A notecard showing a cartoon of a white poodle mix dog on a turquoise background. It's hanging on a line of string with the white envelope, both held up by small gold clips.
The author's dog, Swift, immortalized in notecard form by Tiny Werewolves Credit: Kayla Pekkala/Tiny Werewolves

Hopefully other pet owners can relate to my obsessive need to order custom art pieces of my dog, Swift, in literally any medium you can imagine. If only our four-year-old, now iconic, mini poodle mix knew he’s a muse—captured with felt, on a wood block, in photo shoots, on holiday cards, and even on a cute backpack pin. The last two items came from queer-owned Tiny Werewolves, Kayla Pekkala’s burgeoning Chicago-based online business of custom and small-batch artisan goods. I may have come for the pet pieces, but what captured my loyalty is a loud, artistic, and admirable focus on social justice messaging.

After a toy company Pekkala worked at closed just before the pandemic, she created Tiny Werewolves. Pet art began as a tribute to her departed dog, Meatball, and to benefit a favorite local organization, Live Like Roo. Requests from pet parents poured in, and products diversified to include everything from mugs to magnets. Her focus on cause-based pieces has been consistent, starting with “Just Wear The Fucking Mask” shirts in 2020. She pairs retro designs with themes around LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, mental health, and more, “softening the hard edge of topics that are often hard to talk about,” she says—a nuanced and successful take on aesthetics as activism. Pekkala has drawn more than 300 pets (including horses and a pig) under the supervision of her two “furry terrier gremlins,” Tater Tot and Casserole, and I bet many who have entered through the pet door have left more focused on living (and wearing) their core beliefs. 

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