By Rebekah Wolf
The howls of animated dogs and meows of curious kittens bounce off of shelter walls, each animal hoping the next person will pick him, each animal retreating to her bed at the end of the day. More than just a piece of furniture or a place to sleep, beds provide support and security for animals waiting for their forever homes.
Rather than simply donating sheets and towels to shelters, some groups across the country are going the extra mile and designing beds on a dime. Not only do these handcrafted sleepers relieve pet stress—they help animals look their best for prospective parents.
One Man’s Trash, One Pet’s Treasure
One San Diego group, Kennel Comforters Volunteer Project, recycles quilts, sheets, and even curtains by sewing them into palatial pads to adorn shelters and create a homey atmosphere.
“I went to the shelter to see if they needed someone to repair their beds and decided they were so torn up it was easier to make new ones,” says Joan Laisney, coordinator for Kennel Comforters. “I posted flyers, listed on [CraigsList.org] and MeetUp.com for volunteers and materials to sew beds. I got a great response from the community.”
At Kennel Comforters get-togethers, which take place twice a month, sewers at any level can lend a hand. The group even enlists the help of Girl Scouts, who earn badges by sewing cat beds. Once beds are completed, they are dropped off at three county shelters, four humane society shelters, and 100 private rescue groups in the area.
“Comforters, mattress pads, soft blankets, crib bumpers, canvas kayak covers, anything that can fit into a sewing machine can become a bed for a shelter pet,” says Laisney. “A thrift-shop manager saves curtains, comforters, and blankets not suitable to resell to the public but are fine for animal beds. We don’t mind being at the bottom of the donation chain.”
Comfy Kennels for Gentle Giants
Vivian Burns, owner of So You… Sewing and Design Studio in Pompton Lakes, NJ, has a similar side project that makes the most of extra fabric scraps and fluff. She started a program at her studio that repurposes fabric to ensure that every dog will have a place to rest his head.
“One of our most popular community service projects is called Pads for Pets, where the participants make beds for Gentle Giants, another group I work with,” Burns says of the Wayne, NJ, rescue group. “Because they foster dogs with special needs as well, they have a special place in my heart.”
Burns picks up gently used clothing at a biannual flea market sponsored by Byram Animal Rescue Kindness Squad, Inc. in New Jersey. Once she has collected enough fabric for her pet project, she hosts events at her store, turning out homespun delights like dog coats, scarves, toys, and bedding for a good cause.
With a little initiative and resourcefulness, Laisney and Burns prove that anyone can put their skills to good use. “As a business owner, I feel it is especially important to give something back to the community that supports you,” Burns adds.
Sewing not your forte? No problem. Shelters across the country are in constant need of helping hands. In addition to monetary contributions, rescue groups seek other types of donations, such as the bedding mentioned above, food, printer cartridges, and even used cars. And don’t forget about the most valuable gift of all—volunteering your time. Call your local shelter today to see how you can help.