It was a lifelong dream come true, when I bought a house on the lake in 1996. It was early July and after hours of unpacking boxes, all I wanted was to cool off... Grabbing leashes for my three dogs, we headed for the dock. The dogs became excited as we neared the water.
It was 99° degrees, all I could think about was diving into the cool blue water. My dogs were Shelties, a breed known for herding not swimming. They were smart and fun loving, but two were rescues and they never let me out of their site. I wondered if they would learn to like the water, especially the youngest one.
I dove in the water and swam out about 40 yards. As I rolled and turned to see what my Pups were doing, I was delighted to see my puppy “Tully” swimming like a pro as she followed me.
My excitement at seeing her paddling confidently was short lived, I noticed Annie jumping on to the seat of my wave runner, trying to see where I was heading. As she balanced on the seat, the dock line tightened and threw her into the lake. This would have been funny but, I could see the panic in her face, I swam to her as fast as I could as Tully followed. “It’s okay Annie, good job!” I kept saying as I swam to her. As soon as I had her in my arms, the unexpected happened. Reese had been , watching from the dock. Tuning into my stress she got excited and started barking and rolling on the dock. She tumbled into the water. OMG, we were all in the water, and I had to act quickly. Tully, kept paddling in tight little circles, looking amused, but offered no help.
There was no dock ladder or shoreline, so I climbed on to the wave runner and jumped to the dock. I managed to pull each of them out of the water. I was relieved to see they were unfazed by the swim as they shook off the water and chase each other around the dock as if nothing had happened. I didn’t share their excitement, I was exhausted, filled with anxiety and panic, I kept thinking, “this is not good, they have no fear of being near water, and this could easily happen again. The next time it might be without anyone around to pull them to safety. I spent the rest of the day thinking about worst-case scenarios.
The next morning Tully, woke me barking. She could see the lake from the sliding door in the bedroom. I realized this was exactly what I wanted, a dog that loved the water.
After a quick drama free swim, we came back to the house and I began calling local marine supply and pet stores. I was looking for a product that people used to get their dogs out of the water when there was no shoreline. To my frustration, no one had ever heard of anything like what I described.
I was baffled this type of product didn’t exist. Frustrated I fired up my computer with a dial up connection and began to search the internet, which was a new way to locate things back in 1996. Even so I thought I would get better results with a web search. After hours of dead-end searches, It was clear this type of product didn’t exist.
I was torn between my love of the lake and knowing my dogs would be safe on the docks. It was clear that my only option was to come up with something that would allow them to get out of the water, if they fell in and I wasn’t around to scoop them out.
I envisioned a ramp of sorts, but I did not own the dock we used which only limited my design options, but not my vision. I tried all sorts of designs that were pretty useless but eventually we had our first doggydocks®. It was crude but it worked and I spent my days stress free.
Neighbors began bringing their dogs over to use our ramp and boaters on the lake would anchor a few hundred yards away and watch the dogs leaping off the docks only to race up, and do it all over again. I imagine the sight of different size dogs leaping off the dock and running back up, was entertaining to the boaters and residents.
I never thought about selling doggydocks commercially, although I eventually made a few for neighbors and a couple for the local pet store, it would take another eight years to bring doggydocks® to the market because I wasn't convinced there was a market. The other reason was even though
I have always been an entrepreneur, the doggydocks was personal. Over time I realized other dog owners had the same concerns as me about keeping their dogs safe around the water.
A few years after we began selling doggydocks, a writer with a national boating magazine asked me a simple question” Why did you develop doggydocks”? A question, I had heard many times before, but this time it triggered something inside and I was flooded with the memory of my dog that drowned in a friend’s swimming pool 20 years earlier. I was devastated to a point I suppressed the memory. It was in that moment, I realized why I had spent the time, energy and money to find something that would keep my dogs safe around the water. Looking back it was my way of healing from the grief and guilt of her death, because she had no way out of the water.
Over the years doggydocks® have prevented countless dog drowning and is is still a driving force behind the product, However the icing on the cake is that dogs that love the water have turned doggydocks® into an interactive product that provides entertainment for both dogs and their owners!