...I know that I misspelled "tail" in the title - it was purposeful...
Fifi isn't a fan of the cold weather - that's no surprise, given she's all of five pounds, hails from a tropical climate, and spent all of her adult life living in Southern California.
Thankfully, this year's winter was quite mild; however, I did try to find a suitable sweater and jacket to help her cope with the cold. Unfortunately, she's such an alien that I wasn't able to find anything "off-the-rack" to fit her.
Fifi has a large head, skinny neck, large chest/rib cage, and a tiny waist. She reminds me of a bobble-head doll... So, every sweater or jacket that I tried was either too tight, too loose, or too short for her to benefit from.
Despite ordering two very similar pieces of apparel from two custom-made clothing service providers, the two experiences could not have been more different. Let's start with Blue Willow...
Blue Willow Dog Coats makes dog coats intended primarily for greyhounds, Italian greyhounds, and whippets. They're located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the jackets are all custom-made, hand-fabricated using extremely high quality materials, like GoreTex equivalent shells and Primaloft insulation. If The North Face or Arc'Teryx made dog jackets, these would be them.
The ordering process begins with a very thorough measuring of your dog. I took eleven measurements of Fifi, triple-verified them, and input them into BWDC's website. Because I wanted to make certain the folks at BWDC understood exactly how oddly-shaped Fifi is, I followed-up the order with an e-mail, photos, and additional information.
I didn't receive a reply.
I waited two weeks and followed-up again. After several days, I received a short message stating they had my information and that everything would be fine.
I waited another four weeks - I heard nothing the entire time. To say it's a bit unnerving or stressful to know that you just spent nearly $300 on a dog coat and haven't heard a peep is an understatement. It may also say that I'm insane, but that's another story.
After nearly seven wintery weeks of waiting, I sent an e-mail inquiring about the status of my jacket. I received a reply stating the jacket had shipped and that it would arrive soon.
Communication isn't their strong point... I did some checking, and their facebook page has more than a few complaints and questions from customers inquiring about the lack of communication.
The jacket arrived and I could immediately tell it was too big. I took it home, put it on the Fleef, and yep - it extended beyond her backside by a solid 5-inches, and hung down too low on her by about 2-inches. UGH.
Before contacting BWDCs, I went back and re-checked the numbers that I submitted - they were spot on. So, I took more pictures, and sent another e-mail to BWDC. A few days went by and I didn't hear anything (detecting a theme?). So, I followed-up again.
An e-mail arrived, and I was told to return the jacket, and they would resize it. I returned the jacket and waited. I checked-in after two more weeks and was told the jacket was almost done, and that it would ship soon. Oh, and that I owed another $25 for alterations... Wow.
The jacket arrived and after the second try, it was spot-on. Here's the Fleef, modeling the jacket (under protest, as it was 80F when I took the picture):
The jacket really is quite nice. I can tell that it's going to be absurdly warm and protective, and after the resizing, it fits literally like a glove. It was insanely expensive, and I think it's worth the money... but the communications process was absolutely terrible, and charging to correct something that they misbuilt is really troubling. I'd be hard-pressed to use them in the future.
And now for the good...
De-Re Dogs gives "unwanted sweaters a second chance at life" - the proprietor, Dawna, takes people's sweaters and converts them into dog sweaters. It's a neat concept because it recycles quality sweaters into quality dog apparel.
I browsed De-Re's selection of sweaters, and found one that I thought would work really well for Fifi. I contacted Dawna to inquire, and she immediately responded with some ideas and suggestions. She stated that she was working on finalizing a merino wool sweater that might fit Fifi. She also offered to custom make a sweater for her from one of my existing sweaters.
I took her up on both offers; I asked her to send the red merino wool sweater to try, and in turn, I sent her one of my beloved Icebreaker tops to cannibalize and convert.
Within a few days, the red merino sweater arrived, and it looked awesome, but it was too small (as we suspected it would be). I sent her the measurements that I took for the BWDC coat, and Dawna said she would make two sample shirts to try.
After a few days, she e-mailed to inform the shirts were ready and that she would send them that day. The shirts arrived, and one of them was a perfect fit:
I replied to share the good news with Dawna, and to offer to return the sample shirts. To my shock, she asked me to keep them or to recycle them. I felt guilty keeping them, but honored her request.
With confirmation that the test shirt fit, Dawna set to work on the custom Icebreaker sweater. A week went by, and I received another message from Dawna - the sweater was done, and it would be sent that day.
The sweater arrived within two days and it fit like a glove. It's absolutely perfect.
Merino wool is such an awesome material - it's not itchy, it doesn't hold odor, it breathes well, and if it gets wet, it won't sap your body heat. The Feefer really seems to like the sweater, even if it has been 75-80F outside lately.
Dawna's communications were prompt, professional, and helpful. I was never left for wondering, nor did I ever feel "lost" during the process. And the bonus? This custom-made sweater cost about 1/10th to make and deliver from what the BWDC coat did.
I'll definitely order more sweaters from De-Re - I'll just wait until we get closer to the fall/winter season. De-Re is definitely top-notch!!!
So there you have it - a tail (or tale) of two dog "coats" - one very expensive, frustrating, and time consuming; the other enjoyable and delightful and very inexpensive.