Karla Dixon, of Annandale, works at a veterinary clinic in town. She is often the first person you see when you walk in or the first person who answers the phone. Her outgoing personality endears her to the many clients (both the animals and their humans) as she remembers each person and their pet without having to ask a phone number or name. After working with animals and the public all day, many people might need a break from animals and people in the evenings. But Karla uses her day off, as well as some evenings, to volunteer to help rescue animals.

Karla Dixon at her home in Annandale. Karla does a lot to help animals both at work and at home. Photo by Karen Flaten

Working with Crossroads Animal Shelter in Buffalo, Karla coordinates making the liners for popular-sized pet crates. Specifically, Karla finds people to sew the crate liners and coordinates getting them the material they need and transporting the liners where they need to go. This may not seem like a huge task, but, as Karla said, “It is not easy to find people who want to sew these days!” Karla recruits new people and finds ways to work with the schedules of those who volunteer to sew.

Karla’s role as coordinator of the crate liner project began years ago, when she used to house sit for people.

“I would get bored,” said Karla, “because, you know, there’s not that much to do when you are house sitting…water the plants, check the house, that’s about it.  So I would bring things to do.”  Karla used to do the laundry and whatever else the homeowner had left undone, just to be helpful and to have something to do. When she house sat for the manager of the Crossroads Animal Shelter, the manager was making crate liners at home. Karla volunteered to help, and the rest is history.

“She used to have cutting parties. We would all come and cut fabric,” remembered Karla.

Since then, Karla has taken the helm of the project, purchasing fabric with her own money from stores wherever she travels, having her own cutting parties, and delivering the fabric to the volunteers who sew the crate liners. Karla takes it a step further. She picks up the almost-finished crate liners, then stuffs them with batting, and delivers them to the next volunteer for the finishing touches – sewing them together and topstitching them. She picks up the finalized crate liners and brings them to her home or to another designated location to store until they can be sold.

Crossroads Animal Shelter sells the crate liners at events, such as the American Kennel Club Dog Show, held at Canterbury Downs in November, and the annual Sidewalk Craft Sale in Buffalo, in order to raise money for the shelter. They are also sold in the shelter’s gift shop and at a few specialty shops in the area. This past summer, Karla spent a weekend selling crate pads at the Wright County Swappers Meet near Fairhaven, where she had quite a bit of success.

Karla’s basement is filled with uncut bolts of fabric and piles of crate liners of all sizes.  She has fabric for the tops of the liners and fabric to be used for the bottoms; printed fabric and plain; flat fleece and berber fleece. There are piles of pre-cut fabric and rolls of batting on tables throughout the room, all carefully organized according to size and color. Since she also makes catnip toys, there are even piles of small squares of fabric to be sewn for the toys, as well as containers of thread for her serger.

Upstairs, Karla’s serger sits on the dining room table, ready for her to turn the squares of fabric into cat toys – square pillows filled with catnip and batting that cats enjoy playing with. “Sometimes my cats help me with my work,” she said, showing a video of her two cats playing with a large piece of batting that she was using to stuff a crate liner.

Karla has taken on the crate liner project with gusto, creating connections, not just with other volunteers, but also with the owners of small shops throughout the area who have given her special deals on fabric or have agreed to sell the crate pads for her.

“There was a lady at the quilt shop,” said Karla, “she used to give me a 20 percent discount whenever I came in – and I only came in about once a year – but she remembered me. And she also donated scraps of fabric and batting that we can use!”

“The owner of another store up in Princeton ordered in a bunch of berber fleece,” she said. “I walked in and put rolls of the stuff in my cart!  It was just before closing, and he asked me how much I wanted off the bolt so he could cut it for me, and I said no – I’ll take the whole roll!  Well, there was a sale starting the next day – buy one yard, get the next yard for a penny. He gave me the deal!”

Karla has made many, many crate liners over the years. This is a photo of some completed liners at her home in Annandale. Photo by Karen Flaten.

“Flat fleece,” said Karla, “is easy to find…but berber fleece – that is harder to come by.” The excitement she feels at finding deals or just finding beautiful fabric that will make a comfy crate liner for someone’s pet is contagious.

In addition to coordinating the crate liner project, Karla picks up the donation jars which appear at various businesses around Annandale, as well as creating her custom catnip pillows and jars of catnip which are for sale at the veterinary clinic.   

“That is not a small job,” said Karla, listing the steps she takes to put together the small jars of catnip. A friend donates the baby food jars, but the jars have to be soaked in hot water in order to remove the labels – and sometimes she has to use another product to remove all the glue. The lids are spray painted before the catnip is added to the jars. Then they are covered with fabric and a ribbon to make them ready for sale. Oh, and she collects the catnip and dries it herself!

Although she spends a lot of time volunteering, as well as quite a lot of her own money on the fabric, coordinating the crate liner sewing project is a project that is dear to her heart. Karla expressed her appreciation for all the people who help, especially the women who sew the crate pads. “If they are willing to do the work, I’m willing to keep them busy!”