Home » BLOG » dogs

Tag: dogs

DIY Custom Shaped Dog Bed

SAILRITE dog bed-2

There’s this funny little space next to our bed in the aft cabin. I think it was originally designed to be an extension of the sleeping area since there’s one on both Port and Starboard sides. Our previous owners decided to remove whatever used to be there and they had a custom “real” mattress made.

With the mattress in place, it left a perfect Betsy-sized area. For the first two years we put a pillow there with a blanket on top to make a nice, cozy bed for Betsy. Gunner was too big so he always got to lay at the foot of our bed, but we wanted to utilize this cute little spot too. Even though we try telling her it’s her Princess Bed she still sneaks up onto the mattress in the middle of the night!

I couldn’t think of anything better to do with the space so I wanted to make something a bit more permanent and easier to clean. After completion of my Throw Pillow Project I had some leftover scraps of Sunbrella Canvas in Taupe and decided to make a custom dog bed. It was a dark color which would help to hide the dog hair and dirt Betsy leaves behind. It’s also a very durable material and cleans up easily.

SAILRITE dog bed-1

When designing this new dog bed, I used a basic box cushion design, just like I used for my salon cushions. I had already learned the technique from watching the incredibly helpful Sailrite videos. The edges finished nicely and I was pleased with the thickness. I had decided on 5″ thick boxing and for the stuffing I got a little creative…

SAILRITE dog bed-5

Instead of buying new foam and/or batting for this custom creation, I cleaned out a few cubbies on the boat to see what I could use for stuffing. I had an old worn-out pillow, a big cotton quilt with ugly colors on it, and an old sleeping bag! All of these items either needed to be thrown away, donated or repurposed, so I used them for my dog bed project :) The sleeping bag got cut into pieces which I layered up around the old pillow and put that inside the old quilt. Together, they formed the perfect thickness for stuffing into my new cover.

With some extra zipper supplies on hand, I measured the back end to form an extra long zipper plaque where I could easily take the new cover off to wash it.

SAILRITE dog bed-8

This whole thing had to be cut into a custom shape with each side being a different length. Although I can’t flip it over, it fits perfectly!

SAILRITE dog bed-6  SAILRITE dog bed-4SAILRITE dog bed-9SAILRITE dog bed-3

Thanks to Sailrite and my awesome LSZ-1 sewing machine, I have another home-improvement project checked off the list :)

Broken Hearts

image1

The last week has been difficult for us all after the loss of our sweet boy, Gunner. Our broken hearts will never be the same again.

He was by my side for so many years, it just doesn’t make sense for him to be gone.

I can still hear his impatient bark at 5:00 to let me know it’s time to eat dinner. I can still hear the scraping of his nails on the floor when he would have wild running dreams. I can still feel his soft ears against my face when I would cuddle with him. I can still see his legs stretch out so far as he rolled on his back waiting for someone to scratch his belly. I can still feel his wet nose touch mine when he would ask for a piece of my food – the only trick he knew – to give kisses for a treat.

Time seems to stand still and our tiny floating home feels so empty. I miss my boy.

We all miss him.

Yesterday, Betsy laid in ‘his spot’ on the rug in the galley. It was his very favorite spot to lay in the whole boat – I think because it was the same size as his old crate. He felt safe in there. Betsy had never laid in there before, maybe because Gunner was always there, but never even when he was somewhere else. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen her lay there, and she stayed there all day. She usually prefers to be on the couch or the bed, but since Gunner has been gone she has been laying in his favorite places or at my feet.

We are giving her extra love. It helps her and it helps us. She misses her brother just as much as we miss him too.

It’s been so hard to motivate myself to do anything. It would be easier if I had a job to be distracted with but all the boat projects just seem to not matter right now. We’ll be working soon enough but for now its just so hard to get through the day.

 

If you haven’t seen the tribute article I wrote for Gunner, please take a few moments out of your day to hear our story and see our adventures together here: http://www.wherethecoconutsgrow.com/2015/11/for-gunner-with-all-my-love

Win a FREE HelpEmUp Harness

helpemup harness-10

I am so happy to announce that Blue Dog Designs (the makers of the HelpEmUp Harness) has graciously offered to let me host a giveaway for one of their amazing harnesses, in honor of Gunner!

As you all know, our sweet boy, Gunner, recently passed away. Without his special harness, we could not have had him on the boat with us for the last two years. A 75lb senior arthritic dog on a sailboat seemed crazy to many, but it was never a thought in our minds to leave him behind. It was because of HelpEmUp that he was able to live out his retirement by our sides 24/7 and be a part of our endless adventures sailing around the Caribbean, Where The Coconuts Grow.

all my love-124

I recently published an article sharing 8 Reasons Why We Love The HelpEmUp Harness. Since then I’ve received countless comments and emails from all over the world about how this harness has been a miracle for their family. It brings tears of joy to know that I can help introduce so many people to HelpEmUp, in hopes that it will do for them what it has done for us.

Visit www.HelpEmUp.com for information on how to choose the right size and style of hip lift.

If your furry companion could use a little help getting up or down from the bed, car or boat, or has any mobility issues at all, take this opportunity to enter to win a FREE HelpEmUp Harness! Just enter your email address in the form below. Email addresses will *ONLY* be used to contact the winner.

**THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED**

Winner will be contacted via email to obtain size, style and shipping information. Entries must be received by Monday November 16th at 11:59pm EST.

helpemup harness-7

Even if you don’t win, I highly recommend giving HelpEmUp a try. These harnesses are worth their weight in gold!

For Gunner, With All My Love

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0181.

Some of you already know, but I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make on Friday 10.30.15. I made the decision to put my sweet boy to sleep and set him free from his old body.

I had been struggling with this decision for quite awhile and everyone told me I would just know when it was time. I prayed they were right. I prayed Gunner would tell me when it was time, though he was such a stubborn, crotchety old boy that I knew he probably wouldn’t. There were a few moments during his last days where he would  lick my hands clean, then lay his head on my lap and I knew it really was time. It was such a faint feeling though, because I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want it to be time yet and I kept my doubts strong.

His accidents grew more frequent and he almost couldn’t get up the ramp anymore to go outside. The nerve damage in his rear end had made it so hard for him to move around. The length of our boat was about as many steps as he could take before he would lay down and rest again. When he stopped eating his food, I knew his body was shutting down.

My sweet boy was 14.5 years old and his poor body just couldn’t keep up with his mind anymore. I know in my heart it was the best thing for him and it would have been selfish of me to keep him here any longer. Still, I wonder everyday if I made the right decision. I’ve lost loved ones in the past, but losing Gunner hurt so much more. He was my baby. I took care of him like he was my child.

I still can’t believe he is gone… I never knew my heart could hurt so much.

spanish town-3

I want to share the story of our time together.

It was the summer of my Senior year in high school, 2001. I had been wanting a large-breed puppy and had always grew up around dogs. My mom called me one day to tell me about this Weimaraner that needed a home. The breeder had just died of a heart attack and no one had found her, the momma dog or the puppies for three days. The breeder’s friend owned a kennel in Snohomish, Washington where she took the puppies in to find homes for them. Four whole months later, all but one had found homes.

This little boy was lanky and shy. He timidly came out to greet me in the parking lot. I was told that he was the last to get picked because of how big his feet were, meaning he was going to be the biggest one of the litter. How big could he really get? His floppy ears went past the end of his little nose and his little butt was so skinny. His legs were long but he was still so tiny.

all my love-300

I just couldn’t leave him there! I just couldn’t bare to see his little sad face turn away from another stranger that didn’t want him. From that moment on he was glued to my side. I crate trained him early on but it only took a few nights for him to melt my heart enough to have him sleeping under the covers with me. Everyone knows weims are like velco, and that he was.

I left this little ball of energy with my grandparents for my first year of college at Western Washington University while I lived in the dorms. I would come home on the weekends to do laundry and see my sweet boy. He was so mischievous! His weim-crimes were frustrating but so loveable at the same time. He chewed a hole in the drywall once. I got him the toughest chew toys I could find and did what I could to train him and get him the exercise he needed. He loved to swim, chase the geese in our backyard and play with his toys. Most of my pictures from the early days are in photo books back in California but I have hundreds of pictures of him snuggled up in piles of clean laundry, on the couch and on my pillows. If you’ve ever been around Weimaraners, you know just how human they think they are. He loved popcorn and Cheetos, especially when my grandpa would sneak them to him.

SAMSUNG

During the remaining years of college, I lived in houses with roomates and Gunner came up to Bellingham, WA to live with me. I remember there was this one lake we would go to and he would swim for hours retrieving sticks I threw for him. He loved every minute. He was like a small pony galloping around. I always felt safe with him by my side. It was a lot of responsibility to have him while working and going to school full time, but I think it was good for me. He kept me in line, as I did for him.

all my love-22

After college we moved out to the countryside in Blaine, WA and lived on 20 acres. At one point we had a total of 6 dogs, 21 puppies, and 9 goats. Gunner loved his brothers and sisters – Magnum, Ayla, Missy, Aaron, Gage, and temporarily Remmi and Boone. During these years he learned to hunt and went for several-week long training camps with some other hunting dogs. He got a taste for what he was bred to do. Running through the tall grass and open fields chasing birds was what he loved the most. He could run so fast! He was so lean and shiny and muscly back then.

all my love-12

A series of circumstances brought us down to Huntington Beach, California in the summer of 2008. Him and I soon found a little studio apartment in Costa Mesa where we grew to love the warm weather and sandy beaches. Another move to San Diego allowed us to finally meet Peter and Betsy in April of 2011. Ever since, it has been non-stop adventure!!

all my love-15all my love-86

We’ve taken several trips to Baja California, Mexico. We went camping in the Eastern Sierras where Gunner ran wild through the cow patties along the riverbed and roamed around near the campsite. We took a road trip up to see my family in Washington. We took the dogs through an Old Gold Mine and Peter had to carry Gunner up a tall rickety ladder. He’s gone swimming in the SoCal surf with his daddy and he went to the office with me to work on the weekends. He always loved going in the car, wherever we went. The adventures were endless.

all my love-24all my love-69

He was 12 when Peter and I decided to buy a boat and sail through the Caribbean. We knew he was getting old and that eventually the day would come when we would have to say goodbye, but there was never a doubt in our minds that he would come with us on our biggest adventure yet. We sold and donated most of our belongings, packed up the rest and drove across the country to our new home aboard a sailboat in Punta Gorda, Florida. It was that year that I first remember noticing his back feet drag a little during our evening runs. I found this amazing harness that made getting him on and off the boat a breeze. After four months on the dock we untied the lines for good and headed to the Bahamas!

helpemup harness-2all my love-130 helpemup harness-15

We sailed through the Bahamas, past Turks and Caicos, along the North coast of the Dominican Republic, South coast of Puerto Rico, USVI, BVI and all the way down the Eastern Caribbean island chain to Grenada for our first hurricane season on the boat. We returned to the Virgin Islands that winter, back to Grenada this year and back to the Virgins again just a few weeks ago for a total of 5,000 nautical miles. Gunner got to run and swim on so many beaches and he smelled so many good smells on all the islands we visited. He ate fresh sashimi on many passages with us, said hello to some turtles and iguanas, and lived out his retirement by our sides 24/7 as we sailed around Where The Coconuts Grow.

days spent at the beach

Luckily we were able to get him back to USVI where it feels most like home to us. We made a few trips to the vet and finally I decided it was time. For Gunner’s last dinner he got to eat fresh Mahi Mahi and sleep on the bed with us all night long. We stayed at a dock where we could run the air-conditioning all night and I swear he didn’t move a muscle. I cuddled with him the whole time.

all my love-168  passage north GND-STT-7spanish town-8all my love-183

In the morning he got a bacon cheeseburger and fries for breakfast. I was so glad he had enough of an appetite for one more special treat. We had rented a car and drove him to a nice grassy place by the water where I let him walk around (only about 20 minutes) until he couldn’t take another step. He sniffed every single bush and tree. Then he rolled around in the grass before eating three mini cheeseburgers and some more fries for lunch. He knew something was different this day. I could finally see that he was ready. Staying was just too hard.

all my love-187all my love-191 all my love-188 all my love-189 all my love-190

We climbed back in the air-conditioned car, made a stop at a peaceful place by the beach and drove to the vet’s office. Up in the trees where we parked there were yellow and white butterflies everywhere! It was almost magical. Though I knew in my heart it was time, nothing could have prepared me for how much my heart would hurt from that moment forward.

all my love-173

Everyone tells me I gave him an amazing life filled with love but it’s so hard to focus on the love when the pain is so thick. I didn’t want him to suffer anymore than he did already so I keep reminding myself that it was because of the love that we had for each other that I made the decision when I did.

Betsy is sad too. Her brother was her partner in crime and cuddle-buddy. She loved him so much. In the last few days I’ve found her sleeping in Gunner’s spot on the bed and even sleeping on the ground by the bed where he liked to lay. Just yesterday she was in the galley just standing there facing the corner. I don’t know what she was doing but that was his favorite place to be, probably because it felt like his crate. We are giving her some extra attention, knowing she is just as sad as us.

all my love-83

Most of our sailing adventures are catalogued here on this blog, but there is still so much I haven’t posted yet. Eventually I’ll get around to posting all the pictures, but in the meantime I’ve put together a slide-show gallery of some of my favorite photos of Mister, my sweet, sweet boy:

For Gunner, With All My Love…

Thank you so much to everyone that has reached out with love and support. It truly does help to hear your stories – to know we are not alone but also to give us hope that someday our love for Gunner will help the heartache fade away… Even if we don’t respond, please know your words and prayers are appreciated during this hard time for our little family.

 

8 Reasons Why We Love The Help ‘Em Up Harness

helpemup harness-3

When we first moved aboard Mary Christine two years ago, it was an immediate challenge to safely get our biggest dog on and off the boat. For the first few months we lived at the dock which was relatively easy to help him in and out. We knew, however, that dock life wouldn’t last long and sooner or later we were going to have to figure out how to get all 75 lbs of him down into the dinghy and again back up from the dinghy while floating around at anchor.

Gunner was 12 at the time and we could already tell he was having trouble jumping as well as he used to in his younger years. Getting up onto the bed was harder for him and we knew it would only get worse as time went on. Luckily, I remembered a special harness my Grandmother had found years before while researching slings and lifting tools for her sweet little dachshund, Sophie, who’s back end had been paralyzed.

Blue Dog Designs makes a special patented hip lift harness called Help ‘Em Up with a front end handle and removable back end handle with two different styles for males and females. I determined from their sizing chart that Gunner would need a large and even though Betsy was still pretty young and agile, I ordered her a medium. I knew Betsy didn’t really need to wear a harness all the time, and she definitely didn’t have any mobility issues, but we decided that having some extra ‘hand-holds’ on her while under way would be very helpful.

The very minute we received them in the mail, Gunner began wearing the front half of the harness 24/7. We unclip the back half when not in use to prevent any chafe or discomfort while he is sleeping and moving around throughout the day.

These harnesses are definitely not cheap, running an average price of around $100 each but they are absolutely worth their weight in gold!! This harness is the single most necessary item I could ever recommend for anyone with large dog on a boat, or for any dog with mobility issues. Though Blue Dog Designs sponsored us with a small discount to write an honest review, I don’t receive any compensation for recommending this product.  I am so forever grateful for what it has done for us that I feel it’s my duty to spread the word to anyone that may also want to give their dog a little ‘help up’!

Here are 8 reasons why we love the Help ’em up Harness:

1. THEY’RE BREATHABLE

We live in the tropics where the hot sun is always beating down on us. I needed a solution for Gunner and Betsy that would cover the smallest amount of surface area on their bodies, yet still have all the proper supports. This design has neoprene pads lined with air flow material, allowing our babies to wear the full harness yet not be too hot.

helpemup harness-10

2. ALL MATERIALS ARE MARINE GRADE

Living on a boat in the marine air makes everything susceptible to corrosion. I was a bit concerned on how long the harness would last in this environment but after two years of hard use, there is no sign of deterioration. The stainless steel is marine grade and all the stitching is very durable. The straps and fasteners are high quality. You get what you pay for, and when you live on a boat this is very important!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0181.helpemup harness-4helpemup harness-21

3. CAREFULLY DESIGNED SUPPORT POINTS

The adjustable nylon straps allow for a perfect fit. The edging on the pads are made with micro fleece and the pads themselves are made of neoprene. The straps are covered with neoprene sleeves to protect against chafe. The pelvic pad under the hip lift is adjustable and very soft. The support points are designed to distribute the weight perfectly and with gentle pads in all the right places, eliminating stress on joints in a comfortable and non-invasive way.

helpemup harness-5

4. OKAY FOR LONG-TERM USE

Although it’s best to remove the hip lift part of the harness at night or whenever possible to avoid chafe or discomfort, it is totally safe to leave it on as well. Our dogs like to curl up in a ball to get cozy and the straps do pull a bit differently when they are laying down but they never seem to be uncomfortable.

“What makes this dog harness truly unique is it’s designed to stay on your dog for extended periods of time. Unlike towels, slings or leashes that need to be rigged with each use, or ramps that have to be moved or adjusted, our harness is right at hand, whenever you need it. We believe if support isn’t there when your dog needs it, it’s just too late.” -Blue Dog Designs

helpemup harness-2helpemup harness-9

5. SAFETY IS KEY

Just like kids, pets are fast, wiggly, and they are often just out of reach. With the Help ‘Em Up Harness, they think they are out of reach but you have an extra handle to grab at the last second keeping them safe! Extra handles are important on a boat because we’re always in motion. The dogs have pretty good balance but there’s always a chance of an unexpected wave to send them flying. This harness is perfect for a little extra piece of mind.

helpemup harness-8helpemup harness-1helpemup harness-22

6. TRICKY LIFTING

Whether it’s getting the dogs over the lifelines to go swimming or to get on and off a dock, two handles are better than one! We’ve used the harnesses in some precarious places.

Also on a safety note, if our dogs were to fall overboard, we would be able to safely lift them back on board with this harness. It wouldn’t slip off like a traditional harness might, injuring them in the process. Gunner has slipped off the dock twice in the last two years and luckily he was wearing his harness so we had something to grab onto getting him out of the water. Bad things can happen and it’s always best to be prepared.

helpemup harness-11helpemup harness-12helpemup harness-13

One of the most important reasons it’s imperative that we have one of these for Gunner is to get him on and off the boat. It’s what everyone wants to know . Lifting a 75 lb dog on and off of a sailboat is ‘tricky’ to say the least.

Betsy doesn’t have any trouble jumping straight from the dinghy up on the deck of our boat all by herself, however she is almost 9 years old and sooner or later that big jump will be difficult for her. When that time comes, this is how we will Help Her Up:

helpemup harness-28helpemup harness-29helpemup harness-30

Gunner thinks he can make the jump still, but in reality there is no way that could ever happen anymore. At 14 years old, his back legs just don’t work. The key is that he actually wants to get up on the boat (or down into the dinghy) which helps tremendously. He initiates the process with a little forward momentum and gets his front legs up on the tube of the dinghy.

I can’t quite reach the main handle on the front half of his harness so I just grab the side of it instead. For this maneuver, it’s fine, though not ideal for all lifts. Peter lifts the rear handle and scoops him up on deck. The back end isn’t any more difficult than the front end, thanks to this harness. I swear it’s magic how weightless they feel when you use the hip lift!

helpemup harness-23helpemup harness-24helpemup harness-25helpemup harness-26helpemup harness-27

7. LESS PHYSICAL STRESS – for us and the dogs!

The dogs don’t hurt themselves trying to jump on their own, but most importantly we don’t throw our backs out trying to lift the dogs. Before Gunner started wearing the Help ‘Em Up harness, I would bend over, slip my arm under his belly, and hoist him up on the bed. It became a painful process for me trying to get all 75 lbs of him up off the floor. At the time we still had a Toyota 4-Runner and getting him into the back of the truck was just as hard on my lower back.

With the hip lift, I can remain upright as I give him a little boost. I can’t even find the right words to describe how much of a difference it makes, but it’s a night and day difference for sure.

8. RANGE OF MOTION

No doubt, we have an active lifestyle. Our dogs are active and they go everywhere with us. Though Gunner’s mobility issues from old age have recently limited his activity level, he still likes going on adventures. Even small ones.

Our first two years have been filled with many trips to the beach to go swimming or exploration missions on a new island. It’s wonderful that our dogs can wear the Help ‘Em Up harness during all of their regular activities without it getting in the way or being a nuisance at all. They both have very tolerant personalities but if it were uncomfortable in the slightest, they would both be trying to chew it off. I’ve always noticed a complete range of motion while they have the harnesses on which is reassuring to me that I’m not forcing them to wear something they don’t like.

In fact, the harness does much more than protect their regular range of motion. It actually increases the range of motion for Gunner! Within the last few months he has gotten to a point where he cannot walk more than a few steps without his back legs giving out and folding under him. The degenerative neurological damage that has affected him has made it so that he can only walk normally if I am carrying his back legs with the hip lift when we go for a walk. He tires quickly but as soon as I give a little lift, his front end speeds up as if he knows he isn’t being held back anymore. He can practically run faster than I can if I’m holding the hip lift. Without the harness, my heart breaks watching him try to go explore the nearby bushes and grass.

It was just a few months ago he could run wild down the beach on his own…

helpemup harness-20 helpemup harness-19 helpemup harness-18 helpemup harness-17 helpemup harness-16 helpemup harness-15 helpemup harness-14helpemup harness-7 helpemup harness-6

It’s so hard for me to describe the miracles that these harnesses have created for us. We’ve been able to safely and comfortably bring our dogs wherever we go as we travel around the Caribbean Where The Coconuts Grow!

Be sure to check out Help ‘Em Up by Blue Dog Designs, or contact me for more questions!