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Barkley Our Bible Buddy's Dog House  

We all know that puppet ministry is a great tool for reaching young children for Christ, but the puppets are so expensive! And then you need money (and know how) to make the "thing" you perform behind. I'm SO EXCITED to tell you that I just found a fantastic dog puppet, adorable and sooooo soft to touch, at Steinmart for only $11! But it gets even better - after using hubby's birthday discount, I brought him home for only $9!!!! He is made by Aurora. I started out wanting this crazy, gorgeous, outrageous pink fish, but I realized that's it's more girly and a dog works for everyone, so, "Barkley, my Bible Buddy" came home to meet Boo! Boy did she have a reaction! She sat or curled up next to him everywhere I put him! Barkley's bigger than Boo! By the way, we are celebrating our three year anniversary of when we rescued her, and what a wonderful and blessed three years it has been!
I have never really done puppets, other than the paper fish puppets I shared with you earlier. This is way out of my personal comfort zone, but I just see such potential here. So I slid my hand into his tummy and started experimenting in front of the bathroom mirror. I love how he's designed, for the most part. He can naturally sit in my other arm as he does his thing, or can move away from me just fine. What's sad is that I cannot put my fingers in his front legs and work his mouth at the same time. He has a great mouth, but I can only get two fingers near it when I'm in his legs too and my fingers aren't long enough or strong enough to work his mouth too, so it's either or. But he's really great!

I remember when my daughters did puppet ministry when they were in high school and I remember how their arms hurt with those big puppets having to be held over their heads for such long periods of time. I didn't expect Mom's arm to ache for days after practicing with little Barkley for the first time! I don't even have to lift him above my head!!! I'm stunned that I'm still aching...even typing! New exercise routine...puppetry!!

My next thought was the importance of making this "special" for the children so they will really pay attention. In a day and age where almost every child in America is lavished with all manner of blessing, it's hard to compete. Even the "poor" have things that would have been un-thought of years ago.

The more "special" I can make this = the more memorable = more ability for the lessons to really get into them and stay. What I know about "special" is that there needs to be restrictions. Anything we have no restrictions on is completely taken for granted and cannot be special, so...Barkley will only be accessible at certain special times and conditions. Next problem...where does Barkley go when he's not teaching the children? We are a very small fellowship and meet in a rented portion of an old funeral home. Almost no furnishings and everything is out in the open. Where could Barkley go where children could not get to him (for his sake and to make him more special to them)? If they can handle him at will, the "special" dies. I want him to be real and alive and a trusted friend to them. The obvious thought was a dog house! He could teach from it at times, and always retreat into it when he's done and be off limits to everyone! Yeah!

Ok, now I need to build a dog house... I went to Home Depot and trolled for empty boxes. I was blessed to find one almost the right size for the body of the dog house. A nice employee sent me to receiving where I found an empty microwave box that had large enough panels to be a roof. Yeah! I was on my way!
I tried to think out how I would do this. I knew I wanted to make it so that Barkley could talk from his house and then actually "jump" out of it into my arms for the rest of the lesson, so I decided to leave part of the bottom open to the door so my arm could "come out" of the box. Sadly, after a lot of work, my husband posed the ridiculously obvious question of where would the dog house be/how would I actually use this. After a few moments of trying, I realized there was a flaw in my plan. It would have been best because my arm isn't quite long enough to reach through the back and have Barkley hanging out the front talking. :( I patched up the bottom. Like all things you do without a pattern, it's trial and error till you get it tailor made to fit!
I used one piece of cardboard for the roof, scoring and bending. It will be stronger than two separate pieces. I ran a strip of duct tape along the score on the underside for additional strength. I left the roof separate from the house. I also made the roof flush to the back of the house so that when I would have to reach through the back I wouldn't have roof overhang in my way...especially since I can barely reach at all! I know I can cut the depth of the box to accommodate my arm, but I don't want to because when this is used from the pulpit instead of just in class, it will be seen from sides as well as front and I want it to look right that way too. And more importantly, I have plans for the roof that NEED the strongest support possible and cutting the box would NOT be good for that.
I was pretty tickled so far and even tacked a scrap to the front to become his name plate. But after a bit I realized that though the proportions were good width-wise, it was way too tall to look right. Again tailoring, I cut the entire bottom 4" off the house...including the painstakingly restored underside! I had to alter the door too, but trial makes perfect!
Now that's looking good! I think Barkley is eying some of Boo's treats there! Now, to give you an idea of how all the parts fit together under the roof. The house itself is made of only one box, no added pieces. It's just scored and bent then glued and duct taped for additional strength. The roof is one solid piece from another box.
Now for the awesome and awful part! I want this to be as special as possible to capture the children's attention. When we had a new roof put on our house years ago, I had asked for the remainder of the open pack of shingles to be left with us in case we needed to patch it at some time. Of course, we never used them and two years ago had to re-roof again and this time with those wonderful architectural shingles :) So the shingles they left had never been used... *grins*

How cool is this! Put real shingles on the dog house roof! I wanted to put cardboard "planks" around the walls too, but my husband started getting upset about how much I was doing here, so I settled for the roof. Let me tell you, winter is the WORST time to make this dog house! Nowhere to spray paint, nowhere to escape fumes from adhesives and oh boy did I learn you DO NOT want to do shingles INSIDE your house!!!! What a mess and constant vacuuming & sweeping to try not to destroy the floor by walking on all those gnarly, gritty crumbles!!! I'm still finding more of them!
First I spray painted the roof black so anything peeking through wouldn't matter. Not so good on a winter day...and with a mist falling too! Definitely NOT recommended spray paint conditions!

I quickly found that shingles don't just "cut". I was blessed to have my dear Father's tin snips and they worked great, but my hands still hurt from all the working with the shingles. It was SO WORTH IT! I kept thinking that he could never have imagined his tin snips would be used to shingle a cardboard dog house for a PUPPET for children at a church! He was a design engineer and used all his tools "the right way". I love you Daddy and I miss you!

I eyeballed the roof and decided that for my roof, 4" square shingles would give me four rows and leave enough to overlap the tops. I knew that attaching them would be a challenge and that they would be heavy. Remember not wanting to cut the back of the box away to make the box shorter for my arm?? I got regular brads and used my razor knife to start a hole in the middle top of each shingle, about 1/2" down. Then I placed them where they would go on the roof and pressed the brad into the cardboard. Most times it wouldn't go through, but it did mark the spot so I could use the razor knife to make a tiny starter hole. I spread the brad open on the underside to hold them. I think this is a great way to not fully depend on adhesive to support them.

I found that the brad alone allowed too much movement of the shingles and brads from the rows below were showing, so I laid a strip of duct tape, sticky side up, under the row to temporarily hold them together. Isn't it looking adorable???!! I used left over Krylon Banner Red spray paint on the house. It's the same one I used on the gumball machine. Can we say "perrrrrfect"? I sprayed the inside black so it would disappear when in use.
The top row was more challenging. I couldn't use brads as they would show. I didn't expect any adhesive I had to work. I tried hot glue and Aleene's Tacky Glue - big NOPE! I ended up laying three long pieces of duct tape next to each other, just overlapping, to make a wide strip the length of the roof. I centered it on the ridge, sticky side up again, and arranged the shingles to meet each other at the top.
Clearly this wouldn't be sufficient, so off to the store again for some Liquid Nails. I gently lifted all the shingles and put some under each. It said to use in a well ventilated area, so add that to another reason NOT to make this in the winter. It stank all night, but we had no options and since we are all still alive, even tiny Boo, I guess it's ok, but I'm NOT recommending it. It didn't dry clear, but my Sharpie marker fixed that one little spot easily.

If I were to make another roof I would do it differently knowing what I do now. I would lay the roof flat and attach each shingle with the Liquid Nails. I would do all but the top rows. (It takes 24 hours to cure.) Then I would put it on the house and I might do the top rows the same way I did this time. They must be held in place for at least 20 min.

I had kept a scrap of cardboard (from the bottom) to be the name plate. I sprayed it with some off white leftover paint. Then I measured it and designed the name plate in PhotoShop and printed it on cardstock. I used Aleene's Tacky Glue to attach it to the cardboard and then sealed with a coat of ModPodge on top to protect it. At first I thought the ModPodge ruined it. It bubbled up all over. But when it dried, it was perfect! If you don't have PS you can easily just write the name with a bold marker or with paints. I am terrible at that, so I use PS!
And here it is all done! Total cost was a tube of Liquid Nails and $9 for Barkley! I'm thrilled with how it turned out. Now I hope God will bless Barkley's use to touch many children's lives for Him. LOL and that He will send someone gifted in puppetering to the church to "be" Barkley so I don't have to do it!!!! Ahhhh....small fellowships really s-t-r-e-t-c-h the people who are willing to serve! LOL and I'm FULL of "stretch marks" LOL!!! Today's gift for you is the only digital part of this project - the name plate, should you want to make a Barkley's Dog House of your own!

If you make one, I'd love to see it!

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