Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.
July 15 2015
With summer in full swing, perhaps you’ve not yet made plans for that special getaway—an escape that both you and your canine co-pilot can enjoy equally. We offer up five of our favorite dog-friendly destinations. Each makes a perfect summer getaway for a week or weekend. In our estimation, these places are special.
Bozeman, Montana not only has unforgettable big sky vistas, but ample space for dog outing recreation. Not only does the city boast of a 37-acre off leash dog area at Snowfill Recreation Area, but the county and a volunteer group, Run Dog Run, have just broken ground at Gallatin Regional Park for a new 13-acre dog park with amenities like ponds, diving docks and a dog sports area. The same group is responsible for developing a series of smaller dog parks throughout the whole area. Kudos to them, they know how to get the job done. Bozeman is the gateway to day-trips that will satisfy every level of outdoorsperson (and dog) ranging from mountain hikes to rafting and canoeing, plus world-class fishing. Montanans love their dogs, and see nothing unusual about including them in just about everything they do—outdoor adventures, dining, socializing—you’ll find dogs at every turn.
Asheville, North Carolina, offers a unique take on southern hospitality—mixing traditional and bohemian cultures into something special. Summertime brings a lively mix of music and arts festivals, a handful of which are dog-friendly. A host of the city’s al fresco dining areas welcome dogs, as do many of the area’s nearly two dozen microbreweries. Even some of its farmers’ markets are canine-friendly. At nearby Pisgah National Forest dogs can be unfettered by leashes as they hike through its thousand of acres and their stunning waterfalls. In the nearby town of Brevard book at stay at DogWoods Retreat surrounded by broadleaf forests and with easy access to the unforgettable Blue Ridge Parkway.
Seattle, Washington offers a little of everything: cultural attractions, great local fare and untrampled wilderness a car (or ferry) ride away, all in a still manageable urban setting. While Seattle’s sometime chilly embrace of strangers known as the infamous “Seattle freeze” survives—they do love dogs. The city’s dog-friendly amenities reflect the statistic that shows that there are more dogs than children according to the recent census. There are 11 official off-leash areas in the city proper, plus Marymoor Park, the 40-acre off-leash paradise with meadows, trails and river access located 20 miles east of the city. Marymoor Park is a must-see to experience how a dedicated dog community can partner with municipal leaders with great success. Seattle claims 45 pet-friendly hotels, 150 pet-friendly restaurants where one can dine outside with a pup, plus loads of special doggie events ranging from ice cream socials to Dogtoberfest plus an outdoor movie series that welcomes dogs. While Seattle’s leash laws are strictly enforced, much of the city is dog-friendly, so whether you are shopping, dining or sightseeing … chances are your pooch can tag along.
Marymoor Off-Leash Area outside of Seattle is one of the finest municipal facilities in the country (left); Sonny, an official Canine Ambassador at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, near Banff, Canada (right).
Minneapolis, Minnesota or the “City of Lakes” has much to offer visitors, and not just those that love the water. It’s vibrant art scene includes the Guthrie Theater and the Walker Art Center, two venerable cultural institutions. Still, the canines in your pack will be more interested in the city’s seven dog parks, our favorite being Minnehaha Falls Dog Park nestled along the Mississippi River with water access and acres of woods to roam. Check out the nearby 53-foot waterfall and surrounding limestone bluffs. For nearby day trips, head in just about any direction to enjoy a canoe or kayak trip with your dog. The nearby Cannon and St. Croix Rivers are scenic and relatively easy, though start early to avoid the tubers. For serious canoers and kayakers, the trek north (4+ hours) to Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will provide you and your co-pilot an outdoor experience of a lifetime.
Banff, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, provides an awe-inspiring outdoor experience with its majestic peaks, dense forests and scattered valleys, rivers and lakes. It is a popular tourist destination, so if you and your pup are seeking solitude … search elsewhere. The first-class amenities do make up for the crowds, and it’s not that difficult to locate an unbeaten path. Dogs are welcome at Banff National Park and nearby Jasper National Park, Canadian National Parks are significantly more canine-friendly than their American counterparts. Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, Lake Minnewanka—all offer incredible views and boating of every kind (even the commercial scenic tours are dog-friendly). As for those first-class accommodations—splurge and stay at the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, old-style luxury that welcomes four-footed guests.
June 15 2015
Ever think there must be more to life than your daily 9 to 5? What if money didn’t matter and you could follow your life’s passions—what would you do? For Matt Hein that meant quitting his job in finance and moving to Norway, eventually becoming a dogwalker.
“Portrait of a Dogwalker,” by 21-year-old Norwegian filmmaker Fredrik Harper, chronicles the young Englishman’s decision to leave his job and travel to the French Alps. He began dating a Norwegian woman and followed her back to Oslo. It was there that he realized his two great passions: Being outside and being around dogs.
He now spends his days walking dogs in the woods outside the Norwegian capital and as depicted in the film—he appears to be absolutely content. The seven-and-a-half minute film shows his canine charges eagerly exploring nature while Hein ruminates on the meaning of life. Never has dogwalking appeared so appealing.
“You have to get in in the morning before your boss, and you have to leave after your boss because that way your boss thinks you’re working much harder than you are,” says Hein, harkening back to his days in London finance. “It’s a competition for who can be sat at their desk pretty much wasting their life. That’s not a way to live your life.”
PORTRAIT OF A DOGWALKER from Fredrik Harper on Vimeo.
(even if it’s only 7% of our lives)
May 13 2015
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 87% of their life indoors with another 6% spent in automobiles for a total of 93% habitating in enclosed spaces. That leaves only 7% of one’s entire life to spend outdoors. Translated to daily life, we average only about 100 minutes of our day outside. For many, that’s time spent walking the dog or hanging out at the dog park. My outside quotient averages closer to 120 minutes per day—what with a morning and an evening walk, plus a daily noontime stroll. The revelation is that thanks to our dogs, I spend more time outside than the average American! Another reason why dogs make us healthier, happier and closer to nature by getting us outdoors …
J Cole video updates Lady and The Tramp
May 4 2015
Puppy love takes a surprising twist in the hands of rapper J Cole and his crew in a new music video for his song “Wet Dreamz.” The song is a confessional retelling of the singer’s first sexual encounter and details the normal adolescent angst. Cole interprets the song visually using puppies in an updated version of Lady and the Tramp, employing a young German Shepherd as a stand-in for the boy, and a female King Cavalier as the object of his affection. The pups play, tease and nuzzle. It’s all very tasteful if a little saucy in the juxtaposition of slow-motion tail wagging and R-rated lyrics, but we think it’s pretty sweet and inventive. Plus, it has an irresistible beat. Check it out for yourself, but be warned that the lyrics contain adult themes and a few expletives. (No harm comes to the puppies).
Kickstarter nurtures pet inventions
April 29 2015
Our friends at PAWW are quite good at designing clever leashes, bowls and toys—plenty of research, exploration and testing goes into every project they conceive. So, we were excited to hear about a new line of fetch toys they have been working on, and unveiled to the public via a Kickstarter campaign launched in mid-April. Their goal was to design an incredibly durable toy that would bounce erratically, float on water, and work for both big and little dogs. Each one would be compatible with your average ball launcher. Plus, act as a treat dispenser for around the house. A tall order … but they were up to the task. We think they have created something special. Check out their Kickstarter campaign, and consider getting on the ground floor of this cool fetch toy!
Pet projects continue to be a vital segment of Kickstarter campaigns. Spend a few minutes on the crowdfunding site and it soon becomes apparent that creative ideas aimed at dog people abound. An estimated $2M worth of pet products have successfully been funded so far.
April 29 2015
Bark welcomes the news of an entertaining auction at Christie’s titled Best in Show which features an array of animal-inspired works by the master of Pop Art, Andy Warhol. The upcoming online only sale includes over 100 lots of silver gelatin prints, Polaroids, screenprints and drawings by Warhol. It’s a rare glimpse of the art and ephemera that inspired Andy’s life, and reflects his love of animals—cats, horses, cows, birds, and, of course, dogs. Enjoy the online catalog, bidding continues until May 5, 2015.
April 7 2015
This week marks the centennial (April 7, 1915) of one of America’s greatest and most individualist artists, Billie Holiday. Considered the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, Holiday’s distinctive vocal style made her musicianship equal to the titans of the golden era—Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Lester Young—all musical collaborators with the great “Lady Day.” Her troubled life, drug addiction and arrests, could not overshadow one of the most creative legacies of the 20th century. Holiday’s influence still reverberates today. A constant presence in her later years were her dogs—Mister, a Boxer and Pepi, a Chihuahua. They no doubt provided comfort during uncertain times, and the love that echoes throughout many of her songs.
Mister and Billie Holiday, 1946. William P. Gottlieb/Libray of Congress
March 25 2015
What does technology hold for the future of dogs? It’s an interesting question that was posed by the FOUND Dog Tech Conference held at San Francisco’s Digital Garage last Thursday, March 19. The inaugural FOUND event was created by Pack, a social network for dogs and their owners. One of the new breed of tech companies designed to serve next generation dog owners and their canine companions, Pack brought together tech movers and shakers to rally around common causes—to elevate the conversation around dog focused technology businesses, share new ideas and opportunities, and ponder their collective future. The leaders of Pack, Rover, Petcube, PrideBites and Whistle took to the stage to showcase their particular vision on dog business. Part product showcase, part tent revival—each presenter worked hard to convince the audience that the “pet space” was being reinvented and that the market opportunity ($80 billion annually) is huge and growing. The big message: dogs, and thus these start-ups, were to be taken seriously.
Dog tech today is based more on emulation then innovation, so one is more apt to meet the Fitbit for dogs or Uber for dogwalkers then fresh, radical ideas. The most successful business models are service oriented—helping dog owners (or pet parents as marketers like to say) hook up with care, products and social groups. But the financial investment appears to be real, and early success is helping people forget the failures of the past. Pets.com and its talking sock puppet is often cited as the poster child for misguided failure from tech’s big bust in the late ’90s. Today’s entrepreneurs are working hard to connect to the burgeoning pet market and find success.
What does tech have in store for dogs and their people? Here are a few takeaways from FOUND:
Dogs are not frivolous—they help us be healthier and happier, and thus should be considered part of the health and wellness industry. This shift in perspective reflects a line of thinking that may find traction with investors, and in turn foster more innovation.
Dogs make us social—Pack’s goal is to connect dog owners … to each other, to their cities, to their dogs. Think of Facebook for dogs, a canine social network. Pack Co-founder/CEO Megan Casey emphasized the relationship between dogs and their owners’ well-being. She also noted that more than half of all U.S. smartphone users have dogs.
Responding to underserved markets—Rover connects owners to a nationwide network of qualified dog boarders. Founder/CEO Aaron Easterly feels he has identified a large underserved market, one that operates in what he termed “the shadow economy”—casual transactions between family and friends that operates under the radar of standard business analysis. The early returns of his venture are promising enough to secure a new round of $25M investment, raising Rover’s total funding to over $50M.
Customization—PrideBites is pursuing the megatrend of personalization, the desire of consumers to design their own product. In this case, it’s placing your dog’s name or likeness on to toys and apparel made in China but the greater potential lies in customized dog food, pharmaceutical products and data systems.
Digitizing dogs—Whistle is one of a handful of new “smart” collars or wearable devices that monitor a dog’s activity with the capacity to connect data to health providers. “Our goal with Whistle,” said Jacobs, “is to give dogs a voice.” As the technology expands, expect more complex data monitoring and analysis.
What was missing? For all the talk of unconditional love and dogs making us better people, we didn’t hear talk of a deeper understanding of dog people and their needs. Nor was there acknowledgement of the wide diversity of the canine community. But that may have to wait for Dog Tech 2.0—for now, companies are targeting the low hanging fruit. Speaking of community, scant mention was made of efforts to contribute to our most pressing issues … animal rescue/adoption, humane causes or education. I hope that changes.
For now, it was refreshing to see a serious gathering of energetic, smart business people committed to dogs, or at least, the dog market. Some good things will take hold, others will fail, but in the end, there will be new services and products to make your life and your dogs’ a little better. One of the most insightful comments of the evening came from panelist Jon Lax, director of product design at Facebook … “the goal for any dog app or website should be to make us better caretakers. If we are spending more time with our apps than we are with our dogs … then something is amiss.”
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
February 27 2015
In some workplaces, lucky employees are offered a range of enticing benefits—juice bars, daycare, climbing gyms—but for us, those that top the charts open their doors and cubes to dogs. And for the firms who submitted entries to the second annual Bark’s Best Places to Work contest, having dogs on-site is also a matter of pride.
Across the country, companies large and small are proudly flying the dog flag, and that’s a good thing. Dogs in the workplace mean reduced employee stress, increased employee satisfaction and a positive work environment. Not to mention an option to lighten up with a little puppy love when things get harried.
Our sponsoring partner, Zuke’s, is pretty darned dog friendly itself. As Chris Meiering, director of innovation, says, “Our canine companions have an immeasurable impact on the culture of our company and the quality of our workplace. Without dogs under our desks, Zuke’s wouldn’t be the same.” The fine folks at Zuke’s will be sending each of the three winning firms a year’s supply of its wholesome treats. We can already hear the dogs cheering!WINNERS
Trupanion, Seattle, Wash.
No surprise here: Trupanion, a pet-insurance company, is owned and operated by people who love animals. Of the 227 dogs and cats who are approved to spend time on-site, about 150 show up each day—most of them of the canine persuasion. (When Darryl Rawlings founded Trupanion in 1999, he was the only employee, and his dog, Charlie, kept him company.)
The firm provides its employees with a plethora of pet-related benefits, including one free pet insurance policy with an enhancement that covers alternative therapies, a dog-walking service, baby gates and tethers at every cubicle, and a dedicated Pet Team made up of employees with veterinary, training and behavior expertise who provide guidance and review pet incidents. From intern to executive, everyone is expected to know and observe in-house protocols involving pet health and safety (and the prohibition on squeaky toys!).
And you know those emergency drills that require everyone to get out of the building and assemble in, say, the parking lot in an orderly way? Now, imagine that with the addition of dogs, cats, leashes and carriers. Trupanion took its commitment to its on-site companion animals into account when designing its fire safety plan, which was developed with the help of the local fire warden and experts in pet space.
On a business-review site, a Trupanion employee volunteered, “Never in my life have I ever loved a job as much.” It’s easy to understand why.
Etsy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Connecting the crafty with their customers, Etsy prides itself on its casual and creative work environment. Some of that good vibe can be traced to the company’s canine operations team, manned—umm, dogged—by Sadie, Pierre, Hoover, Milo, Teddy, Starbuck, Tyson and Fish, to name just a few. (Employee experience manager Sarah Starpoli says even email looks rosy when Hoover comes over to say “hey.”)
Etsy’s dog-friendly policy, which has been in place from the e-commerce site’s beginning in 2005, allows employees’ dogs to wander at will through the company’s headquarters in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, and their fans get email updates—“poop911s.”
Etsy gives employees time off to volunteer, which many use to lend a hand to humane and rescue groups; it also supports local adoption events. In fact, a number of the Etsy dogs are rescues—for example, Fish, whose full name is “Fish Dogg Hunt,” got his second chance from Etsy creative designer Randy Hunt.
Having dogs at work reinforces the company’s mission, which includes being a “mindful, transparent and humane business,” and making fun part of everything they do. (The “fun” was on display last Halloween, when the office swarmed with costumed kids and dogs enjoying a family-friendly party.)
As the company notes, “Through our dog-friendly policies, we’re living our values by crafting a happy, healthy workplace for our employees. … helping them better integrate their personal and professional lives, reduce stress and generally have more fun at work.”
archer>malmo, Memphis, Tenn.
Headquartered in Memphis’s historic Cotton Exchange Building, this advertising and marketing agency has been welcoming dogs to the office for the last 15 of its 60-plus years. The firm’s open (dog) door policy began in the late 1990s as part of “Bring Your Dog to Work” day; before long, dogs at work were the rule rather than the exception.
As CEO Russ Williams says, “Dogs bring joy to our hearts and lives at home, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing for us at work? There is no question in my mind that dogs in the office are accretive to the value of our work.” (Williams’ two dogs occasionally join him at the office.)
The company does pro bono projects for local humane and health charities, and individual employees do their bit for the rescue community as well. For example, one of the account managers is a long-time volunteer with Tails of Hope, assisting with adoption days and fundraisers, and fostering as needed.
Archer>malmo also makes pet insurance available to its employees, underwriting 10 percent of the premium. Until about a year ago, when a formal pet policy was put in place, company dogs roamed at will; there were, of course, occasional etiquette faux pas (who can forget the case of the purloined Pop Tarts?).
The firm counts companion-animal health businesses among its client base, so—in addition to adding to its feel-good quotient—archer>malmo’s dogs have been known to provide creative inspiration as well.
But Wait! There’s More!
Judging from the entries to this year’s Bark’s Best Places to Work contest, there’s no end to the ways dogs are incorporated into and provided for in the modern dog-friendly workplace. For example . . .
SUP ATX in Austin welcomes dogs to its company outings and socials, and office dogs take part in the company’s stand-up paddleboard classes.
Seattle-based Paula’s Choice considered canine requirements when choosing new office space, and in those offices, doggie gates and tethers are provided (plus, an unlimited supply of pickup bags); the company also offers subsidized pet insurance.
Ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., includes office dogs in its emergency-response planning, and mid-morning group dog walks are a regular thing.
At Average Joes Entertainment, a Nashville alt-country record label, employees’ dogs are greeted with open arms and pockets full of dog biscuits.
NYC ad firm McGarryBowen offers comprehensive pet insurance as part of their benefit package.
Employees’ dogs at Eddie’s Wheels in Shelburne, Mass., help out with the company’s mobility-product R&D, and at Bomber Online in Silverthorne, Colo., they meet and greet visitors to the snowboard-binding operation.
In Seattle, online pet-sitter service Rover.com employees have a truly splendid pet-related benefit package, which includes a new-dog bonus, foster-home bonus, pet-bereavement time off, and sitter coverage when they take a well-earned vacation.
Portland, Ore., ad agency North, a small company with a big charitable footprint, supports its local dog-related organizations, including Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital and the Oregon Humane Society. Dogs are everywhere in the agency offices: “on laps, under desks, in meetings.” And how sweet is this? They describe themselves as patient with all types of workplace dogs: “old dogs, rescue dogs, nervous dogs, dogs who have to wear gym shorts and cones after surgery …”
In addition to clean floors, Bissell Homecare, Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich., is also seriously devoted to animal welfare. The Bissell Pet Foundation, founded by Cathy Bissell, focuses on adoption, spay/neuter, microchipping and foster care to reduce the number of animals in shelters.
Employees of Now What, a Brooklyn-based strategy and research firm, volunteer time and donate money to Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. And when they adopt a dog, they get a day of paid time off to help the newcomer settle in.
At distiller Tito’s Handmade Vodka in Austin, rescue dogs live on the premises, and the company actively supports several animal charities.
Pet retailer Kriser’s of Santa Monica, Calif., gives employees time off to volunteer with local humane groups.
Watering Bowl, a St. Louis, Mo., dog daycare and boarding business, reimburses its employees up to $125 for annual vet checks and covers new-dog adoption fees.
In Portland, Maine, web developer Page One Web Solutions gives employees who’ve lost a pet time off to grieve.
A small community of dogs (35, actually) lightens the 60-hour workweeks at security software firm Palantir, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif.
At tech giant Google’s Mountain View, Calif., offices, freedom to bring their dogs to work is one of many enviable employee perks. The company provides a fenced play area and strategically placed treat stations.
In the Malibu, Calif., office of the Sam Simon Foundation, there are more dogs than people. The foundation, which trains assistance dogs, has a roster of 12 dogs and 8 employees.
Among other things, the 40 or so dogs who come to work with their people at the Radio Systems Corporation (DBA PetSafe), a pet product manufacturer based in Knoxville, Tenn., have their own dedicated dog park to frolic in, complete with agility equipment (lucky local dogs are also welcome to join the fun).
Bitly, a NYC-based digital marketing firm, has a casual but enthusiastic policy: “We love dogs!”
On the big-picture front, in Sri Lanka, Odel PLC, a clothing manufacturer, commits resources to programs that support rescue and adoption of its country’s street dogs.
And let us not forget the pioneers. The dogs-at-work protocol developed by San Francisco Bay Area design software firm Autodesk is quite possibly the granddaddy of them all. Dogs have been coming to work with their people here since 1982.
And in Greensboro, N.C., crystal, china, and silver retailer Replacements, Ltd., was chosen as the site of the first quantitative study on the benefits of dogs in the workplace, which was conducted in 2012 by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University. It was a perfect match-up: Replacements has been dog friendly for 18 years (and counting).
Truth is, every company that entered makes winners of its employees and their dogs every single day. We congratulate and celebrate all of them.
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