An uncontroversial development: Builders donate 20 dog houses

BOZEMAN, MT -- Max, a chocolate Lab, snatched up a scrap piece of a 2-by-4 and laid it down expectantly at Andy Jackson's feet. The dog's eyes watched nothing but the wood, ready for a foot to send it skittering out into the parking lot.

The game continued for a minute, but Jackson, president of Presidential Construction in Belgrade, couldn't let Max distract him too long. He had to get back to work helping 30 or more of Max's canine buddies.

Twelve local construction companies and assorted people volunteered time, labor and materials this weekend to build 20 badly needed dog houses for the Humane Society of Gallatin Valley.

''Every dog needs a home, from the teacup poodle to the top dog,'' Jackson said over the whine of a circular saw.

The plan had been to build the dog houses on site, at the Humane Society's shelter off of North Rouse in Bozeman, but Saturday's rain killed that idea.

Instead, Jim Bottcher of Schlauch Bottcher Construction in Bozeman offered his indoor shop. The crew of volunteers spent Saturday morning assembling the dog houses and set them up at the shelter Sunday.

That's not too soon for the more than 30 dogs that are housed outside the shelter in chainlink dog runs.

Because of the increased number of dogs brought to the shelter last year, the Humane Society decided to build outside kennels, said Director Kate Willer. Employees built dog houses out of hay bales but, because of a lack of funding, they weren't able to cover the bales with stucco.

''Dogs doing what dogs do, got into them, spread the hay around the floor,'' Willer said Saturday. ''By spring, the dog houses were reduced to a pile of straw.''

It was evident the shelter needed new, permanent dog houses, she said.

A local designer, Dan Kamp, volunteered his time and worked up drawings, which Willer sent out in proposal packets to members of the Southwest Montana Building Industry Association, asking for their help.

''We got back commitments for 20 dog houses, which was exactly what we needed,'' Willer said.

Willer asked builders to commit to at least one dog house, but some builders, like Click's Construction and Presidential, offered to build more.

At $400 per dog house, not including labor, ''that's a healthy chunk of a donation,'' said Mark Evans, with SMBIA.

These dog houses aren't slapped together with wood scraps. It's all new material and each house is about 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall, complete with two doors and a hinged roof for easy cleaning and maintenance. The walls and roofs will be insulated.

Builders want nothing but the best for the dogs, said Jackson, pointing to the old joke that where you find a level and a dog, a builder won't be far behind.

''Dogs really are our best friends. Some of our fondest memories are with dogs,'' Jackson said.