By Karen Mantel

OVC dog house competition
The winning team, the Scooby Do’s, with their finished dog house.

Screwdrivers and paintbrushes aren’t the typical tools you’ll find in a student veterinarian’s hand, but they were indispensable in a recent doghouse-building challenge at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC). Teams of OVC students squared off in friendly competition to win the inaugural Nestlé Purina Doghouse Build and Design Challenge.

Organized by Debbie Sigesmund (OVC ’00), veterinary communications manager with Nestlé Purina PetCare, the event will benefit Kettle and Stony Point First Nation, near Sarnia, Ont., where the finished doghouses will be delivered in late November.

Sigesmund worked with the OVC Community Outreach Club faculty advisor Shane Bateman and OVC senior development manager Carly O’Brien to fine-tune details of the event.

With only two-and-a-half hours to assemble, paint and design their houses, eight teams of four students went to work. Students had five minutes to describe their houses before judges awarded the top two spots.

Students presented creative designs, including a four-season concept featuring snow, moose, geese and autumn leaves; a cartoon-hero design exemplifying the best-friend bond between people and companion dogs; and northern-themed approaches. One house design reflected the heritage of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point, including wolves, representative of First Nation culture, and “kettles” (spherical rock formations), for which Kettle Point is well known.

Winning team, the Scooby Do’s, depicted a scene from the animated film Up, and runner-up team, the Ruff Oaties, brought their theme home with OVC class logos from the four current class years.

Judges awarded points based on team co-operation, team spirit, creativity of design and execution of design.

OVC students have a long partnership with the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation through the OVC Community Outreach Club. Several years ago the club was contacted by Alison Bressette, a community member who was working to provide pet health information and resources to the First Nation Reserve.

Bressette invited the group to participate in an annual autumn Straw Day event in which supplies of straw to insulate outdoor housing and extra dog food are distributed at the reserve. Many dogs from reserves are free-roaming and live outdoors all year, says Bressette. These supplies support the dogs through the winter. The partnership grew, and the First Nation committee of the OVC student-run club now holds regular wellness clinics at Kettle and Stony Point providing basic care, including core vaccinations and physical exams.

This year, Straw Day will also see the arrival of eight custom-designed doghouses, along with a pet food donation from Nestlé Purina.

“It truly touches my heart,” says Bressette, an event judge, of the ongoing student support. “And I know 100 per cent that community members are very grateful, too.”

Debbie Bick, director of nutrition sales at Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada and another event judge, says the doghouses represent a connection. “This is a really beautiful experience.”

The doghouses are on display across campus until Nov. 19 when they will be transported to Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. Locations include: Hill’s Pet Nutrition Primary Healthcare Centre; Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Cancer reception area; OVC Companion Animal Hospital reception area; U of G President’s Office (University Centre); Alumni House lobby; Pawsway in Toronto; and the OVC cafeteria.