In its native Siberia, the hair of the Samoyed Husky is often collected to make clothing for its owners.
It’s so cold in New York right now that we’re all wishing we had that extra protective layer to keep us a little bit warmer but we can’t say we’ve yet looked to our pets to make this happen.
Co. Tyrone man Tony Jenkins, however, will think of his favorite dearly departed dog, Harry, in the future when he pulls on his new Aran sweater to keep out the chill. Having collected kilograms of the Samoyed Husky’s fur while he was alive, Jenkins recently had a woolen company craft it into a new sweater that would keep him closer than ever to the beloved family pet.
In December 2017, Jenkins received his $860 (€700) sweater specially crafted at a Co. Donegal woollen mill that used an old spinning wheel to spin the wool from Harry’s fur.
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Although a native of Liverpool, England, Jenkins has spent most of his life in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, after marrying a local women. Harry, the Samoyed Husky, was, in fact, not his own pet but was a puppy bought by Jenkins' daughter’s boyfriend that he took it on himself to look after, forming a very special bond with the pooch before he passed away three years ago.
“It’ll be three years this April since he died. I remember when he arrived, he was just a huge ball of wool but I lifted him and I could feel his heart racing; he was terrified," Jenkins told the Irish News.
“When Bernie [his daughter] left for work, she left him in the utility room and she lived just below us so I could hear him crying. That first day I went over and picked him up and something clicked; there was a bond from that moment."
Throughout his 11-year life, Harry was doted on by Jenkins and the strength of the bond was only recognized when the man was forced to put his dog to sleep when he caught pneumonia.
“When the vet gave him the injection, Harry collapsed into my arms and died. I’m not overly sentimental but I cried for the first time since I was young,” he said.
Traditionally in Siberia, owners of Samoyed Huskies, which is very similar to a husky but with an extra brilliant white coat, would retain hair from the dog in order to make gloves and hats for themselves and to take advantage of their amazing cold-fighting fur. Jenkins had collected the fur as well but until Harry’s death had not looked into what he could do with it.
“I had about 3 kg of his hair and I thought it would be a good idea to get a jumper made," Jenkins said.
"The big thing was to have the hair carded so it could be spun into wool and it took me ages to get someone to do that. Then I called at Studio Donegal in Kilcar one day and spoke to Tristan Donaghy.
“He said he wasn’t interested but I asked him to look at the hair in the car boot and as he was talking, he started twirling the hair and changed his mind.”
Using a smaller and older carding machine, with Donaghy’s mother even taking to a spinning wheel to spin the wool, the process took longer than expected as she had to take a break from the work to care for her own sick husband.
The garment was finally delivered in December 2017, however, and Jenkins couldn’t be happier to be at least a little closer to having Harry back with him.
“I still miss Harry and he wasn’t even my dog; I just looked after him," he said.
"But there was a special bond and I can feel close to him this way."
Would you consider making a jumper out of your pet's hair?