A K-9 kind of Christmas
BLACKSBURG — The holidays are typically a time when people gather around the dinner table, surrounded by those who mean the most to them.
For many families, however, those gathered underneath the table in hopes of catching the results of any misguided spoonfuls are just as meaningful.
Consider Blacksburg interior designer Edith-Anne Duncan and her assistant Vicki Vaughn proud members of that group, as the two women hope to pay tribute to four-legged family members with their 2012 Designs by Duncan entry in the Fashions for Evergreens tree-decorating contest at the Inn at Virginia Tech.
One of the annual event’s 14 professionally designed trees, the dog-themed Christmas tree stands amidst a fresh layer of rawhide dog bones and is adorned with a variety of dog-shaped ornaments and photographs of community members’ pets. It is accompanied by a wish list of items needed by the Humane Society of Montgomery County, along with a wagon to collect them and a doghouse-shaped box for monetary donations.
“We really wanted to give back to the community and make this a venue in which people could come in and help the humane society,” Duncan said.
In their third year of competition, the designing duo said they began conceptualizing some sort of pet-themed tree at the end of the previous year’s competition.
In September, the tree took on a slightly more personal meaning for Duncan when Pawley, her 12-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, died due to a tumor in his heart.
“Before my twins, he was my first child,” Duncan said.
Dedicating the tree in Pawley’s memory seemed appropriate to the pair, and knowing Duncan wasn’t alone in the experience of losing a pet, they also decided to invite pet owners in the community to submit pet photos, which were turned into ornaments for the tree.
Duncan said they had 24 submissions in all and a good mix of both purebred dogs and “pound puppies.”
One of those pound puppies on the tree is a blackmouth mountain cur named Hank. He belongs to Terri Lynn Howard, who didn’t think twice when deciding to submit Hank’s picture.
“Why wouldn’t I want Hank on the Christmas tree,” Howard said. “I just thought it was a lovely idea.”
Richard Anuszkiewicz and Abbie Sanders were also among those who liked the idea of having their pets displayed on the tree.
Sanders said she was happy to submit a photo of her two Dotsons, Dixie and Oakley, whom she considers a huge part of her family.
Likewise, Anuszkiewicz submitted a picture of his spaniel Reegan and chocolate Labrador Pierson, but said it wasn’t only to honor them, but also because the tree stood for such a good cause.
Getting that tree standing and decorated for the cause took a good bit of work.
Duncan and Vaughn estimated they spent a combined 16 hours preparing and transforming the standard 9-foot artificial tree each competitor is given into their final product.
Before they were even halfway done setting up the tree, Vaughn said they were already seeing signs the tree was going to be a hit, as people began to stop and ask to take photos with the tree.
The contest judges apparently agreed with the early fanfare, as the Designs by Duncan tree took first-place honors in the Judge’s Choice category of the contest.
While Duncan does enjoy winning the awards — Designs by Duncan trees took the People’s Choice Award in 2010 and Judge’s Choice in 2011 — the impression her work leaves on each passer-by is just as important.
“I would just like for them to create a memory,” Duncan said.
The Designs by Duncan tree, along with 13 trees sponsored by various organizations, will remain on display until Jan. 1.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643