/ adoption

How to Spoil Your Dog with Two Easy Steps

One of the differences between becoming a biological parent and becoming an adoptive parent is the amount of time it takes. The typical human gestation period is about nine months, with some variability–six to eleven months, so sayeth the internet. According to the adoption agency we are working with, more than 50% of their placements are referred to as “emergency adoptions,” which means that the agency is contacted by someone wishing to place an infant for adoption while she is in labor or shortly after giving birth. This means that once all of the required paperwork is complete, and our profiles are given to the agency, it is within the world of possibility we could be parents the next day. That doesn’t usually happen, but it can. The agency has said that folks with our preferences typically will finalize an adoption within six months after finishing paperwork and profiles. (The biggest factor affecting the waiting period tends to be racial choice; the more open hopeful adopters are to race, the faster they can expect a child.) Some people can be on the waiting list two years, but not often longer.

So the construction of our future child probably has been initiated already. Ready player 3. Right. Ok. I better get started with this whole how-to-be-a-daddy thing.

This past Christmas Jesse gave me a bunch of woodworking tools. Well, actually, it was Black Friday when I got them, since he couldn’t exactly sneak a table-saw into the house without me noticing. I’m planning on posting an unboxing video blog in the future, but I haven’t edited together the footage yet.

So I’m not going to show you how to make a baby. That would require a different website host, I think. But maybe I can make some baby stuff. I need some practice, though. It’d probably be in bad form to use my first try at making furniture only to build a crib o’death. How about some dog furniture, instead (hopefully not too mangly-making, either)?

Emily Dog

Emily, our 1.5 year-old 20 pound boglen terrier, likes to peruse the neighborhood from our sun-room, but the little shorty cannot look out the windows without assistance. Jesse decided it would be nice for her to have a raised dog bed there so she could happily spy on the neighbors from a cozy snoozing spot. I thought this was a fantastic idea, and figured some storage could be built in. If I made drawers, Emily could use them as stairs if I added lids to the drawers. Seemed like a fun and easy project.

Jesse had picked out a nice dog bed, so the first thing I did was to make a google sketchup where I drew the dog bed and elevated it with some wood colored rectangles with the dimensions of available lumber to give myself an idea of the amount of wood I should buy and to give Jesse an idea of the aesthetics. (If you’d like the sketchup file, let me know.) After some small adjustments, I had my shopping list.

I went to a big box home improvement store and bought some 9 ½ inch by ¾ inch pine shelving boards (actual dimensions, not pre-dried lumber dimensions, which is how, confusingly, lumber is sometimes sold), ¼ inch plywood, some stain, some sealer, some hinges, and some drawer handles. I had the store cross-cut and rip the plywood into six chunks that could fit into the car, but I didn’t have them do all the final cutting, because where’s the fun in that? After reading my table-saw user manual a couple times, I made my first cuts. I even got some of them right. I found it helpful to go back to sketchup and transfer all of the dimensions I’d need into a printable excel spreadsheet instead of trying to rely on memory.

Once the first several boards were cut, I brought them up to the sun-room to see how they’d fit. Holy-moley, this thing was going to be huge. I showed Jesse and he agreed–too big. We decided on a smaller doggy bed, and I re-drew the project in sketchup. The good news with going smaller was that I didn’t have to buy anything new and that I’d have spare wood. Sweet.

I shortened the boards I’d already cut using the table saw, and cut the rest of the boards. The plywood was still too big for me to work with comfortably on the table saw, so I used sketchup to figure out an arrangement of cuts I could do using my circular saw (I’m really terrible at making non-slanted cuts with it, so gave myself lots error margin). Once the plywood was in manageable pieces, I made the final cuts on the table saw.

So, because of my internet-era goldfish-level attention span, I haven’t worked on this project more than an hour or so at a time. (I seriously took a two hour break from writing this blog post after typing that last sentence.) That is to say, it has taken me a while to finish. While in the midsts of working on it, Jesse and I took a Christmas trip to London and left Emily with a friend. As some of you may know, she went missing for a couple days. There was a search, and finally a rescue with sobbing and puppy treats. But I remember at one point when she was still gone, I went into the workshop and thought, “Well, I guess I won’t have to finish this project” which made me super sad. Good times.

I used a square clamp to hold two of the boards together at a time while I wood-glued and screwed them together. Now, a square clamp seems like it should be a fantastic invention, but the one I used is kind of designed by Satan. The base of the clamp, where the wood rests, is about a half an inch high and not wide enough to support the wood well while trying to get the clamp right, so the wood wobbled badly while I was trying to make the joints. In addition, the wood, after having sat in my shop for a bit, began to warp. This type of warping isn’t unusual, since the climate/humidity of where the tree was cut and where the lumber was allowed to dry before being sold is often different from where the lumber is finally sold. Some woodworkers overcome warped wood by allowing the wood to acclimate to their shop’s environment and then planing the wood, either with a hand planer or a machine planer. We have a hand planer, but it has about 15 years of owchies applied to the blade. I purchased a new blade and attempted to use it, but really only made horrid gouges in the wood. I gave up, and decided to fix imperfections by sanding the snot out of it.

The finished product was to have two drawers and an upper tray to hold the dog bed. This means I made two, three-sided box frames; one four-sided frame; and two drawers. I glued and screwed a plywood bottom to each of the frames, then stacked them on top of each other and fastened them together with glue and pocket holes, using this little guy. Word of advice for anyone attempting to use pocket holes: they’re easier to make by applying to single boards first, but make sure you assemble everything with the hole on the correct side. I’m the doofus who didn’t perform such common-sense seeming things.

I stained and finished the drawer fronts a fun shiny mahogany color to add a bit of contrast to the piece. Assembling the drawers was a bit tricky, since I was working with ¼ inch plywood for the sides and bottom. Can’t really screw those together at 90 degree angles. So I attached some scrap pieces of the thicker board material to the plywood to give me something to screw into from both sides.

The assembled product looked really rough, but after a crazy marathon of sanding, it turned out something that I’m not super ashamed of from a distance. This woodworking thing is going to take some practice.

Emily on her new dog bed