First Nations' dogs benefit from Brandon partnership

Real estate agent Zach Munn raises money through his Facebook page to build and deliver doghouses to rural Manitoba communities.

Carpentry students at the Assiniboine Community College (ACC) and a Brandon real estate agent have partnered to give dogs on the Ebb and Flow First Nation a comfortable place to rest through both the winter and summer months.

Brandon real estate agent Zach Munn came up with the idea to build doghouses for animals on Manitoba First Nations communities and, last year, approached ACC Construction Trades Chair Kevin Poirier about expanding the initiative.

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On Aug. 2, 15 houses were delivered to the Ebb and Flow First Nation, located 84 kilometers east of Dauphin, Man. The shingled pitched-roof, wooden structures were custom built by 30 ACC carpentry and woodworking students, who were allowed to design the houses as they saw fit. Some added features such as extra trim, curtained doors and a crescent moon; similar to that which adorns a traditional outhouse.

The cost of the materials, which was covered by Munn through appeals on his Facebook page, was about $2860. All but $342 was paid for as of early this month. Munn covers his own fuel, lodging and food costs to deliver the doghouses.

In the past, Munn’s other huts have been transported to Peguis First Nation and Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. He got special permission from chief and council from each community to deliver the gifts, then dropped them off at homes determined to need them by a guide who knew the communities.

“A lot of people said they would like the doghouses when we did our sign-up list,” Munn said. “We were very well received in every community we went to. A lot of people were very kind to us and appreciative of the doghouse.”

Some offered gifts of fish or invitations to a traditional sweat in return for the gesture.

Munn is not the only member of his family who is particularly keen on the welfare of animals. Tracy Munn, his aunt, is the director and shelter manager at the Brandon Humane Society. His sister, Farran LeBlanc, started a mobile spay and neuter clinic called Pawsitive Communities.

“(I’ve) always had a soft spot for animals. I was trying to think last winter, ‘What could I do? What could I do?’ So I thought, why not build doghouses?” Munn said.

Poirier said the project was beneficial for the students, who require practice in building roof systems.

“We get lots of requests (to work on projects),” he said. “The questions we ask are: Is it feasible? Does it fit in our curriculum?”

Munn plans on developing another, similar project next year. ACC has offered to help him again.

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