Last November my friend Lisa and I spent a few days volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southwest Utah. I’d volunteered at animal shelters before, and I’ve supported the SPCA for many years, but this place blew my mind. Founded a couple of decades ago by friends – best friends – with a shared believe that “kindness to animals builds a better world for all of us,” BFAS was among the first, and is now the largest, no-kill animal shelter in the U.S.

Lisa and I were so inspired by all that BFAS has accomplished, and by how they’ve worked with individuals and organizations all over the world to do it, that we left feeling like we absolutely had to continue to work for the animals in some way or another. And what better way to do that but to indulge our compulsive need to craft? And, really, it’s no fun unless we try to convince everyone we know to contribute, too.

So today we’re launching the For the Animals! campaign to raise handmade donations to animal shelters, and to encourage people to tell stories about how their lives have been touched by shelter animals. Go on over to the campaign’s page and read all about how you can participate. It’s simple! And fun.

So. I’ll tell you two stories, and I’ll try to be brief.

The first began over eight years ago, when Greg and I drove home from Kamloops, four hours away, with a tiny puppy at my feet in the wheel well of the car. Though Greg had grown up with purebred standard poodles, I’d never lived with a dog. I knew, though, that I was a dog person. And I had a dream of one day adopting a dog from a shelter, giving a home to an animal who desperately needed one. So we spent the first couple of years of our relationship arguing about the provenance of our future pet. I won.

We adopted Cleo as a puppy from the Kamloops SPCA. (It’s very rare to find a puppy at the Vancouver SPCA, and the compromise Greg and I had struck was that we’d adopt a puppy. A mutt puppy.) Cleo’s mother had only been a year old when she’d had her first litter, and she and the litter were left outside in December in the mountains. Half the litter froze to death before they were all found. The SPCA fostered the whole lot, and we brought Cleo home the day she was old enough to be adopted.

Cleo’s a member of our family. She’s funny, and she and Greg love each other. Any concerns Greg had had about mutts melted away with that wee puppy at my feet in the car. Even though Cleo sheds. Constantly.

Ok, that’s not really a story. But it’s Cleo. We love her. And we love watching people cringe when they come up to us on walks and ask what breed she is and we happily reply that she’s a mutt. Why people cringe is beyond us. But it makes us want to shout to the whole world how great mutts are, and how good it feels to give a home to a dog who otherwise might not find one.

Now. Story the second. This one began at Best Friends and will hopefully end happily, but it makes me sad right now. While volunteering with a group of dogs, I fell in love with one. It was sort of love-at-first-belly-rub. The year-old dog’s name is Braxon, and his one-ear-up-and-one-ear-down led me to convince Greg that, though we had never talked about adopting a second dog, we really should. From Utah. To Canada.

We made the arrangements. Because of our plans not to be home over the holidays and our desire to give Braxon some stability once he got here, we planned to receive him on January 7th. Then we got the call about adopting our son Owen, with a day’s notice just before New Year’s. Which meant that come January 7th, we’d have a two-week-old at home.

We were committed to Braxon. We were going to make it work with a new dog and a new baby. Until the adoption coordinator at Best Friends made gentle sense of it all. There was no way we could do it. Braxon, though sweet and loving, was still going to need a lot of attention, especially for the first few months of his living with us. He’d need supervision out in the yard, and he’d need help adjusting to Cleo – and Cleo to him – and we’d need to learn if he had any special needs we’d need to attend to. It simply wasn’t in the dog’s best interest to join our family right then. And so we backed out.

I miss Braxon. I wish we could be his forever home. But I also hope that by the time we are ready to bring a second dog home, he’ll be settled into his own forever home. He’s still at Best Friends, and he’s a sweetheart (nudge nudge).

So those are the two shelter dogs who inhabit my heart.

A few days ago I boxed up some mats and blankets Lisa and I made, and I sent them to Best Friends with a note explaining how inspired we were when we were there, and mentioning this campaign.

See the reddish one, second from the top? I designed that one, and I’ve made the pattern available for free. For now it’s over at Ravelry, but it’ll soon go up at, too. Grab a copy and your hook and get crackin’!

Want to design a pet-related pattern to encourage folks to make items to donate to shelters? You should! When you’re ready, let me know and I’ll add a link to your pattern over on the campaign’s page. Same goes if you want to run some sort of promotion to encourage people to participate.

If there’s one lesson I learned at Best Friends, it’s that every action counts. And action is more fun, and often more satisfying, when taken with friends.

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You summed it up PERFECTLY. The amount of good stuff happening at Best Friends – and their desire to just DO GOOD was so energizing, it makes you want to do good too!!

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