Longtime Pit Bull lover Stephanie Karr has been making dog clothes for decades, and while her sewing skills and generosity have earned her star status among some Canadian rescue groups, she never dreamed her hobby-turned-business, Pajamas for Pitbulls, would take her to Los Angeles. When she started gifting dog pajamas to rescues, she couldn’t have predicated she would have a spot in a celebrity gifting suite during this year’s Academy Awards festivities.
“It was the chance of a lifetime that I got invited to go, and I’ve arranged for a rescue dog to be with me at my booth,” says Karr, who was contacted by a gift suite producer after her Pajamas for Pitbulls page gained traction on Facebook.
“The producer happens to be a Pit Bull owner herself, so I sent her a pair of jammies because they like to inspect the quality of the items,” explains Karr, whose handmade dog onesies will be going home with Oscar attendees.
The drive from Calgary, Alberta, to Hollywood, California, is a long one for Karr and her husband, but she believes the exposure she’ll receive from the Oscars will be well worth it.
“More sales means more donation money, which means I can reach out to more rescues.”
That drive to help rescues was what turned Karr’s hobby into a home business in the first place. She’d been sewing little T-shirts and coats for her own dogs for about 20 years when her current Pit Bulls, Thor and Zeus, inspired her to create fleece onesies in November of 2013. The adorable pajamas helped protect her short-haired pooches from wicked Calgary winters and were a big hit with her Facebook friends at Prairie Pit Bull Rescue (PPBR) — the group that one of her chilly dogs came from.
“Zeus is actually a rescue out of California,” says Karr, who enthusiastically accepted an invitation from Prairie Pit Bull Rescue to sell her onesie pajamas during an adoption event. She’d been looking for a way to give back to the group that brought Zeus into her life, and the opportunity seemed like a perfect fit.
“I said, I want to do the adoption event, and I’m gonna give you five dollars from every pair. At the end of my first adoption event, I ended up handing over 60 dollars cash, plus I gave her six or seven pairs of jammies.”
After that, the ball was rolling and Karr — who still works a full-time job — got busy sewing up a storm to raise money for PPBR. In addition to several monetary donations, Karr has donated 30 onesies to and purchased four travel crates for the group.
“It kind of expanded from there,” says Karr, who was contacted by other rescue groups after launching her Facebook page. She estimates she’s donated around a couple thousand dollars to rescues, plus plenty of onesies for groups to use or sell through silent auctions.
“I’ve donated money to AARCS, and at Christmastime I sponsored a dog at Heaven Can Wait — a Pit Bull who’s in its care. I made him a pair of jammies and got him dog food, got him everything on his wish list, as well as donating six pairs of jammies to Heaven Can Wait,” says Karr, who also supports rescues in Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.
Expanding her line of butt-less, belly-less pajamas to breeds of all shapes and sizes allows Karr to expand her sales and help as many dogs as she can.
“I make them for dogs anywhere from five pounds to a 165-pound Great Dane.”
Although the pajamas keep all breeds toasty warm, Karr says they serve a dual purpose for Pit Bulls.
“I think it assists in the demystifying of that bad dog image,” she says, explaining that when Thor and Zeus head to the dog park without coats or clothes, people tend to give the family a wide berth.
“Some people even go to the other side of the dog park — but put them in a pair of pajamas, and people don’t see the Pit Bull anymore, they just see cuteness. They say, ‘Oh, what a cute dog,’ and they’re bending down getting kisses and seeing the wiggle butts and all of a sudden they’re like, ‘What kind of dog is it?'”
“By then, the dog has warmed their hearts,” she says, “and they’ve made their own idea of what the dog is.”
Karr will be advocating for her beloved Pit Bulls (and all rescue dogs) at her Academy Awards gifting booth in downtown L.A. during the 87th Academy Awards. Even before her big trip was announced, Karr began noticing international orders coming in from California and Florida, and she plans to add some lighter fabrics to her line for customers in warmer climates.
Funding the purchase of materials for lighter weight onesies was one of the reasons why Karr created a Kickstarter for Pajamas for Pitbulls. Hundreds of backers purchased pajamas through the Kickstarter, which raised thousands of dollars more than Karr’s original goal of $8,000.
“I’m going to be able to do so much more for dogs and my business,” says Karr.
And while the world will be watching what celebrities are wearing on Oscar night, in the days after the Academy Awards, plenty of Hollywood hotshots will be watching their dogs wear Karr’s creations. It’s the kind of exposure a small, home-based business could only dream of, and it may be the key to keeping more rescue dogs cozy and warm.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.