Tonight, in Ebb and Flow First Nation, 15 dogs will rest their heads in their own doghouses, custom-built by 30 Carpentry & Woodworking students at Assiniboine Community College. In summer, a doghouse provides shade. Come winter, these doghouses will provide insulated warmth to help protect dogs from the wind and cold.
Building houses for dogs in First Nations communities is the brainchild and the passion of Brandon real estate agent Zach Munn.
Last year, Munn approached Kevin Poirier, chair of Construction Trades at Assiniboine, to get some help building the doghouses. Assiniboine students would provide the labour; Munn would pay for the materials, with the help of donations.
“We get lots of requests. The questions we ask are: Is it feasible? Does it fit in our curriculum?” Poirier said.
The college modified Munn’s original plans to make the carpentry work more challenging for the students.
“We agreed on the plans. Then we built them. It’s a good project for our students because they can practise their skills in building roof systems,” Poirier said.
Students were allowed to customize their doghouses with features such as extra trim, curtained doors and even the crescent moon that traditionally adorns outdoor biffies.
“Thanks to Assiniboine for all their help. The doghouses were tremendous. They’re really well-built. Kevin and the staff and students at Assiniboine were very supportive to undertake the task they did. I think it’s great to implement trades programs to help charitable causes,” Munn said.
The materials cost $2,857.35, Poirier said. Munn has raised all but $342 through appeals on his Facebook page. He pays for his own food, hotel and gas for all the trips.
Ebb and Flow was the third First Nations community to receive doghouses from Munn, after he first made similar trips to Peguis First Nation and Sapotaweyak Cree Nation.
Munn has built dozens of doghouses himself and other groups and individuals have also built doghouses to support the project.
Munn has “always had a soft spot for animals. I was trying to think last winter, ‘What could I do, what could I do?’ So I thought, why not build doghouses?”
Munn got permission from the chief and council for his visits. He was accompanied by someone who knew the community and could identify the dog owners who could use the doghouses.
“A lot of people said they would like the doghouses when we did our sign-up list. We were very well-received in every community we went to. A lot of people were very kind to us and appreciative of the doghouses,” offering gifts of fish or invitations to a traditional sweat in return.
Caring about animals runs in the family. Munn’s aunt, Tracy Munn, is the Shelter Manager/Director at the Brandon Humane Society and his sister, Farran LeBlanc, has started a mobile spay and neuter clinic, known as Pawsitive Communities.
Munn and his family are in the process of moving into a new house. Once they’re settled, he’s going to approach Assiniboine for help with another round of doghouses.
“Assiniboine offered to build again next year. Likely in the fall, I’ll start building again myself and then I’ll fund-raise for another trip and organize the help,” Munn said.