By Rebecca Villaneda, Peninsula News
Thursday, September 3, 2009 4:41 PM PDT
It’s hard to imagine being cold with the dog days of summer still upon us, but a few local animal lovers hope you can pretend.
(photo omitted: Diane Bassett, left, and Cindy Chiles, right, with Nika, are hosting a towel-and-blanket drive in order to make coats for shelter dogs in the upcoming winter months.)
Palos Verdes Estates resident and dog trainer Dianne Basset happened upon the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ wish list, which had dog coats listed.
“I was surprised to learn that the SPCA was putting out a call for help for jackets for dogs; we usually worry about dogs being too warm,” said Bassett, who also is a foster parent to adoptable animals.
But sure enough, the SPCA said the warmth is needed to combat the cold cement floors during the winter months.
About the same time that Bassett learned about this, summer had just begun and she happened to have just purchased a sewing machine.
An idea was coming together.
“I’m getting out my beach towels and I’m looking at some of them, which are kind of frayed, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is probably this towel’s last season,’” the trainer with South Bay Clicker Training Club said. “And I thought, ‘I know what I could do with this towel.’ And my neighbor down the street, who has three kids who are all surfers, they’re going to be having the same experience — let’s put those to good use.”
The soon-to-be old towels and any old blankets were a perfect solution in creating some homemade dog coats.
The next thing Basset needed was a little help to get her idea to fly.
She reached out to Pet Foods Market owners Livia Varsanyu and Barbara Toth. The two women, animal advocates in their own right, allowed their two stores —one in Manhattan Beach and the other in PVE — to be drop-off sites for the towel and blanket drive.
“It’s an excellent idea, and if you haven’t been to a shelter, the conditions are not the best. They are on concrete in the winter, summer — all the time, and it gets really cold in there, especially when it’s wet,” Varsanyu said. “We collect items for dogs and take them down to the shelter … anything from old leashes, towels, beds, anything that people don’t use — toys that their dogs don’t use anymore, we collect everything.”
The third party in this donation drive is Convergent Consulting LLC owner Cindy Chiles, who will serve as the financer of the project’s odds and ends.
It didn’t take long for the San Pedro resident to agree to help. She recently adopted Buddy, her first shelter dog, that she said has given her a new perspective.
“I’ve had three dogs beforehand that I’ve had wonderful relationships with and long lives with, but … Buddy is just a joy,” Chiles said. “When I got him he had been shaved bald, and had been on the streets for quite a while, and also had kennel cough. He was so heavily matted they couldn’t save his hair. As it turned out he’s just a wonderful dog; he’s very smart and very loving.”
Since Buddy was not a puppy when she got him, she’s had some “unique”
hurdles to get over in getting him trained, but she said Basset has helped with his progress.
“It just seems so unconscionable that he was about to be put down — and he was, because he got kennel cough. It’s so highly contagious … The thought of him not surviving, it just seems unbelievable, because he has so much value and he’s so lovable immediately,” she said.
Bassett, excited to offer shelter dogs some warmth this winter, has already gotten her design OK’d by the SPCA. She will cut the fabrics into triangles and use ribbons to tie it around them, making them adjustable for different sizes.
“We’re not trying to create dog fashion,” she said. “These jackets may get chewed up, so we’re designing them in away that’s low-cost — they’re warm, they’re functional, they’re not necessarily going to be fashionable, but they’re going to do the job, and frankly, the thought of dogs who need homes being cold, makes me sad.”
To donate older towels or blankets drop them off at Pet Foods Market, 6 Yarmouth Road in Lunada Bay.