Saturday, October 26, 2013

Date with Phil and Sofi: a road trip to meet dog designer Pat Starnovsky

Champion tracker Miles may be long gone, but his memory lives on.
Ever since Nell Thompson posted about her dog-specific holidays, I’ve been inspired to plan more dog-specific roadies. Phil loves car trips. When he sees me set up his car seat he practically trips himself over with excitement. So a few weeks ago we accompanied friends Emma, Alice and Sofi to visit canine enthusiast Pat Starnovsky in Winmalee.

How better to end a road trip than at a beautiful house with a tiered, bushy backyard with plenty of spots to sniff and pee. Unfortunately Pat’s backyard copped a fiery hiding last week, and while Pat and her home were spared most of the neighbourhood was razed. Many Winmalee residents lost their homes and, worse, their pets, in the disaster. It will take months to recover.

But back to our little road trip. It was a joy meeting Pat and hearing about her life with dogs. Pat competed with her beloved Weimaraners in tracking and rescue back in the 1970s, and she had beautiful photos of some of her prize-winning dogs.

Pat is also a champion knitter. And I don’t mean the odd pair of bed socks. Her skills are frequently called upon to create hand-made masterpieces for humans and their canine companions.

By the time we arrived on her doorstep, Pat had knitted and hand-beaded three beautiful winter jumpers for Phil.

Phil scored a hand-beaded stylish knit, Alice scored a tiara.
Sofi and Phil spent the morning walking around the pool
Sofi and Phil do laps around the outside of the pool.
...chasing bugs...

Sofi chases bugs near the window. Note the bushland outside the window.
...and reading books about dogs in knits.
Emma and Sofi peruse "Dogs in Knits".
After relaxing by the pool we attempted to capture an awkward family photo in Pat’s fantastic drawing room.

Pat, Anne and Sofi, Alice and Phil. 
Pat, Emma and Sofi, Alice and Phil who was having a little sneeze at the time.
Pat doesn’t have her own dogs currently, but it is clear she absolutely adores them. She showed me photos of a Christmas tree she had made just for dogs. Each branch was spiked with a doglicious piece of cabanossi, kibble or a meaty treat. The dogs at the party were each given five minutes to take their pic…but many were just so overwhelmed by the selection they couldn’t choose.

As we were leaving, Pat offered to hand-knit me a sweater, and produced a photo of a cable-knit number that was so complex I thought she was joking.
She was dead serious.

I asked if I should send my measurements. She half closed her eyes as if they were lasers calibrating, looked me up and down and pronounced that my arms were 17 inches.

“I’ll check,” I replied, having no idea at all about the length of my limbs.
Pat then produced a tape measure and proved that she indeed has laser vision. Spot on.

She asked me to choose a colour from her wool chart. I picked aqua blue.
“It would look better in this colour,” she said, pointing to a shade of beige.
Phil, Sofi and Alice were tuckered out, and slept all the way home.

Two weeks later I received in the mail not only the most exquisite cable knit sweater in the history of time – with stunning buttons -, but a matching, equally cable-knit number for Phil. And she was right about the colour.

The contents of the amazing package I recieved in the mail.
Phil and I in our matching cableknit Starnovsky sweaters, doing our best impression of Country Road models (NB that isn't mist in the background - its smoke from the fires).