SAANICH -- When Peteena the doll was first unwrapped that Christmas morning in 1966, she couldn’t have been more pleased to see young Lesley looking back at her.

“She had beautiful eyes,” the now-adult Lesley smiles, remembering her first impression of the doll with a human body and poodle head. “I just fell in love with her.”

Peteena arrived in a box dressed for a clam-bake (green bikini). Lesley was also gifted with additional outfits for the poodle to puddle jump in (rain coat, rubber boots), and pirouette in (ballet dress, pointe shoes).

Despite her diverse wardrobe, Peteena struggled to compete in the Barbie doll pageants judged by an older relative.

“He said Peteena couldn’t win a beauty contest because she is a dog,” Lesley recalls. “But she got to be Miss Congeniality.”

Peteena undoubtedly felt indifferent. According to the original Hasbro Toys advertisement, the poodle was more interested in being a ‘pace-setter’ anyway. Instead of walking a cat-walk, the ad said the poodle was looking for action down the slopes (wearing a ski outfit) and in the sea (surfing in that green bikini).

Peteena and Lesley played together for years, until the poodle was put in storage for decades. Lesley rediscovered her a few months ago.

“She made me smile as soon as a I saw her again,” Lesley says. “She’s so cute.”

Peteena found that her now grown-up Lesley was stuck at home — living in a pandemic, recovering from a broken arm, and looking for something to do.

“I suddenly got this thought in my head,” Lesley says of feeling inspired to be creative. “[I was] seeing Peteena in different settings!”

Lesley built a miniature bathroom background, placed a tiny toy tub in front of it, and placed Peteena in a bath of bubbles.

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“It makes me happy,” Lesley says, after capturing the image she created on camera. “It’s a thrill.”

So Lesley designed almost a dozen more doggy dioramas and hand-made new outfits from materials sourced at thrift shops and dollar stores.

The intricately composed photographs feature the doll in a retro Coke commercial (positioned with piles of pop), celebrating as seniorita Peteena (wearing a sombrero in a Mexican town), and posing as a prehistoric poodle (dressed in an animal print bikini holding a wooden spear).

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“The bikini was made from ribbon and tape,” Lesley explains. “Her spear was just a skewer from some chicken that I washed and dried and painted brown.”

For Christmas, Peteena posed in a decorated tree, wearing a Santa hat and a coat that she probably hadn’t seen since that beauty pageant in the 1960’s.

“The mohair coat she wore, my mom made that for one of my Barbies,” Lesley says.

With Barbie is still stuck in storage, it seems Miss Congeniality’s now been crowned the Queen of Longevity.

Lesley says she’s been sharing the pictures with friends and family during the pandemic, hoping to inspire some smiles. The reception has been so good, she’s planning to make more to celebrate Valentines Day, Easter, Canada Day, and Halloween.

While Peteena is still ‘strong’,‘outspoken’ and ‘a bit on the wild side’ (as her 1960’a ad declares), the poodle is also proving to be positive — improving the pandemic one pose at a time.