SELKIRK — One of late, standup comedian George Carlin’s best-loved shticks revolved around how, as a kid, his parents would command him to his bedroom for hours on end whenever he misbehaved. That never seemed like much of a punishment, he’d explain in his trademark, wry tone, given that’s where all his “stuff” was, the punch line being if his mom and dad really wanted to teach him a lesson, they would have banished him to their room, instead.

SELKIRK — One of late, standup comedian George Carlin’s best-loved shticks revolved around how, as a kid, his parents would command him to his bedroom for hours on end whenever he misbehaved. That never seemed like much of a punishment, he’d explain in his trademark, wry tone, given that’s where all his "stuff" was, the punch line being if his mom and dad really wanted to teach him a lesson, they would have banished him to their room, instead.

Carlin’s bit came to mind recently during an interview with Matt and Kaelyn Proutt, owners of M+K Wood Co., a Selkirk-based enterprise that turns out hand-crafted, wooden dog kennels that, at first glance, could easily be mistaken for a fashionable end table or armoire.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Nora Proutt shows how easy it is for her dog Callie to get in and out of one of her parents’ kennels.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Nora Proutt shows how easy it is for her dog Callie to get in and out of one of her parents’ kennels.

Three years ago, the married couple brought home Callie, a Labrador-English bulldog mix. They purchased a conventional, wire crate during her puppy phase, which they placed her inside as a form of discipline if she nabbed something from a dinner plate or destroyed a throw pillow. Except after they replaced her metal lair with one Matt fashioned out of spruce wood, which Kaelyn subsequently stained to match their living room decor, they discovered it no longer served its intended, penal purpose.

CALLING OCCUPANTS OF INTERPLANETARY CRAFT

Houston, we had a problem.

A few weeks ago, we profiled Broose Tulloch, a Winnipegger who keeps an Orbit garbage receptacle, a throwback to the 1960s and ’70s, in his front yard on Neptune Bay. An accompanying headline labelled the bin as the “only known survivor of the Orbit invasion,” a description a pair of readers disagreed with, and had the pics to prove it.

Houston, we had a problem.

A few weeks ago, we profiled Broose Tulloch, a Winnipegger who keeps an Orbit garbage receptacle, a throwback to the 1960s and ’70s, in his front yard on Neptune Bay. An accompanying headline labelled the bin as the “only known survivor of the Orbit invasion,” a description a pair of readers disagreed with, and had the pics to prove it.

“I enjoyed your article on Orbit trash cans and remember them well,” wrote a person named Peggy. “On Highway 59 going north, about one kilometre from the Grand Beach cut-off, I believe there is an Orbit in the bush. This used to be a road to Beaches Golf Course many years ago. I couldn’t get really close to it and it looked bigger than I remember, but it might be a long-lost Orbit, possibly painted red?”

Additionally, a woman named Holly sent us a shot of an Orbit she’s been using as a planter the last three summers.

“Hi, I don’t know if this matters to you or not, but I also have an Orbit, in my yard in Winkler,” she wrote in an email, explaining she received it after assisting author Gordon Goldsborough with his 2018 tome, More Abandoned Manitoba.

“In the book, he and I interviewed Peter Boychuk, the inventor of the Orbit, who believes mine is one of the originals, as it has ‘Orbit’ hand-painted in the scrollwork font that was used for the first logo. I just wanted you to know that Broose’s isn’t the only known Orbit left, as the article’s headline suggests.”

"Originally, the kennel was for when she was naughty. But because she seemed to enjoy the new one so much, we had to start leaving the door open all the time, so she could go inside whenever she felt like it," Kaelyn says with a chuckle, seated next to Matt on a couch steps away from their pooch’s hideaway.

"She’s a very good girl so it’s not like we use it as a training mechanism any longer. She still loves it, though, plus it goes with the rest of our furniture, so it’s not like we’ll be removing it, any time soon."

 


 

Matt, who grew up in Tyndall, landed a job at a millwork manufacturer in Winnipeg after completing high school in Beausejour. He remained there for a few years before switching gears to become an independent cabinet maker. He enjoyed the work but when he and Kaelyn learned they were expecting their first child, daughter Nora, about seven years ago, he successfully applied at the steel mill in Selkirk, where they were living, in order to guarantee themselves a steady paycheque.

Like they mentioned, they acquired Callie in 2018, a year before they became parents for the second time. In the fall of 2019, just ahead of hosting a baby shower for their newborn son, Luxton, Matt figured he’d dress up Callie’s existing kennel to make it less of an eyesore. He fashioned a solid, wooden cover they placed directly over top, which doubled as a platform for resting food and drinks on. The second their guests eyed what he’d come up with, they openly wondered why he wasn’t selling similar contraptions commercially.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Kaelyn and Matt Proutt set up finished kennels outside their home.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kaelyn and Matt Proutt set up finished kennels outside their home.

Hmm, that might not be such a bad idea, he remarked to Kaelyn once everybody had left, a notion that was confirmed when he posted an online blurb advertising his kennel covers and was inundated with close to 50 orders in the space of a few weeks.

Matt guesses it was about six months after his initial sale when a pet owner reached out, inquiring if, instead of just a cap, he could order a kennel made entirely out of wood, something that wouldn’t look out of place in the living or dining room, alongside his existing furniture. You betcha, Matt replied, thrilled to be able to put his cabinet-making skills to use, once again.

Using measurements provided by the customer, he built a well-ventilated, rectangular kennel tall enough for its intended inhabitant to be able to sit and stand up in comfortably. The single problem was, he didn’t account for how large, or in this case, small, that particular pooch’s head was, and spaced the bars a touch too wide apart, creating a choking hazard. That’s OK, he said when he realized his error. He would happily build a second model with the bars closer together, and keep the first one for Callie, which, as it turns out, is the precise one she’s napping in during our visit.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Kaelyn Proutt planes wood for a kennel.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kaelyn Proutt planes wood for a kennel.

Matt originally considered the custom order to be a one-off. But after doing a bit of research and realizing so-called "dog crate furniture" was already a bit of a thing in certain parts of North America — Colorado’s B&B Kustom Kennels, for example, was marketing "doggie dens" priced as high as US$1,800 while Merry Products’ Gate-n-Crate, a wooden kennel that can be converted into a pet gate in seconds, had been featured in Dogster magazine — he decided that might be the way to go.

Since establishing M+K Wood Co. in February 2020, weeks before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Matt has built and sold in the neighbourhood of 100 "furever homes," to dog owners throughout Manitoba, and as far west as Calgary. Two weeks ago he and Kaelyn mixed business with pleasure, loading up a trailer and dropping off 20 custom kennels to customers in Saskatchewan and Alberta on their way to Edmonton to spend time with members of her family.

The Proutts offer kennels in four sizes, for dogs as small as a Chihuahua and as large as a Great Dane. Following that, the sky’s the limit, they contend, in terms of accessories and/or adornments. Their Instagram account (instagram.com/mkwoodco) is sprinkled with shots of projects featuring pull-out drawers, side panels, brass handles… there’s even one that came equipped with a requested wine rack. (Might we suggest a Pinot Noir with your poodle? A Shiraz with your Shih-Tzu? We’ll stop now.)

While the frames, which can be wedge-shaped to fit in a corner of a room or deep enough to house a big-screen TV, are made of wood, dividers are sturdy pieces of rebar, which Matt buys in 10-foot-long sections, then cuts and grinds in a basement workshop. Kaelyn tells the story of a Rottweiler, a jailbird in another life, perhaps, that chewed its way out of an early kennel of theirs that utilized wood dividers, the reason for the switch.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Matt Proutt cuts wood in his home workshop.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Matt Proutt cuts wood in his home workshop.

Matt, who dreams of a day when M+K Wood Co. might be his full-time occupation, says if there’s been one drawback thus far, it’s the fact kennels he produced early on don’t necessarily compare with what he’s making these days, as he’s become flooded with so many more ideas.

"Almost every time we finish a new one we stand back and look at it and go, ‘We need to build one exactly like this for ourselves, some day,’" he says, holding Kaelyn’s hand. "The things we’d do if only we had the time, right?"

For more information, go to mkwoodco.ca

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

David Sanderson

Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.

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