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From the training bag…

September 7, 2009 Comments off

I don’t usually write about products when I write about dogs (although a day at February 2009’s Global Pet Expo certainly gave me lots of material!) But today, I’m in my training bag, and I thought I’d share a little happiness and a little dismay.

First, the dismay — I noticed yesterday and confirmed today that the last of my old-style Flexi(R) 3-5 leashes is beginning to lose its zing when called on to retract. The spring inside is finally wearing out after 10 years of longeing various breeds from 80-lb. Gordon Setters to 22-lb. English Cockers. Well, just go buy another! you say. Ah, would that I could.

A Flexi(R) 3-5 is from the old med-heavy duty group of leads that Flexi(R) made in the mid-80s. The 3-5 is 16 feet long, a combination of 18″ of ‘belt’ attached to approximately 15 feet of retractable cord, and was rated (like its cousin the 3-8) for dogs about 77 lbs. In truth, it was probably not quite enough leash for Reuben at 80 lbs., but it did work fine for him when he was on his Halti(R). And that size served me very well for Taryn (mix, 32 lbs.); the English Springer Spaniels Jazz (45 lbs.), Muni (40 lbs.) and Nola (35 lbs.); my first Gordon Bard (65 lbs. soaking wet); and of course 32 lb. Casey and 22 lb. M. the English Cockers. The 16-footer was less bulky and easier to carry on walks than its 26-ft. cousin the 3-8, but I had a few of them, too.

Unfortunately, and likely due to issues where the leash was overworked or used inappropriately, Flexi(R) no longer makes the combination belt/cord series of leashes rated for anything over 44 lbs. (their Comfort and Classic 1 and 2 series leashes.) These leashes look small, they look like you really shouldn’t put them on a big or even a medium-sized dog. I have a Classic 2-5 (16 ft.) and a Classic 2-8 (26 ft.) While they work okay for one small dog that doesn’t get over-exuberant, they don’t work for my favorite Flexi(R) lead application — walking two dogs with one handle. I’ve tried. The Classic 2-5 felt over-matched, even when the load was trained Casey on the retractable end, and more-or-less trained M. on the static 10 ft. slip leash attached to the handle with a climbing carabiner.

So today, I’m off to a local pet supply store to examine this new, improved, all-tape Classic 3-5 up close. I don’t like the idea of a retractable ‘tape’ instead of a cord…it looks heavier and bulkier than the mostly-cord 3-5s of the 80s and 90s. But maybe it’s worth a look. We shall see how it performs after my product testers Casey and M. have a few morning romps in wet grass. More on this leash ‘improvement’ later…

And meanwhile, I’d like to give a shout-out to the folks who thought up and produced SwheatScoop Natural Wheat Litter, which is scoopable and now comes in a multi-cat version. I needed cat litter this week, and had a coupon I’d picked up at the NY State Fair, so I decided to give SwheatScoop a try in Churro’s litter box.

Churro is a formerly outdoors-living used-to-be barn cat who moved in with me last November. He is a little species-challenged — he acts a LOT like a dog. He lives, as all my new and rescue cats do, in a crate, but unlike the others he hasn’t made a lot of progress at being un-crated and unsupervised (he still thinks vertical blinds are fun to climb.) So when I’m not home, he spends the day in a former dog crate, and he’s got a litter box inside. He comes to his name and to my whistle, does hand-touches and head bumps on commands, goes into his crate on command. He travels with me to dog shows and goes camping right along with the dogs. But a cat litter box in a small condo or my 5×10 ft. Sunspot, a vintage tiny trailer, can be really overpowering.

On the first day I converted the litter box to two-thirds SwheatScoop(R), one-third scoopable clay litter, I noticed an immediate reduction in litter box odor. Since I scoop once a day and change his box completely every three or four days, he was in a completely SwheatScoop(R) litter box within four days, and has now been on SwheatScoop(R) for over a week.

After more than a week, litter box odor is almost non-existent. Or, at least, I don’t notice that I have a litter box the second I open my front door. The litter clumps nicely and doesn’t track much (or any more than clumping clay litter). When Churro decides to play with his stuffed toys and litter ends up all over his crate, it doesn’t melt into any moisture and stick relentlessly to the crate floor — I can sweep up the scattered litter with a small dustpan/broom. Sometimes Churro gets bored and decides to play in his water dish; the SwheatScoop(R) absorbs the water and doesn’t melt into a gluey blob like the clay stuff does. I’m a convert; it’s a couple bucks more than the store-brand clumping clay litters, but the odor control and ease of clean-up make it totally worth the price.

A couple cautions:

  1. Do not flush this litter. Cat feces can contain parasites that shouldn’t go into water supplies.
  2. Keep your SwheatScoop(R) in tamper-proof containers. English cockers have little to no discrimination about what is food and what isn’t; Casey went after the box and tried to eat it. Rodents will also try to eat it, drawn to the clean wheat smell. I transferred mine to an old (plastic) clumping clay litter container.

Now, I’m going out for a second box.

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