(A version of this post first appeared here)
On an rainy morning in May, I had tea with Paula Sara, the woman behind Earth Paw and Bark'n Up the Green Tree. We sat in her light-flooded kitchen, her two English setters clambered over her to sit on her lap and give me possessive and curious looks, and I snapped their portraits. Here is that story:
Paula laughs and runs her fingers through her pooches' fur. She's had more than a fair share of health issues, including celiac disease and a genetic condition that necessitated hip operations and three brain surgeries, along with a bleak prognosis, which she was given at the ripe old age of 25: that she would only live to be about 50. After the understandably premature mid-life crisis and some tears, she thought the only thing left to do was live life.
A year ago, she moved to Kingston from Napanee, to start a new chapter in life. Her dogs appear all-too-happy to downsize and get a change of scenery. They are much calmer now, she says. I’d be calm, too, if I could hug my human for endless hours a day. She's growing a grazing garden for them. (Her dogs love to graze on carrots and leafy greens.)
Paula is a lady bursting with ideas. She makes dog teas. She has a commercial grade oven in her garage out back where she bakes all sorts of gluten free and nut free doggie treats (beet hummus bones, anyone?). She sews. There’s a sweet little studio with a sloped ceiling upstairs where fabric swatches and sewing machines and camera equipment (did I mention she's also a photographer and graphic designer? she sparks up her computer and shows me photographs she took at a recent concert.) take up most of the space. Ties hand from a rack to the side.
The staircase leading up to her studio is lined with wall-to-wall art: some by friends and some by Paula herself.
Paula is a nude model. She says they are always looking for models. She shows me a large book filled with sketches of herself in the nude. She's comfortable with herself, her post-surgery hips, the whole bit, she says. I begin to contemplate being a nude model, too. It seems an interesting pastime. And if the need is there...
Paula also has a sense of humour and a keen sense of timing: she was the lady who, at the Kingston Town Hall with the prime minister in January, after ‘tensions began to escalate' as she puts it, asked Justin Trudeau what he does with his old ties. After he fumbled for an answer, she told him, "The reason why I asked is because I’m looking at your tie and thinking it would make a fabulous dog collar"
And yep, she actually makes dog collars from reclaimed ties which she gets from all over the place.
Another day, another Kingston entrepreneur, another awesome lady.
And now, plenty of dog-hugging photographs.