From canine to coat: Fur to help end puppy mills
Hope — Karen Furlong of Hope has kept an oversized fur coat in her closet for the last seven years and is now ready to give it up in hopes of raising money to help end puppy mills.
The coat is not just made from any kind of fur; it was made from spinning her Keeshond dogs' fur into yarn, which was then used to make the coat. The knitwear is called chiengora, which resembles mohair or angora, but is actually spun yarn. In this case, the coat was made from years of collecting fur from her two dogs, Cynders and Lamby, for 13 and 11 years respectively. The fur was collected when she bathed and groomed the dogs. Furlong had the coat made for her own use, but once she received it, it was too big.
Furlong has donated the coat to Main Line Animal Rescue, located in Wayne, Pa. The coat will be a part of the organization's silent auction Wags and Tails, slated for Sept. 29. Starting bid on the coat is $5,000, Furlong said.
In Maine, Furlong is looking for spinners and knitters to work with her to make various items from chiengora; cell phone holders, business card holders, purses, baby booties and scarves to raise money for local animal causes. She first offered the coat to P.A.W.S shelter in Rockport for its capital campaign, but staff did not think the fundraising goal set by Furlong could be reached and that's how she decided on the Pennsylvania shelter, Furlong said.
"We have neighbors in our community who need help feeding their pets, paying for veterinary care, annual shots, tests and spay and neuter operations. I would never want them to have to give up their beloved pets because of financial situations," Furlong said in an email.
When Furlong was a child, she read a book called "Toyon –– A Dog of the North and His People," by Nicholas Kalaashinikoff. Not long after, she was in a store with her mother and met the shop owner's new dog, a Keeshond. Furlong always told her mother when she grew up, she would get a Keeshond and name it Toyon. It was around that same time, Furlong said, her mother read an article about spinning dog fur to make gloves and hats — something Furlong never forgot.
After college, Furlong followed through on her childhood vow — she adopted a Keeshond and named him Toyon. She eventually adopted Cynders and Lamby, who passed away in 2008 and 2009. Furlong's current Keeshond is named Tiffany.
Furlong was at an animal rescue organizations fair in Pennsylvania grooming Cynders when someone asked her why she was saving the fur. At that time, she discovered fiber artist Cheryl Carpenter spinning at the same fair. Since then, the New Jersey artist has made Furlong a ski suit, mittens and purses as well as baby booties for a friend's newborn from saved fur.
The Hope woman would like work with local fiber artists to make yarn and then sell items to donate the proceeds to Penobscot Pet Pantry, which collects and distributes food for people who are having a difficult time paying for food, and a fund at Pen Bay Veterinary that helps current elderly clients and those customers with limited means to pay for veterinary care.
Several area business, including Appleton Ridge Pet Care in Union and Once A Tree in Camden, among other local pet stores, dog sitting services and doggie day care enters have agreed to work with Furlong on the project.
To learn more about Furlong's project or to help, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courier Publications copy editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.