Repurposed, reinvented, reclaimed, reimagined. Rowdy, my rescue dog, found his second life when saved from a kill shelter by Cape Fear Rescue. He and three other puppies had been left in a box outside at a shelter that was closed for the holiday weekend. His siblings were all black and Rowdy was the only spotted one. Named after the famous triple-gold Olympic medalist swimmer, Rowdy Gaines, my boy does swim really well.

His first collar was like all the rest – an inexpensive one made of nylon webbing. I knew he deserved something better, so I began looking at more unique dog collars. I liked the idea of bending the rescue dog idea and saving the forgotten leather belt in the closet, too. I grew up watching my dad work with leather. He made my sisters and me all beautiful hand-tooled leather belts, so I had some idea of how to approach the transformation.

We started our business, Lucky Dog Upcycle, in July 2014 and just set-up a permanent location in Wilmington, NC at Uptown Market. Next step, custom dog accessories. Have a forgotten belt sitting in the closet? Let Lucky Dog Upcycle make it into a unique, one-of-a-kind cool dog collar.

Lucky Dog Upcycle donates a portion of profits to Cape Fear Rescue.

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. – Roger Caras

Rowdy enjoying nature at Green Swamp Preserve in Supply, NC.

Leather Dog Collar – Upcycled from Bill Levin, Leather Island

This retro, vintage collar was one of our most striking finds. We made this collar by upcycling a Bill Levin designed belt from Leather Island.


Leather Dog Collar – Antique Real Silver Conchos

I was astounded to find this belt which contained ten, real silver conchos. I love using them to create truly beautiful collars.

Leather Dog Collar – The eagle has landed


This upcycled collar is what inspired us to create collar categories. Lucky Dog Upcycle has five: Rugged, Retro, Rowdy, Refined, and Rin Tin Tin. This one falls into the Retro category and is hand-painted and embossed.

Leather Dog Collar with intricate carving, lacing, and rivets

Carved, riveted, laced… all of this takes work. A gorgeous example of creative leather design and now a tough looking dog collar.

Leather Dog Collar for the Tom girl dog

One of my customers asked me if I made girly collars. Rowdy smirked, however, we bent our aesthetic and came up with this one. Gold, slightly glitzy, and distinguished.

Leather Dog Collar with bygone Western embossing


This was one of our first Western motif design finds. I have a love of anything Western having lived in Colorado as a youngster. You might guess that Rowdy has more than one collar, and I can tell you he rocks Western pet accessories.

Leather Dog Collar with tough buckle and tip


This was one of the first dog collars Lucky Dog Upcycle sold. A young girl just had to have it and couldn’t wait to get it home to put it on her dog. So cute.

Leather Dog Collar upcycled from Coach

We find high-end belts all day, but only some will make really great collars. This was one of them made from a fine, Coach Brand calves’ leather belt.

Leather Dog Collar with gorgeous sewn pattern

Another beautiful Western collar. Plain, simple, and beautiful.

Leather Dog Collar – Lucky Dog Upcycle signature design


This is another original design from Lucky Dog Upcycle inspired by Rowdy. This paw punch design is made from hole punches and rivets. The purple collar brings it all together.

Baby Rowdy

People constantly ask me what kind of dog Rowdy is. I’ve guessed and everyone else takes a stab at it as well. At one point I started saying he was a very rare, Egyptian Pharaoh’s hunting hound… lately, I’ve just been saying he’s a spotty dog.