Featured Dog Shop: Charlie ♥ Diesel

8:26:00 PM

It’s so nice to meet fellow dog people who have such a big heart for our four-legged friends.  Ashleigh is the designer and owner of Charlie ♥ Diesel at Etsy.  Ashleigh shares with us how she and her husband started as volunteers for an animal shelter in their city and their desire to help homeless dogs inspired them to start a business.  She also talks about the dogs in their lives, her views on pet adoption and the joys and challenges of being a dog lover and a business owner.
How old is your shop?
We actually opened Charlie ♥ Diesel just over a month ago.
What’s the inspiration behind your shop name?
It just sort of came to me. I’d been kicking around names for a while and nothing really fit. I wanted it to be really personal, but also really catchy. I was going through our other Etsy shop, Indian Summer, and I noticed the little favorites heart. And it was perfect.
Charlie and Diesel are our two young Pit Bulls. (And yes, most days, they do heart each other.) The name itself is a little awkward at first, I’ll admit, but that little heart in Charlie ♥ Diesel is just too cute to resist.
What moved you to start your own dog apparel business?
Oddly enough, it was philanthropy that made me move in this direction. My husband, Ryan, and I started the process to become volunteers at the Riverside City Animal Shelter, and though they’re in a beautiful new facility thanks to a kind and generous benefactor, they are severely underfunded- so much so, that volunteers do most of the jobs that an employee would normally be paid to do- even assisting in surgeries.
Since we both already work full time, we knew we wouldn’t be able to give as much of our time as we wanted to. But what else could we do? I was goofing around with Charlie one day and put a neck warmer on her that I’d actually intended to give my husband last winter. And it was so stinking cute. And there it was: a happy accident that turned into an Etsy shop for canines, where we donate 20% of the sale price of each item to the Riverside City Animal Shelter.
Can you give us a peek on the creative process involved in making clothing and accessories for dogs?
It’s actually a lot of fun, and sort of really challenging to make items for dogs. They’re all shaped so differently. The creative process generally involves a random statement that begins with “You should make…” or “I’ve got an awesome idea…” and then ends with a freestyle crochet or knitting, or glue gunning attempt to duplicate whatever we’ve seen in our heads. We don’t use any patterns for our items- I just wing it, and keep one of everything on hand to copy.
I’ve recently started making myself write my patterns down, in an effort to save time counting stitches and wondering which size hook or needle I used. The shop has actually been much more successful than I foresaw, which is fantastic and a little overwhelming at the same time.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love the interaction. Dog people are so friendly and energetic! I’ve had a lot of great conversations with some really wonderful people, and I look forward to many more.
Is there anything you dislike about what you do?
I dislike having to go to my day job when all I want to do is create all day. The shop is always on my mind, and it makes it difficult to focus on anything else.
What was the toughest challenge you faced so far?
Actually, it was Saturday morning. I woke up to an email that said I had accidentally switched shipping labels, and that the expedited package intended for a customer in San Francisco had arrived in Indiana, right on schedule. Oops.
How did you get over it?
Well, it was 8:30 in the morning, and my phone beeped next to me on the nightstand. I read the message, and immediately began freaking out. I hate messing up. HATE it. I started running around the house in a tizzy, repeating, “Oh my God, what do I do? What do I do? What do I do?”
Once I calmed down, I contacted both the customers and we worked it all out. They were both very understanding and kind, which was a HUGE relief. For the expedited order, we settled on Overnighting the items in order to get them there in time for Halloween. I checked USPS and the Express Shipping option said it would arrive October 31st. A post office only 20 minutes away had a final pick up at 4:00 PM. Perfect. Plenty of time to get it done and out.
You would not believe all the setbacks I ran into, remaking that order to rush it out for overnight shipping. First, I kept skipping stitches in the hooded cowl I was making, which I never EVER do. It’s a major waste of time when you have to pull out half your stitches and redo them, just because you skipped ONE.
Then I went to create my USPS Express shipping label, and the expected arrival date had changed from October 31st to November 1st. WTH? Are you kidding me? After all that? Seriously? So I checked FedEx. They could ship it and it would arrive before 10:30 AM October 31st. Yayyy!!! Only problem… It was now 2:00 PM and every drop off location had a last pick up at 12:30. Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no. I kept scrolling through the list, and (thank God) found one that had a final pick up of 3:00 PM, that was only 15 miles from my house. 2:20 PM: I threw everything together, and I sped (quite literally) down the freeway to the FedEx location, and got it in with 15 minutes to spare. FedEx on Winchester in Temecula, you saved my butt.
Name your top 3 favorite picks from your shop:
Well, for sure I love our Hoodwinked Slouchy Hooded Cowl. It’s the cutest thing EVER, and it’s a huge hit.
The Batman Quick Collar Costume is pretty awesome,

and I really love our crocheted Pretty Bows too.
your favorite dog shops:
Well, the list is kind of long… I love HandmadeMonster on Etsy with their fantastically clever monster making dog hats, as well as BeantownHandmade for their adorable hats and clothing, and it’s not exactly a dog shop, but I LOVE the animals rights jewelry designed by Christy Robinson at crobinsondesignSusan Sabo’s Shelter Dogs photographs are very moving and beautiful and BullyPaws has some really adorable dog jewelry and keychain designs as well.
Can you introduce us to the beautiful dogs who model your clothes?
Absolutely. Right now, everyone on our site is family owned. Minnie the five month old blue brindle Chihuahua and Bella the 5 year old part-Miniature Poodle belong to my mother-in-law, Karen.
Rowdy, the three year old black tri Toy Australian Shepherd, and Lola, the one year old blue merle Miniature Australian Shepherd both belong to my mother, Marci.
Charlie, the 3 year old golden fawn Pit Bull, and Diesel, the 2 year old black Pit Bull are my very own fur children, and the namesakes of our shop. In the future we’re hoping to work together with our animal shelter and local rescues to have their adoptable dogs model our items, in order to give them a little more publicity.
Can you tell us more about your dogs? Were they adopted?
Well, Charlie and Diesel are my husband’s and my only children. A few months after we were married and moved into our new house, we found Charlie (who, FYI, is a girl dog, despite her decidedly masculine name) on Craigslist as an 8 week old pup someone didn’t have time for.
A year later, we found Diesel at the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Shelter when he was around 6 months old. As I was walking down the aisle at the pound, he put his feet up on the bars of his kennel and cried for me in the saddest voice I had ever heard. The next day we took him home- pointy Pit Bull ears and all.
Why should people not be afraid to adapt a dog from a shelter?
First of all, the dogs listed for adoption at the animal shelters have been personality tested. Any dog found to be aggressive in any way is not considered adoptable. So, even if it’s a Bull Mastiff or a Pit Bull, if it’s on the adoptable side, it’s not a dog that the expert shelter staff deem dangerous or harmful.
These days, a lot of dogs end up in the shelter because their owner lost their home and had to move into an apartment, or somewhere they weren’t allowed to keep them. Many of them are strays. It’s a sad fact, but a lot of people are just releasing their pets onto the streets to fend for themselves. Then they get picked up and taken to the shelter. Most of the time, dogs don’t end up in the shelter because  anything or something was wrong.
Can you please tell us more about the Riverside City Animal Shelter? 
The Riverside County Animal Services team envisions an educated and responsible county, where euthanasia is no longer a necessary evil. They provide the best care for the animals that they are able to, and seek lifetime homes for the pets they place. The shelter is desperately in need of volunteers. If you live in the area, you can visit their website for more information on how to become a volunteer. Is there room in your family for one more? A list of adoptable pets in the Riverside Animal Shelter can be found here.
What advice can you give to people who are considering pet adoption? What tips can you give to other dog owners?
Know your breed. Different breeds bring different challenges. Think before you adopt… Don’t get it just because it’s cute. If you send a dog back to the shelter, it is far less likely to get adopted another time around. We love our Pitties. Having no human children, these guys are our world. When we lost our home last year, we moved in with our parents in order to keep them.
My husband went up to work in North Dakota, and we planned to move up there- even sent all our things (and it’s VERY expensive to move cross country). Then we found out that, not unlike in Canada, Pit Bulls are banned in the majority of their cities. A Pit Bull can be impounded and euthanized just for being walked down the street in Minot, North Dakota. So we stayed in California and made it work.
We love our animals. That being said- a Pit Bull is a great responsibility. They are wonderful, loyal animals, but no thanks to the media, people are hateful and afraid of them. You can’t rent an apartment if you own a Pit- you can’t rent through a property management company either. If your living situation is unstable, don’t take home an “aggressive type” breed- no matter how wonderful.
There are dogs in all shapes and sizes and energy levels that are desperately in need of homes. Find the right one for you and your family. Also, make sure you have the time and energy to devote to a four legged friend. They’re pack animals. They need companionship- not just to be shoved out in the backyard by themselves to wait hopefully, day in and day out for your attention. Housebreaking is actually really simple, and it’s very rewarding for your pet to actually be a trusted member of your family.
SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS! It may not be hard to find home for your adorable Golden Retriever/Sneaky Neighbor Dog mixed breed puppies, but over population is what is killing hundreds of dogs in shelters across the U.S. every day.
Businesswise, what tips would you want to share for aspiring home based entrepreneurs like you?
Be ready. Even if you think there may not be a market for what you’re selling, there most likely is. And these people are watching and waiting for you. Etsy is a fantastic resource for sellers of handmade and vintage items. It’s inexpensive and very useful.
Where else can we find you online?
We’re a very new shop, and everything is just getting off the ground. You can find us on Facebook. We also have a blog in the works. It can be found at http://charlieheartsdiesel.blogspot.com/.
Any message to your customers and the people who support you? 
Thank you so much for giving us a try. We hope you won’t be disappointed. Also, I’d like to thank you personally, for making it possible for us to donate proceeds from each of our sales every month. Your donations are making difference, helping to provide these animals with the care and services they need. Thank you so much.

Please take a moment to visit Charlie ♥ Diesel to see all their items. And remember, with each item you buy, 20% of the sale price is donated to the Riverside City Animal Shelter.
Thanks so much Ashleigh! 

Do you love dogs?
If you would like to be featured on this blog, 
email me at squishedbugsmoothie@gmail.com

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