Valerie Gilstrap is an artist who must love dogs.
For Gilstrap, who lives in Stanwood, the switch from hospice nurse to senior-dog caretaker was a natural transition. Turning her innate nurturing from humans to dogs has become a major “pet project.”
In 2016, Gilstrap adopted her first senior dog, Bailey, from Old Dog Haven in Lake Stevens. The 10-year-old beagle had terminal cancer.
Gilstrap started making dog beds not long after adopting Bailey. She realized she didn’t have a dog bed for Bailey, and that she really needed not one, but three of them to maximize Bailey’s comfort around the house.
So she dug through her closet and found old sweaters and blankets. Then she watched a YouTube video on how to make dog beds. Her three turned out so well that she decided to make dog beds for Old Dog Haven; one free dog bed with each senior-dog adoption. Thus, the nonprofit Bailey’s Beds began.
It was through taking care of Bailey and her partnership with Old Dog Haven that Gilstrap had another idea. Humane animal shelters like Old Dog Haven have high operating costs. So she decided to sell her merchandise and donate all proceeds to local shelters.
Gilstrap said she received “a phenomenal outpouring from the community for supplies” to get Bailey’s Beds off the ground.
What started out as just dog beds has turned into dog carriers, car booster seats for dogs, reusable mats and “snuffle mats” — toys created from blanket shreds that dogs can really sink their teeth into when they’re feeling frisky. Nearly all products are made from recycled and donated material.
Many of Gilstrap’s items are customizable. She also custom designs outdoor stones that she paints to match your pet’s face. She can even paint 3-D molds of a furry friend. Send her a picture, and she will paint a mold that matches your pet’s markings.
One of her best-sellers is the dog carrier. She said her design maximizes comfort for the dog and owner. Optional liners are for added warmth or to waterproof the carrier for the incontinent pet.
All proceeds are donated to Old Dog Haven, as well as Everett Animal Shelter, Purrfect Pals in Arlington, The NOAH Center in Stanwood, Camano Animal Shelter and Sarvey Wildlife in Arlington.
Gilstrap’s mission is to support senior dogs like Bailey who are unlikely to ever be adopted due to age and health conditions. Gilstrap had Bailey for the last year of her life. “We made her final days as comfortable as can be,” she said.
Since then, she has welcomed two more senior dogs into her home.
Shop online at the Bailey’s Beds website, baileysbeds.wixsite.com/mysite, or check out her unique goods in-person. Gilstrap frequently sells at local bazaars and craft fairs throughout the year. She’ll be at the Holiday Craft Bazaar on Nov. 30 at the Carl Gipson Senior Center in Everett.
5 to check out
Here are five Snohomish County bazaars and craft fairs scheduled to help you with your holiday shopping. Find hundreds of local merchants, as well as games, prizes and treats, at these local events. Like Valerie Gilstrap, many of the artists and artisans are raising money for charitable causes.
Holiday Craft Bazaar: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Carl Gipson Senior Center, 3025 Lombard Ave., Everett. Handcrafted treasures for yourself and everyone on your holiday gift list. Fifty vendors offering a variety of merchandise. Free coffee. Sandwiches, potato salad and pie available for purchase.
Nov. 30 and Dec. 1
Mukilteo Foursquare Church Christmas Bazaar: 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Mukilteo Foursquare Church, 4424 Chennault Beach Road, Mukilteo. Peruse holiday decorations and homemade crafts. Grab a delicious Christmas treat. Proceeds support building a water well in Sierra Leone.
Merrysville for the Holidays: 5 to 7:30 p.m. in downtown Marysville, on Fifth Street and State Avenue. Explore the holiday craft show, get photos with Santa and enjoy a variety of family activities. There will be a holiday parade and a lighting of the water tower.
Lake Stevens Dickens Fair: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cavelero Mid High School, 8220 24th St. SE, Lake Stevens. Make a monetary or non-perishable food donation. Shop from 100 craft vendors to complete your holiday shopping and listen to caroling performances throughout the day.
Mansford Grange Christmas Bazaar: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mansford Grange, 1265 Railroad Ave., Darrington. Browse local vendors and enter a chance to win a turkey for your holiday dinner. Make sure to visit Santa from noon to 1 p.m. Goodies will be served, and you can stock up on holiday treats from the bake sale. Enter a raffle to win a lumber package from the Darrington Hampton Mill.
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the fall issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.