Sunday, January 17, 2010

Belly Bands for Male Dogs

I've talked about belly bands several times in the past in a variety of social networks about getting Belly Bands for my Chihuahuas. What I am finding out is that hardly anyone really knows what they are or what they are good for. 

This blog posting is an attempt to explain the purpose of these practical items.

If you own a male dog, chances are that at some time in the life of your dog, you will have wished that you had one of these belly bands.
Belly bands are the answer to problems related to urinary incontinence in male dogs for whatever reason. Your dog may be a puppy in housebreaking stage and you want to avoid messy accidents. The belly band is your answer. Perhaps your dog is older and incontinence has become a problem due to old age. Belly bands are a practical solution. Maybe you have male dogs that just won't stop marking their "territory" on your furniture or other items. Belly bands prevent the mess that creates also. 

Belly band are the dog equivalent to a diaper, incontinence pad, or all those items we typically use to avoid urinary "accidents".
In my case, I have two chihuahuas. Both are males, who love to mark their territory. It was one of those scenarios where I made a mark in the's me or the dogs! There needed to be a solution to the problem. I love my dogs but also love my home and wanted to keep both in proper order. My solution was to purchase belly bands. 

Initially, I found some on from some shop owners there. I purchased about 4 of them so I could interchange when they got soiled. Like underwear, belly bands should be changed at least daily. Often, I would have to change them more often though, so I soon realized that four band for two chihuahuas was not going to be enough. 
Last summer, I was part of a Saturday market that had a sweet lady selling handmade belly bands and other dog items. I purchased four more from her. As often as I was having to wash these bands, I was finding that I would need even more. I was also finding some issues with the bands that I purchased and thought that there might be a chance that I could make a better band for my chihuahuas. Until I had the time, the making of my own bands was going to have to wait. 

My next belly band purchase was at a commercial pet store. Although the band wasn't nearly as cute and well fitting as the other bands, it was actually the best working band I had purchased so far. It was also three times more expensive. Ugly, but practical was what I would call them. It made me consider even more seriously of making my own soon as I had the time.
The time finally came a few weeks back. I had several days off from work and proceeded to purchase the materials that I needed for the bands and began sewing. I made several different designs, each a trial design that advanced from my previous design.  Although all of the designs seem to work well, I'm still not completely happy. On my next few days off this week, I plan to revamp the design a bit further until I have something that I think will be a perfect least for my chihuahuas anyway. 

It is not my intention to sell my "designer" belly bands at this time (or maybe never). My only desire is to find something that works for my furry kids and preserves my furniture and floors also. I'm working on practicality, functionality, comfort, ease of design, washability, and good looks. 

I think I'm almost there.... My dogs will probably agree! :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming...

I had to start from the beginning, so the above picture is one of my "beginnings" of swimming. This was a long time ago when I was pretty young...eight years old and at the top of my age group in swimming. Yeah, that's me standing on the "top block" with that trophy that's almost as big as me. Swimming was a part of my life from the time I was five years old when I took some swim lessons at the local swim school. I loved swimming so much, I couldn't stay out of the water. I was either in the pool, near a pool, in the ocean doing some body surfing, or somehow doing something that was in some way related to water. I even wrote poetry about water, that's how much I loved it! My favorite movie when I was a kid was "The Incredible Mr. Limpet", the guy who wished he were a fish and then became one. My favorite game was being a mermaid...of course!
Never made it to the Olympics, but I had a great time trying and a whole lot of medals, ribbons, trophies and pictures to show for it. Life and circumstances took me in other directions that took me away from the ocean and access to pools in general for several years. Every opportunity I had to get into a pool or other body of water, I took with high enthusiasm. I swam in several of Alaska's lakes...NOT recommended for an extended period of time. I swam in lakes in central Washington...saved a life once because I just happened to be out on a lake in the middle of nowhere. I eventually moved to western Washington where there were more pool opportunities. However, my life was so full of other responsibilities that I didn't have an opportunity to swim or train as often as I wanted. Marriage, kids, hubby, job and other responsibilities took me away. I slowly fell out of shape, gained weight and hated the way I looked and felt.  

After several back injuries and problems with arthritis, plantar facitis and achilles tendonitis, I finally decided that I had to do SOMETHING. I had tried a gym in the past, but it didn't have a pool and it was quite spendy. I became unmotivated after hurting myself again and quit going. Last summer, I met a sweet woman about my age, who was quite fit, working out daily, teaching Zumba classes (What's that again?) and encouraged me to give a different gym a try. I tried several different places and finally settled on a gym with a pool and got a decent rate I could afford and started using some of the machines with a little instruction. She encouraged me to try Zumba, but I have not since I have too many problems with my feet. Low impact was a better option for me.

At first, I tried out some of the machines and discovered that I enjoyed the bicycling since I didn't have to walk and hurt my feet.Some of the machines were OK, but even with a little bit of a workout, I was sore for days afterward. I was horribly out of shape and was on the verge of giving up. I decided to try the pool at least before I called it quits though. That meant I was going to have to break down and buy a swim suit and goggles, so I did.

I took my fat, out of shape body and snugged it into my new suit, not daring to look in the mirror. If I had, I would've stopped and got dressed right then and there. Covering myself with my towel as much as possible, I walked out to the pool. There, I found a bunch of women who were much more overweight than me, doing some water aerobics on the side. 

You can do this, I said to myself as I disentangled the towel from my body and made a quick dash into the water. There was a lap lane open and I aimed for it. Starting off nice and easy, I started with a few breastrokes and turned on my back and kicked down to the end of the pool. Next lap, I did the whole thing in breastroke and paused at the wall. Third lap, I tried freestyle, and made it the end...just barely, huffing and puffing and trying to catch my breath. It took me half an hour to swim eight laps and I thought I was going to die! A little (very little) voice inside said, hey, this is only the first day! It'll be better tomorrow. TOMORROW? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? It's gonna take days to get over today! I got out of the pool, discouraged.

The next day I returned and tried again. Ten laps that time!
Two days later, I went back again. Twelve laps!

I kept going back and increasing my laps by two each time until I reached twenty four laps. I stopped increasing my laps then and began to just stay at twenty four for awhile until I had a level of comfort at that distance. Then, I increased slowly from there, up to forty six laps. I stopped increasing and concentrated on maintaining until I reached a level of comfort there.

To mix things up a bit, I thought I would try water aerobics along with my lap swimming. I found that people could take it as easy or as hard as they wanted. There were some that were there just for the socializing and barely moved, to folk like me who wanted to really get something out of it. I became a tad bit frustrated by the barely moving folk that hindered my ability to make the class work for me, so quit going regularly. I still go on occasion just because I enjoy the exercise of it and I wouldn't do that otherwise.

Right around Thanksgiving, I became ill and stayed out of the pool for almost two weeks. When it came time for me to return, I was devastated that I couldn't do near the amount of laps as before and had dropped back to twenty four laps again. I slowly gained to thirty six laps. Then, the Christmas holidays came and I didn't go as often as I wanted. I stayed at thirty six laps, but couldn't get beyond that. I'd hit a wall!
The new year gave me some inspiration on how to fight back and I began to change my lap swim routine by "sneaking in" some breastroke laps as a resting phase between each set that I did. That little bit cranked my laps up to an amazing fifty six laps after only two weeks! Whoo hoo!

What has all this swimming done for me? I've dropped twenty pounds, have more energy, less pain and much more stamina. Yes, I still have plantar facitis and achilles tendonitis and my arthritis didn't go away. Over all, however, I feel better. My routine is almost totally swimming since that is my area of comfort. I know that I should mix it up...and I will, eventually. Until then, I will just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...