Their beloved dogs may have gone to the great kennel in the sky, but for Beth and Brian Willis they will always be close. Because the couple have had his and hers jumpers knitted out of the hair moulted by the pedigree pets and spun into yarn.
And they insist the bizarre garments keep them warm and dry no matter how bad the winter weather gets.
Here is the before photo;
Beth and Brian Willis’ much loved pets: Swedish Lapphund Penny and white Samoyed Kara
And now here is the after photo;
Hair of the dog: Beth and Brian Willis in their his’n’hers jumpers made from their dead dogs’ hair
The idea to use the hair, which would otherwise have been vacuumed up and thrown out with the rubbish, came after dog breeders told the couple of the unusual use it could have.
The first jumper was knitted by 71-year-old Mrs Willis from hair from Kara, the couple’s white Samoyed, a Russian breed.
Mrs Willis said: “It is not actually a hair but a wool, which is why it is so good for clothes.
“It would just fall off the dogs and I would run a wet hand over the carpet and pick it up.
“We found out from the breeders we got the pups from that it was possible to use their coat for clothes.
“Apparently it is quite popular with lots of the people who breed long-haired dogs.”
That first jumper was made in 1990, while Kara was still alive.
Although she died 12 years ago, the jumper made from her hair is still going strong.
The Samoyed breed is native to northern Russia, where they were used to keep children warm. Its fur is almost waterproof and softer than alpaca.
By the time the Newcastle couple’s next dog, a Swedish Lapphund called Penny, died six years ago, Mrs Willis was already working on a new garment.
And the retired St John ambulance telephonist says that she even has enough left over to make another sweater.Mr Willis, 73, who worked for a removals firm for 27 years, wears his doggy jumper every Saturday into town to do the weekly shop.
He said: “They are extremely warm and pretty much waterproof. Unless it is banging it down, it is fine.
“I’ve always got a sweat on by the time I get from the bus to the shops.”
Mr and Mrs Willis send the hair to be spun by Malise Mcguire at her home in Derby.
Mrs Mcguire, 60, has been spinning dog wool since 1977.
She said: “It takes about 30oz to make a jumper, but you would need 40oz at the start as you lose some in the spinning.
“Brian and Beth have had more than 5lb spun, wrapped, pre-shrunk and ready to be knitted.”
Mr and Mrs Willis celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last year and have three children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
But Mrs Willis said her next dog fur creation will have to wait.
She is too busy knitting jumpers for the youngsters – using wool.