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We get a lot of emails! I’m so thankful for one that Deborah P. sent recently, recommending an episode of the Smithsonian podcast Sidedoor which tells the story of a special creature, now extinct, known as the Woolly Dog. 

The Woolly Dog’s thick white coat was shorn, like sheep, for wool from which First Nations peoples of the Salish coast wove blankets of beauty, warmth, and deep cultural meaning. 

An exciting scientific story started in 2020, when a researcher learned that there was a single Woolly Dog pelt still in existence, a specimen collected in the 1850s, and that the Smithsonian had it. The pelt’s existence held out the possibility of obtaining the animal’s DNA, and cracking the mystery of what kind of animal it actually was. No spoilers on that one—you have to listen to the podcast.  

The scientists sought permission and knowledge from living descendants of the First Nations people who wove with the animal’s wool and held a spiritual connection with it. Members of these indigenous communities generously contributed their expertise to the project. Their involvement put the animal, and the blankets and robes woven with its fiber, into proper context, and corrected the existing, dismissive explanation of why the dog became extinct.

Listening to this compelling story is the best use of 45 minutes that I can think of. Another instance of the destruction and loss that came with colonization, the story of the Woolly Dog is tragic. But the voices of the descendants are strong and clear, and may resonate even more for those of us who love fiber animals, fiber arts, and making blankets by hand.  

In the final seconds of the episode—after all the credits were read—Debra Sparrow/ θəliχʷəlʷət spoke these words:

Even today, in the chaos of the world, you go home, and you wrap in a blanket.  

You feel comfortable when you wrap your child in a blanket.

Blankets are our saving grace, and we take it for granted.

I didn’t want you to miss that bit. 

You can listen to the podcast here



  • Sounds like a good one! As always thanks, love a good podcast.

  • Thank you for always sharing the most fascinating stories!

  • Thank you. I just listened to this, while knitting, and it is fascinating and sad. Science has allowed us to know so many things about the past – the good and the bad.

  • I’m looking forward to listening to this podcast. Interestingly, I’m just finishing a blanket for my daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law as a wedding present.
    Blankets are indeed comfort and warmth and love and I’m looking forward to making many more.

  • it would be very considerate (normal?) towards the deaf population to be able to read this story.
    Thank you.

  • The New York Times had a story about this history a few years ago.

    (Gift link)

  • Yesterday’s Washington Post book club newsletter reported “Knitting with Dog Hair” would be republished this fall.

  • Thank you! I can’t wait to listen.

  • Fascinating podcast – thank you for the article and link! I read a good book by Sylvia Olsen “Working with Wool, A Coast Salish Legacy & the Cowichan Sweater” a few years ago that included information about the woolly dog

  • So very good. Thanks Kay.

  • Thank you, Kay. A deeply moving podcast. It opens the mind to think on the reverence giving to these dogs, and the cedar trees, because the people received something of value them, truly.

  • Thanks. I will listen to this while weeding today!

  • That was amazing and interesting. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • I love finding new and interesting podcasts – thank you!!

  • Would it be possible to clone this based on the DNA they collected?
    What a gift to the fiber world!

  • Just when I needed a new podcast to listen to, you deliver! The other episodes look good too. Thank you!

  • That dog looks exactly like one of the Samoyeds we had. Their fur sheds tremendously – I never tried to knit with it, but the birds found it lovely to add into their nests when we hung a basket of it out for them.

  • And you can see a photo on instagram at @sidedoorpod

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