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Quilts, Quilting and Our Pets

I had full intentions of following Julia's last post, Let's Improvise, and discussing my own passion for improvisational quilting with you this week. But life gets messy sometimes. A few days ago, I said goodbye to my sweet Springer Spaniel, Betsy. She had spent the 12 years of her life by my side. I am not exaggerating -- she was ALWAYS by my side. I lovingly called her my Velcro dog. She was always there, in the middle of things, looking at me with eyes that could melt my heart.

As I spent the past few days processing what happened, I began looking through old photos - not just of Betsy, but of all of my previous pets. What is it about pets and quilts? The majority of the photos I have of my fur babies also have a quilt in sight. They are either napping on a quilt or laying beside a quilt, but with one paw on top placed on it to suggest that is theirs . . .

or just outright claiming it as their territory, as my 3 year old Chihuahua rescue, Lil' Boo is so good at.

But the majority of my photos find them burrowed happily underneath whatever quilt is left in a sunny spot on the couch.

I came to the conclusion that there is more to this than just a cute photo op. There are a lot of pets out there that are perfectly happy to claim their owners' quilts as their own personal comforter, whether finished or not!

Let's take Betsy as an example - I spend the majority of my day in my sewing studio, working away with what eventually becomes a quilt on my lap, to unpick a seam, hand quilt it, or stitch down a binding. Betsy was always by my side, waiting patiently for me, no matter what I was doing. Is it possible that she saw my quilts and fabric as an extension of me? Well, let's face it, they kind of are! Maybe because I spent so much time with them, she considered them to be the equivalent of my lap, a comforting spot to curl up on - or in.

I have even been known to make a nest of batting a few times for hummingbirds that crash into our windows. They feel safe enough to rest comfortably and revive themselves, then fly off in 20 to 30 minutes.

We all think quilts are cozy and warm. They reflect a sense of a consistent, comforting spot to return to over and over again - when we are sad, don't feel well, or just want to take a Sunday afternoon nap. It makes sense that our pets would feel the same way. Most pets have a favorite stuffy toy, why not a quilt? Stuffy toys get a bit gnarly between washes. Quilts smell like their owner!

I did a little internet sleuthing regarding animals and quilts. Most animal shelters are not able to provide cozy bedding to each animal that arrives. This means they may be sleeping on cold, cement floors, perhaps with a bit of newspaper. They are moved around from cage to cage. Pet beds, blankets, and towels come in as donations to help with this issue. But they are usually not able to provide one particular consistent, comfort item that each animal can adopt as their own. There are a few organizations that focus on providing comfort to shelter animals in blankets and quilts that the animals will be able to call their own, I thought I would share a bit about two of these organizations that are making a difference to so many fur babies.

"Why Blankets for Animal Shelter Pets?

An animal's life can be challenging when they find themselves in an animal shelter. Despite heroic efforts by the staff and volunteers, it's extremely stressful as they are moved from cage to cage, and subjected to new sights and sounds on a daily basis. Having something to call their own, which provides warmth year-round, familiar smells and a soft touch, can make all the difference. Once the pet is adopted, their blanket provides a cushion against the (wonderful) stress of getting to know their new surroundings and family. Once again, their blanket provides something comforting and familiar."

“When you put an animal in a strange environment, he’s often nervous and depressed. Some sit there shaking. They don’t look attractive to potential adopters. As soon as you put in soft bedding or a blanket, they sniff it and snuggle into it. They have something of their own, and it makes them happier and more secure. Potential adopters see them cuddled up or wagging tails in something that looks like a home environment, and they get adopted more quickly. That saves two lives, because now there’s space for another animal that might have been euthanized because the shelter was full.

I hopes this adds to our long list of reasons that we all love quilting. And remember, the next time your pet can't keep his paw off your latest project, that just might be his way of saying, "I love you and all that you do."

I am going to end with one of my favorite photos of Betsy. This was her spot - a reading nook in my sewing room, with a view of the canyon and all the critters that strolled by. I like to think she was perusing for a good quilt book to read, but actually, she was staring at a little jar of treats that I kept on the top shelf.

Consider donating to your local animal shelter the next time you find a blanket you don't need. or even practice a new quilt technique on a small dog or cat quilt for a shelter. Remember, they won't care if your points don't match or it is a weird color combination, but they will be ever so grateful for your generosity.

Have a good week! Pati

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