Mandy Hood doesn’t work in sales. But maybe she should, given that the first cold-call she ever made resulted in 10 new houses being built, gratis, for families in need.

They’re doghouses, yes. But still.

Hood is the outreach and humane education manager for the Pennsylvania SPCA. When she meets pet owners who struggle to afford care, services, or equipment for their animals, she hunts down the resources to help them.

Tommy Jordan, 58, of Mount Laurel, N.J., retired carpenter, left, helps Ron Socha, 58, of Maple Shade, N.J., retired carpenter, right, nail the first layer of the roofing for the doghouses at the Carpenters Union Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. The doghouses weigh about 85 to 100 pounds and made accordingly to two different size dogs. Each house takes about six hours to make.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Tommy Jordan, 58, of Mount Laurel, N.J., retired carpenter, left, helps Ron Socha, 58, of Maple Shade, N.J., retired carpenter, right, nail the first layer of the roofing for the doghouses at the Carpenters Union Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. The doghouses weigh about 85 to 100 pounds and made accordingly to two different size dogs. Each house takes about six hours to make.

Last year, she was working with a number of families who couldn’t afford decent outdoor shelter for their dogs. Sure, they could pick up a flimsy plastic or cheap-wood model somewhere for under $50, but dogs need better protection from the elements than those shoddy boxes offer.

“And I thought, who better than union carpenters union to build high-quality, amazing doghouses that are up to the city and state code standards?” said Hood, herself a former union organizer, who has worked at the PSPCA for five years.

So she cold-called Carpenters Union Local 158 and the members were all in. Soon she was meeting with Mike Hand, the union’s assistant executive secretary and treasurer, and a union retiree named Rob Smith, a master craftsman who volunteered to design a prototype for two sizes of doghouse: one for dogs up to 50 pounds; one for dogs from 50 to 100 pounds.

Retired carpenter Tommy Jordan shows the blueprints for the doghouses he helps build at the Carpenters Union Hall. Jordan, who has 41 years of experience in carpentering, has helped build 16 doghouses for clients of the Pennsylvania SPCA. “It’s a good feeling to utilize the skills you learned to give back to the community. Especially those in need,” Jordan said.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Retired carpenter Tommy Jordan shows the blueprints for the doghouses he helps build at the Carpenters Union Hall. Jordan, who has 41 years of experience in carpentering, has helped build 16 doghouses for clients of the Pennsylvania SPCA. “It’s a good feeling to utilize the skills you learned to give back to the community. Especially those in need,” Jordan said.

Two retired union members, Tom Jordan and Ronnie Socha — who have 68 years’ experience between them — build the houses, which take about six hours to complete (and which comply with the state code requiring that dogs kept outside be provided shelter that allows them to maintain their body heat). The structures are hefty and beautiful: constructed of pretreated, rot-resistant wood, with interior “windbreak” walls (instead of flapped doors, which dogs treat like chew toys), and shingled, latched roofs that lift open for easy access and cleaning.

“Our families are amazed by the craftsmanship of these houses — they call them dog mansions — and they feel proud that they were made by actual union carpenters,” said Hood. “Other houses last maybe six months — they fall apart from the weather, a dog can run into them and crack the wall. But these will last 10 years.”

(From left): Michael Campbell, Victor Szwanski, and James Hocker, members of the Eastern Atlantic State Regional Council of Carpenters, help deliver a custom-made doghouse for the Pennsylvania SPCA.
EAS REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS
(From left): Michael Campbell, Victor Szwanski, and James Hocker, members of the Eastern Atlantic State Regional Council of Carpenters, help deliver a custom-made doghouse for the Pennsylvania SPCA.