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Kibbles and Bits 

Local Matters

Published March 11, 2009 at 10:05 a.m.

If you build it, they will come...

A group of local dog lovers is sniffing around for a suitable site for another fenced-in dog park in Burlington’s South End. Burlington dog owner Connie Gunther is leading a volunteer effort to find an apropos spot for pups to play, and has organized a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11, at the Outer Space Café at 208 Flynn Avenue.

“Everyone’s been very supportive so far,” says Gunther, one of about 60 local dog owners pushing for the new bark park. According to Gunther, her group has gotten encouraging feedback from Burlington Parks and Recreation reps, and from Jodi Harvey, the city’s animal-control officer. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of hurdles to clear, including finding a spot with adequate drainage and no conflicts with wildlife.

“Our biggest challenge right now is our location and our funding,” says Gunther, noting that a new dog park would cost about $10,000, including $5500 for fences and gates alone. “Right now,” she adds, “we don’t have either.”

- Ken Picard

A generous DeGeneres

When Roy Haynes and his wife, Lisa, got a phone call on January 21 asking if they’d be home later that day to receive a delivery, the couple never expected to see an 18-wheeler pull into their Huntington driveway. Their shipment: 1000 cases of free gourmet dog and cat food, compliments of actor and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres.

The Haynes, who operate “Save Our Strays,” a nonprofit animal rescue facility, out of their home, were secretly nominated by a local community member to receive the donation from DeGeneres’ pet food company, Halo Purely for Pets. This year, Halo has donated about $350,000 worth of pet food to 15 organizations nationwide, including $32,000 worth of Halo’s Spot Stew to Save Our Strays alone, a company spokesperson confirmed.

Over the last 14 years, the Haynes have placed nearly 3000 cats and dogs in permanent homes, despite the fact that they don’t advertise themselves as an animal shelter or even have a listed phone number. Nevertheless, so many locals know that they adopt out or find homes for strays that they had to erect a taller backyard fence. The couple permanently houses six dogs and four cats, and built a 16-by-30-foot addition on their garage for the cats alone.

“We’d come home from running errands in town and there’d be a dog in our backyard we didn’t know,” Roy Haynes notes.

How long will 12,000 cans of pet food last? “Quite a while,” Haynes predicts. “I might be dead of old age before that food expires.”

- Ken Picard

Litter o’ kitties

Make all the jokes you like, but former lieutenant gubernatorial hopeful Nate Freeman of Northfield has traded his political aspirations for cat poop. Freeman, who lost in last fall’s Democratic primary to Tom Costello, is now trying his hand at a higher calling: selling Vermont-made kitty litter. And thus far his progress has been nothing to scratch at.

Two years ago Freeman founded the company, Green Mountain Kitty Litter, after his girls, who were 5 and 6 at the time, adopted a pair of kittens. Freeman, who was initially buying the cheapest clay cat litter he could find, immediately realized the stuff was less than ideal, either for home cleanliness or eco-friendliness. One corner of his backyard was becoming “a monument to cat poop.”

After trying out a few biodegradable alternatives that were little more than wood pellets, Freeman saw an opportunity to seize on the Vermont brand. Hence, Green Mountain Kitty Litter was born. Its slogan: “Happy kitties. Happy noses. Happy home.”

Currently the product, which has been on store shelves since November, is sold only at Pet Food Warehouse. And, as Freeman explains, the wood-based product includes a triple-enzyme powder to control odors, though he admits it “doesn’t clump well enough.” But with two cats at home to keep up the R&D, Freeman expects to have that problem solved soon.

It’s also worth noting that Green Mountain Kitty Litter isn’t made from Vermont wood. But, Freeman notes, the most common local wood source, oak, is less than ideal. “Oak is fine for whiskey barrels,” he says, “but not so good for the litter box.”

- Ken Picard

Hair of the dog

Shedding can be a good thing — especially when Cindy Kilgore of Sacred Spirit Dog gets a hold of the dog hair. The Granville resident, who also works as a travel writer, crafts scarves and rugs from canine fur. She sells the furry fashions on her nascent website — — and at Vermont fiber festivals and “doggie events.” Prices range from $70 to $175.

Kilgore says dog hair is a perfect medium — much warmer than sheep’s wool. It also has inherent sentimental value: Kilgore receives hair deliveries from dog owners in such distant locales as Florida and California. The warm-and-fuzzy products of her labor double as living shrines to deceased pets.

Sacred Spirit Dog products promote a righteous cause. Kilgore, who has worked in dog rescue for 12 years, says she donates 40 percent of sales from each scarf and rug to animal rescues and humane societies. “Nobody needs to be buying a dog,” asserts 53-year-old Kilgore. “This gives another vehicle to put that word out.”

Joyce Roberts, who owns the Waitsfield grooming service Dog Gone Style, supplies Kilgore with dog hair. Roberts recalls that, on top of making her a pretty scarf, Kilgore helped her save money on trash bills.

- Mike Ives

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.


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