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Going to the Dogs

Going to the Dogs

Shhhhh, don’t spoil the surprise! Prancer, my parents’ precious Pomeranian, will soon receive a new, albeit re-purposed, grand four-poster bed. Not just any old store-bought bed will do. She’ll be gifted with a unique creation, hand-crafted from once fine furniture. While Prancer the Pom does not seem to appreciate recycling, reusing, or repurposing, I do. This project will divert good stuff from our local landfills whether Prancer approves or not. On a side note, that’s not jealousy that you read in my words when referring to my fluff ball sister. I’ve long known my place in our family: just below “Miss P” and just ahead of my sister’s parakeets.

As you may suspect, I have ulterior motives for taking on this project. I’m using Prancer’s bed to kick off a new column about RE-DIY projects for the Sunday Gazette-Mail. We have many great projects and project engineers lined up for the months ahead, but just to show the readers how doable these projects actually are, I’ll build the first project myself.

I’m going to follow the three regulations we’ve set for each RE-DIY. 1. Projects can only require the use of hand tools and an electric drill. We’re applying the same rational as Habitat for Humanity by not allowing volunteers to use nail guns when building homes. Power tools + inexperience = blood! 2. The process should be the fun! Being open to inspiration and daydreaming about the end result is therapeutic. And completing a unique project of one’s own design is worthy of celebration.  3. The materials should be readily available at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, other charitable thrift stores, and local business establishments. Why? Because buying (and re-buying) local is cool!

So here are the steps you’ll need to follow to create your own fabulous spoiled doggy bed.

  • Observe the Canis lupus familiaris in his natural environment to determine the appropriate size bed. Watch how he sleeps. Does he stretch out or curl into a tight ball? I recommend a coffee table for the stretchers and a round end table for the curlers. Take measurements of the pups in repose to guarantee a snug but comfortable fit.
  • Find the perfect table. Use one you have or pick one up at the Habitat ReStore, Goodwill, or Mountain Mission.  You are looking for a table made of real wood or wood veneer that when flipped upside down creates a base to frame a small mattress.

ReStore Tip: Identify your surface. Real wood will display a grain and have a consistent look and          texture throughout. Wood veneer is a thin layer of real wood (usually thinner than 1/8”) that is bonded to a less expensive core (cheap wood or particle board). Laminate is a man-made product (usually plastic) that is actually “printed” to look like real wood. While it is possible to paint laminate, it requires a few extra steps.

  • Don’t forget to take a “before” photo of your soon-to-be canine creation!
  • Choose a fun color combination and purchase your paint. I suggest latex enamel in semi-gloss. Latex paint is water-based and non-hazardous. Latex enamel dries much harder than regular latex, and the semi-gloss sheen is easy to clean.

ReStore Tip: Pick Your Palate. If you are struggling to identify your color scheme, look around for inspiration. Make like a chameleon and mimic your favorite flower. Cruise Sneed’s in North Charleston and let a patterned piece of cloth be your guide. Use your lack of creativity as an excuse to attend the Capital City Arts & Craft Show at the Civic Center this week and let the work of other local crafters fill you will ideas. Meditate in front of the paint swatches at Zeegar Hardware until your inner voice tells you how to proceed. Get out there, be open to inspiration, and just like your furry friend, it will lick you in the face.

  • Remove the hardware and feet from your table to protect them from damage and paint. Paint them a different color if you like, using spray paint made especially for metal.
  • Sand your wooden piece of furniture. The goal is to remove any protective varnish or lacquer, making it easier for the primer coat to adhere.

ReStore Tip: Know Your Grit. The labeling of sandpaper seems a bit counterintuitive to me, but Rich from Zegeer Hardware on Washington Street East helped me understand: The bigger the number, the smoother the paper. Here’s a quick guide for beginners. #320 – #220 is fine grit, as refined as “Lady” of the Disney Classic “Lady and the Tramp.” #120 – #80 is medium grit, more like Lady’s companion, the “Tramp.” Yes, it’s gritty, but a softy at heart. #60 – #36 is very coarse grit. Think “Cugo.” It will rip and peel with little regard for damage or injury. Attack your seriously damaged sanding jobs with the lower grits working your way up to the finer grit. Roughen glossy paint and/or finishes with the higher grits (#120) to help new coats of paint or primer attach to the surface. 

  • Clean your smooth table with a damp rag dipped in a mixture of water and a mild detergent. Don’t use Murphy’s Oil Soap! It is intended for cleaning finished wood surfaces and it will leave a bit of an oily residue behind. I used Dawn dish soap. Let your table dry completely before proceeding.
  • It’s easy to justify skipping this next step, but I think it is important. Priming your table creates a surface that will be very receptive to paint, creating a longer-lasting finish. It may be easier to use spray primer on tables with lots of curves. Kilz (a brand readily available at most hardware stores) makes good spray-on and paint-on primers. Let your table dry completely before proceeding.
  • Paint your primary colors first, followed by secondary and accent colors. Use painter’s tape to protect from over-paint or to create any sassy designs.
  • Let your table dry for at least 24 hours (more is better if it’s a typical humid West Virginia day). Take this time to work on your pooch’s mattress.
  • Measure the space available for your mattress (actually a pillow) and start shopping or sewing an insert. I highly recommend pillows with removable cases for easy cleaning. Watch your pup, considering all factors before choosing a mattress. Older dogs may be more comfy on memory foam pillows, while younger dogs may like to nest in multiple pillows. When I’m looking for inexpensive pillow, Gabriel Brothers is my first stop.
  • Spray or paint a water-based polyurethane finish on all surfaces of the bed after the paint is completely dry. Water based paints and polys are easier to clean-up, low odor, and, unlike oil-based paints and polys, are not considered to be hazardous. Let your table dry completely before applying a second coat of polyurethane. It’s easy and fun to break up the multiple priming, painting, and polying steps into week-night tasks. Each step only consumes an hour or less of your evening and it preps your project for the weekend when you can spend more time being creative.
  • Re-attach the hardware and feet. If your pup appreciates pizazz, add a little bling to his bed! Perhaps a canopy, fringe as a bed skirt, or finials on the posters. I screwed a dowel rod into the table shelf to create a canopy, draped a little fabric over it, and hot-glued the cloth down around the edges. The finishing touch can in the form of drawer knobs from the ReStore. They made perfect finials!
  • Run a few strips of carpet tape across the bottom of the bed (top of the table) to protect hardwood floors and to prevent the bed from sliding on carpet.
  • Train that pup to use his new bed!

ReStore Tip: Training. According to Colleen Lemasters, Kanawha Obedience Training Club instructor, the best way to get your bestie to use his new bed is through verbal affirmation and treats. Shower poochie with love and attention while he’s in his bed and hide treats in it while he’s not looking as a delayed reward. Colleen also says, “Dogs have powerful olfactory receptors which are active during even their deepest phases of sleep, so smelling something familiar will keep them at ease.” Put some of your belongings, such as a sock or T-shirt into the new bed. If you have a particularly nervous pup, dab his pillow with a little lavender essential oil.

Upon presenting your creation, accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. Email me pictures of your project, preferably with your furry friend, and we’ll feature your photos ReStore Facebook page to celebrate your success! Good luck!

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