Raise the Woof! Bark Prize doghouse design contest returns to Home & Garden Show

Headed to the  West Michigan Home & Garden Show at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids this weekend? If you’re going (the show runs March 6-9), a MUST-SEE at the annual event is Bark Prize, a designer dog house competition.

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a "poop deck."

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a “poop deck.”

Five custom dog houses, designed and built by west Michigan companies, will be available to the public via silent auction. If you checked out the houses last year, you know your dog would be the envy of the neighborhood if you were to score one of these fabulous abodes.

And the best part is, 100 percent of the proceeds from the silent auction benefit the BISSELL Pet Foundation. Last year, $2,000 was raised for BPF, a non-profit started right here in west Michigan by Cathy Bissell.

The organization’s mission is to help reduce the number of animals in shelters, and to support organizations dedicated to the humane care and treatment of animals through pet adoption, spay and neuter programs, micro-chipping and foster care. BPF has given nearly $1.2 million to support homeless pets across the country in less than two years of existence.

Last year’s Bark Prize winner (the public can vote for “Best in Show”) was “Scally’wag,” a dog house designed like a pirate ship. It even included a “poop deck.” It was built by Mike Fraser of Out On A Limb Playhouses. Fraser will back this year with “Ye Olde Paw Mill,” a dog house resembling a saw mill, complete with a fully functioning water wheel.

“Last year’s Bark Prize custom dog houses were so unique and so fun and raised $2,000 for homeless pets, so we knew we had to make this an annual event,” Cathy Bissell said in a news release about this year’s event.  “The idea behind Bark Prize came from Mike Fraser, who owns Out on a Limb Playhouses. We are so thankful for that idea, and to the Home & Garden Show for welcoming the fundraiser and to all the builders giving time and materials to create the custom dog houses. The West Michigan community is very supportive and giving toward our animal welfare organizations, and this is a great opportunity to raise even more awareness.”

 The featured dog houses range in value from $250 to $4,000, so there’s something for everyone. They’ll be on display in the Grand Foyer at DeVos Place, outside the Expo Halls.

Whether you bid on a custom dog house or not, you need to stop by the exhibit and appreciate the creativity of these designers and builders. And don’t forget to add your vote to “Best in Show.”



Antiques, golf, festivals, beach clean-up … take your pick of events to help pets!

It’s a busy weekend ahead for pet lovers, with three consecutive days of events to help out our furry friends.

Tonight is “An Antique Roadshow” at Bluedoor Antiques (946 Fulton St. E in Grand Rapids) to benefit C-SNIP. It’s the second year of the event, a takeoff on the popular PBS series. Just as seen on TV, take items to be appraised at Bluedoor, or just show up to enjoy the atmosphere and snack on food provided by chef Tommy FitzGerald. Tickets are $50, appraisals are an additional $25. To purchase tickets in advance — yes, there is still time! — click here.

Friday is the C-SNIP Golf Classic at Saskatoon Golf Club. A couple of foursomes remain for the event, which features 18 holes of golf, dinner and a “Bid It or Buy It” auction. The weather forecast has changed and rain should clear out well before the 1 p.m. shotgun start, so if you want to get another round in and raise money for a good cause, check out the contact information on C-SNIP’s website.

Auction items included an Xbox 360, framed autographed items from LPGA Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, an autographed photo of MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo from last season’s game on the aircraft carrier, BISSELL home care cleaning products, lawn care service and more.

Saturday is Dog Day in the Park at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids. It’s a day to celebrate and bring your canine companion. Many vendors will be on hand, and there will be demonstrations, education and, of course, fun for dogs and their owners.

There also will be canine good citizen evaluations, Police K-9 demonstrations and contests for fastest kisser, best trick, longest ears, waggiest tale, best costume and vocal styling.

Dogs Unleashed, our new bi-monthly magazine that debuted this month, will be on hand, too. We’ll have plenty of copies of the “lifestyle magazine for dog lovers” if you haven’t gotten your paws on one yet.  Stop by our booth and say hello to publisher Brad Uhl and editor Mary Ullmer!

Dog Day in the Park is from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you’re on the lakeshore and can’t make it to Grand Rapids on Saturday but still want to help a good cause, help out the Friends of Muskegon Dog Beach in their Adopt-a-Beach Cleanup. It’s from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Anyone who has used the dog beach in Muskegon knows what a gem we have in our backyard. But debris accumulates from across the lake and, let’s face it, as much as we try to enforce the rules, not every dog owner is responsible in cleaning up after their dog.

If your calendar for the weekend isn’t already full, try to hit one of these events and help those organizations who help make pets’ lives better!


Where’s Mare? Don’t worry, Press Unleashed isn’t going anywhere

In case you’ve checked the site and wondered why there hasn’t been much new content of  late, I took a little two-week hiatus while settling in to my new job. I am a part-time associate editor with ESPN.com, working with the fine folks on the espnW.com site.

Stuart and our other dogs dig the new job because it keeps Mom home all the time.

If you read the “Something About Mary” page on pressunleashed.com, you know that my career mainly has revolved around sports, as a writer, copy editor and editor. Sports always has been a passion of mine and when the opportunity with ESPN came up, well, how could I turn it down?

Fortunately I still will have time to devote to my endeavors in the pet world, especially Press Unleashed. I plan to get back to posting more frequently after the Memorial Day weekend, including information on this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party and a few other goodies.

Look for new Press Unleashed goodies starting back up again next Tuesday!

Here’s hoping for a safe and glorious weekend for your families, including your furry kids.