. What could possibly be better?
Himalayan dog chew bully stick
Good For: Lasting longer than a regular bully stick. Being more engaging than a regular yak cheese chew. Combining the awesome power of cheese and bully sticks.

Not Good For: Dogs with stitches in their mouths from missing teeth. Dogs that bite big chunks off their chews and swallow them whole.

How Much We Like Them: I was slightly disappointed to find that the bully stick is made from USA cattle and not yak. I want yak bully sticks to exist.

Brisbane was thrilled to be able to gnaw lovingly on a bully stick again. The first thing he did was break off a couple inches of yak chew and chomp them down. Then he needed a break because his chewing stamina is severely diminished right now.

happy dog with himalayan dog chew bully stick
So happy!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Duct Tape Muzzle Art Tutorial

I've seen some really lovely duct tape muzzle art at the Muzzle Up Project, and wanted to try it myself. There are a few pictures around, but I haven't been able to find any sort of a tutorial or documentation of the process. This is what held me back for months, I didn't feel confident about starting the project without seeing someone else do it first. So, in the spirit of "you go first!" and "I'll do it if you do it!", here is my process for making my first tape-wrapped muzzle.


Dog muzzle tape art
One roll of decorative duct tape and one Baskerville muzzle.
For this project, you need duct tape and a muzzle, obviously. I also used a can of clear spray enamel and an x-acto knife. 

A note on duct tape choice: Most of the design is going to be wrapped around the small bars of the muzzle. The larger the design, the less recognizable it will be. Small prints work better, and abstract designs work best. I originally wanted Hello Kitty tape, but ended up going with rainbow unicorns. Shut up, unicorns are abstract now.
duct tape art
The first piece.

Time to get started! The first thing I did was tear off a small strip of tape and wrap it around a bar. Not bad, but I should have used a wider piece that covered the whole bar.

duct tape on Baskerville Ultra muzzle
More pieces, kind of wrinkly.

I covered a few more bars and quickly discovered that covering a curved surface with a flat piece of tape resulted in wrinkles.

pink rainbow unicorn dog accessory
Cutting corners.

To fit the tape around the corners neatly, I tried cutting it with an x-acto knife.

Baskerville Ultra Muzzle hack
First corners accomplished!

This made the tape lay flat around the corner, but also left gaps in the back. The alternative it to just mash it around the corner, which gives better coverage but doesn't look quite as clean.

Making a decorated muzzle.
Trimming to fit.

The duct tape is wider than the bars of the muzzle. I cut down on bulk and made the tape lay flatter by cutting off the excess before smoothing down the edges.

Turning a plain black muzzle into a work of art.
Big piece on longer bar.

Time to try taping a longer bar! This was the longest piece of tape so far. I checked the size before ripping off the tape. Longer pieces show the design better and look cleaner if you can get them down flat enough, but they're more prone to wrinkling too.

duct tape art
Halfway there!

This strip of tape went halfway around the muzzle. Most of it ended up looking pretty good, but it wrinkled more than I wanted.

duct tape decorated dog muzzle
A gap!

Here's a gap where the ends of the tape didn't quite meet. 

Baskerville muzzle in duct tape
Small pieces to the rescue!

I used some of the bits I trimmed off before to cover the gaps. I was surprised how many little tiny piece I used. The pattern really helped cover them up.

leftover bits of duct tape
The aftermath.

Here's what the table looked like when I was done. I learned that cutting the tape with the knife made for much flatter and cleaner lines, but also took way longer. Anywhere the very edge of the tape folded over on itself, I just cut off. 

custom pink dog muzzle
The finished product.

Here's the finished muzzle. It turned out a bit more wrinkly and a bit less neat that I'd like, but was definitely a learning process.

pink basket muzzle
Not perfect, but not terrible.

The toughest part was fitting the tape around the strap holes. I'm not totally pleased with how this turned out. 

duct tape basket muzzle
Getting ready for the clear coat.

To hold everything together nicely, I decided to spray it with a couple coats of clear enamel. Gotta cover up anything I don't want painted.

pink dog muzzle
Ready to spray.

With the straps covered in masking tape, I took the muzzle outside and sprayed it with the clear coat. As spray paint is inert once it is dry, "why didn't I just paint the whole damned thing?" crossed my mind, as I'm sure it did yours. Unicorns. Unicorns are the answer.

pink unicorn basket muzzle
Hanging up to dry

The finished product! I don't have an in-action shot, partly because this thing needs a few days to cure and partly because I don't actually have a dog large enough to wear a size 5 Baskerville Ultra muzzle. I'm planning to do this with a smaller muzzle now that I've developed some skills. Anyone need an inexpertly-wrapped size 5 rainbow unicorn muzzle?