Chatting with Rubi Sullivan

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Rubi Sullivan is one of Portland’s most beloved animal pros and SIX-time Top Dog Award winner for Holistic Wellness Practitioner.  Come behind the scenes with Spot and get to know Rubi better . . . 

Spot: Did you ever dream growing up that you’d end up where you are professionally?

Rubi: No — I didn’t even know it was an option!

Spot: How did you get here?

Rubi: Growing up as an only child, being around animals all the time . . . seeing them go through the life cycle. We had many pets, and I always cared for them. I knew I had a drive to be around animals and pets. I went to college to be a teacher, thinking teaching was great and it would be fun; but while I love kids . . . it wasn’t the right fit at this point in my life. Then I discovered there were schools to learn animal massage, I went for it, and after school I knew I was doing the right thing. I feel so fortunate to do this every day.

Spot: What’s your favorite part of the job?

Rubi: When I get a dog that’s either tricky or new . . . to really have it understand why I’m there and enjoy its session.

Spot: What would “tricky” be?

Rubi: Oh, a pet that’s uncomfortable or nervous in the beginning . . . fearful or wiggly.

Spot: What’s your biggest challenge?

Rubi: [Laughing] . . . scheduling!

Spot: What are a few of the top benefits of massage?

Rubi: Better mobility. I’ve had owners tell me massage lengthens their pets’ lives.  Also, it warms my heart to see an uncomfortable dog enjoy his or herself and sink into the massage — a person getting to see their dog relax.

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Spot: What’s your dream for the future of animal massage?

Rubi: It would be amazing to have more massage therapists to provide dogs and cats these benefits. I see so many happy animals benefiting . . . so — more!

Spot: Where do you see the field of animal massage headed?

Rubi: There is a better understanding thanks to education available to pet owners. I see it trending up — with pet owners and therapists.

Spot: Do you get regular massages?

Rubi: I do! They help so much with my own muscle tension, stress relief and overall rejuvenation. They make a world of difference!

DoveLewis: 40 years of community commitment and service

 Photo credit: Gary Lewis

Photo credit: Gary Lewis

Given the wealth of animal services in the Portland area it may seem hard to believe that emergency services for animals is relatively young.  In 1973, local veterinarians typically handled their own emergency cases or spelled one another in times of need, but a void existed, especially in extreme cases.  Enter A.B. Lewis, who honored his late, animal-loving wife, Dove, by donating funds to open Portland’s first emergency veterinary clinic.  Members of the Portland Veterinary Medical Association formed a board of directors, and the nonprofit DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital was born.  

In August 2013, DoveLewis celebrated its 40th anniversary of providing emergency and critical care services to animals.  Over the last four decades the hospital has also pioneered community services such as the Pet Loss Support Group, Blood Bank, and Velvet Assistance Fund.  From state-of-the-art medical care to free educational and therapeutic workshops, DoveLewis has a hand in almost every aspect of animal services. 

“We talk about DoveLewis as being an octopus,” says Marketing and Communication Manager Marin Aultom.  “There are so many different tentacles to us and ways in which we support our community.”  Aultom says it’s not uncommon for people to know only one or two aspects of DoveLewis’s reach.  “Sometimes people know us as a hospital or pet loss support program, but we’re so much more, and I think that contributes to our longevity.” 

CEO Ron Morgan, who has been with DoveLewis in that capacity for 10 years, says that in looking back over DoveLewis’s legacy he’s been impressed with how many people have contributed to the organization’s success.  “I’ve read board minutes from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, and I see these familiar names, many of whom are still around.  It really shows that so many people put time into the complexity of making DoveLewis.”  

Along with medical staff and volunteers, Morgan points to the vital importance of the DoveLewis’s donor base.  “I’ve met some amazing people over the last 10 years whose hearts are just in the right place and they want to do the right thing — it’s phenomenal.  Dove is a little unique I think, in that 98 percent of our donors have had hands-on experience with what  it’s like here, what the staff is like, and how they get treated — and they want to support that.” 

Another much-unknown aspect of DoveLewis, Morgan feels, is the breadth of knowledge of its veterinary staff.  He says many people don’t know that Dove is a teaching hospital, drawing medical professionals from across the country and the world, to learn from its medical staff.  

 DoveLewis's critical care is one of the best in the country.

DoveLewis's critical care is one of the best in the country.

“DoveLewis is very well known in emergency circles,” says Morgan.  “Our ICU, and critical care medicine, outside of the university setting, is probably in the top five in the country.”  But that’s not all that draws top docs to Dove.  Morgan says, “A lot of our staff is attracted to our nonprofit mission and the programs we offer.  They can help people with financial needs, they can help strays and injured wildlife, and they can get people involved in the pet loss program.  They like that our mission is focused on the human-animal bond and not on driving profit.” 

Morgan is particularly proud of the recently launched Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT) program.  DoveLewis has partnered with Guide Dogs for the Blind, giving new opportunities to retired or career-change guide dogs.  “We are taking these wonderful, highly trained dogs who love being in service and taking them into senior centers and hospitals.  We’re really excited about it.” 

Another new program expanding upon the hospital’s educational efforts is an on-demand, online training tool, “On The Floor at Dove,” which offers veterinary professionals — including doctors, vet technicians, practice managers and even front desk personnel — educational videos on procedures and management practices.  

“We saw a real niche in our industry,” says Morgan.  “There are many people working in places where there’s no access to good education, and if there is, it’s just a PowerPoint presentation or webinar that’s never on their time.  This [DoveLewis’s program] is on-demand and easy to access.”  The high-quality videos are shot at DoveLewis, and range from how-to’s on placing an IV catheter to advanced surgical procedures to managing cage aggression.  The program has been a hit with the medical community, which accesses the service by subscription.  Nearly 500 clinics around the country are currently participating, and subscribers are growing in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain and Europe.  “Our goal is to help improve the level of veterinary medicine, and when the program becomes profitable, that money will come back to Portland and help us grow our programs locally.” 

 A DoveLewis Blood Bank Superhero

A DoveLewis Blood Bank Superhero

Expanding programs and finding ways to further its mission are at the forefront of DoveLewis’s vision for the future.  “We’re spending a lot of time now looking forward, not just on what got us here, but what’s going to keep us here and thriving,” says Morgan. 

For Aultom, this anniversary has also been a time to reflect on the importance of the entirety of DoveLewis’s community.  “The donors and volunteers are a huge part of our support, as well as our referring vet partners who trust us with their patients for emergency care when they’re closed.  We’re so excited to celebrate our 40th anniversary and have the community’s support, because without the community, there really isn’t a DoveLewis.” 

To learn more, visit DoveLewis.org.


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Nikki Jardin is a Portland-based freelance writer who loves to write about people dedicated to making the world a better place for all beings.

Doing daycare right

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It’s remarkable for a two-years’-young business to sweep in readers’ choice awards, and not only did A Dog’s Best Friend Doggie Daycare earn 1st Place for Dog Grooming, but the business earned votes in SEVEN categories.  

Long-time friends Anne Nipp (Owner and avid dog lover) and Jaime Ross, General Manager, took over the Vancouver business in November 2011. 

 “We’re great at providing a wonderful product as well as a creating good relationships with our customers,” Ross says.  The business is a good neighbor, sponsoring pet and non-pet-related community events alike.  Anne’s grooming skills earned them the 1st Place win this year.  “She takes a lot of dogs that no one else will take anymore, like special needs or geriatric dogs,” says Ross.  “We sit on the floor and groom them if they can’t stand for too long.” Groomer Shayla Saldano joined the team in July 2013 and, according to Ross, has contributed greatly to the salon’s success.  

They have spiffed up both Vancouver locations.  “Our daycare is special for a variety of reasons,” says Ross, “our facilities are top of the line.  We use amazingly good products; we have great floor surfaces and outdoor areas with K9 in our backyards.  We’re able to make up to six different playgroups at a time, and we have highly skilled employees able to identify personalities so we maintain a happy, safe environment for our guests.”  We recently added a trainer on staff help manage the playgroups and support employee knowledge, and with dogs that need special handling. 

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“Come out and give us a try!” says Ross.  “I love the relationships that we build with the dogs and their owners.  I feel like we become family with a lot of them.”

A Dogs Best Friend

316 NE Hearthwood Blvd, Vancouver * 360-737-6439 

4601 NE 78th St, Vancouver * 360-597-3188 ‎

ADogsBFFDaycare.com

Never a kennel and always a blast

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The most unique feature of 3 Dogs Boarding and Daycare, and one that owners Anne Graves and Mike Lauria are very proud of, is cage-free boarding.  “People just naturally like the idea of not having their dogs confined in cages,” says Lauria.  “I’ve spent plenty of time working for more traditional kennels, and I can say that cage-free boarding greatly reduces the stress dogs experience from kenneling.  They’re not reacting to things moving around their cages, and not reacting to each other.” 

3 Dogs is divided into two roughly 2,000 square-foot spaces, one for boarding, one for play.  During the day, when dogs are there for boarding and day care, Graves and Lauria can host up to 70 dogs.  Every new canine client is carefully evaluated to make sure they’re a good fit, and the dogs are grouped based on energy level and play style.  After those in daycare are picked up or shuttled home, dogs in boarding remain out of kennels, even at night.  “The dogs come into the boarding room and they’re just loose,” says Lauria, “but they are constantly supervised by staff on-site, 24 hours a day.”   

Lauria has worked in various capacities with dogs for nearly 20 years.  Graves was a veterinary technician and wildlife research volunteer in South Africa.  “That was amazing,” she says, “but I realized I wanted to get back to domesticated animals!”   

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In the five years that Lauria and Graves have operated 3 Dogs, they’ve developed an appreciative client base — of both people and pups.  “The dogs that come in for boarding and daycare literally drag their owners through the door because they’re pulling on the leash so much!” says Lauria.  “They really do have a blast and the owners see that.” 

3 Dogs Boarding and Daycare

5430 NE 42nd Ave, Portland

503-206-3028 * 3dogs.biz

Dogs Dig It . . . doing things right

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Apparently it’s not just dogs that dig this daycare, but people do, too!  Dogs Dig It won high Top Dog honors in six categories this year, proving that in the care of new owner Ryan Kling, the business has grown and improved, and people have noticed. 

Kling purchased Dogs Dig It in August 2012.  “I had looked at several kennels and daycares, and none really looked like the kind of place I would want to take my own dog until I found this one,” he says.  “It has a great client base and a great facility in a great place.”  One thing dogs and their people dig here is the huge play space.  “They can run around in 14,000 square feet, and about 9,000 of that is outdoor,” says Kling.  “Customers love taking their dog home and having them sleep for a day and half because they’ve had the space to run and have high-energy play.”  Astroturf with drainage allows urine and water to go right through it, keeping the dogs clean and the facility smelling fresh.  

Knowing from experience how difficult budgeting daycare or boarding can be, Kling was especially pleased to win the Boarding on a Budget category.  “I’ve always tried to stay right in the middle or slightly below market price, and that’s apparently hit a nice tune with my customers,” he says.  “We recognize that it’s not cheap to add on the expense of daycare and boarding.  You have to care for your dog, and make sure s/he’s staying in a happy, fun place.”  

A big part of DDI’s appeal, says Kling, is the “fantastic” staff that gets to know the dogs and the people personally.  “They get to know their quirks and what makes them happy,” he says, “and they’re really good at managing the dogs for happy, playful, safe packs.  The folks on staff here love dogs, our customers, and their jobs, because they get to play with the 4-legged customers every day.”  Dogs Dig It is conveniently located in SE Portland, and offers end of day shuttle service. 

Before becoming a boarding/daycare business owner, Kling says he was a customer, with Chewie, his 50 lb. “mixed mutt” Boxer/Healer mix.  “Out of all the daycares I visited there seemed to be something lacking or something that could be done better,” he says.  “I’ve visited different boarders and daycares with other dogs throughout my life and I was just never super satisfied with the way they did things.” 

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At 42, Kling is not only a new business owner, but a new father.  He and his wife, then pregnant, moved to Portland from Seattle to purchase DDI.  They now have an 11-month-old son.  Formerly a business consultant, Kling now combines his experience as a dog owner and business expert.  “I’ve always been kind of an entrepreneur, and this job struck a chord, so we took a leap,” he says.  “It’s been really great.  I’ve been able to improve the business and how we deliver services, and make it what it is today.  With our dedicated customer base I think it proves we’re doing things right.” 

Dogs Dig It Daycare

1132 Se Salmon St, Portland

503-236-8222 * dogsdigit.net

Puppy training business truly a wonder

 Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Why have a good puppy when you can have a “wonder puppy”?  That’s Casey Newton’s question, and her customers have answered — honoring Wonder Puppy with three first-place wins.  

Wonder Puppy won 1st Place in Training/Behavior Services, Playgroups/Spaces, and Individual Trainer (Kerry Ryan), the latter finding four WP trainers in the top 10.  

While there are clearly many things people like about Wonder Puppy, Newton says a big one is class size.  “We only have four to five students per group class,” she says, “which is very small, so they get a lot of personal attention.  We know each and every one of our students.”  Small classes means students get the individual attention they need, even when they’re at different skill levels.  Another plus?  “We like people as well as dogs!” says Newton laughing.  “There are two learners in this situation — you have the person and you have the dog.  You need to be able to teach people, because they’re the ones ultimately communicating with their dogs.  So we’re people-teachers as well.” 

Newton is a seasoned pro.  In April, Wonder Puppy will celebrate five years, and for five years before that, she was owner and trainer at Portland Paws.  With WP, she decided to specialize in puppies.  Students progress through three levels:  Good, Great and Wonder.  “We do a really good job in what we offer because we specialize, so we’re able to do 100 percent foundational dog training,” says Newton.  To earn a Canine Good Citizen certificate, a puppy must demonstrate 16 skills in an outdoor setting with no treats.  “I created the curriculum to be the most positive and practical approach to training,” Newton says.  “It’s balanced in terms of positive reinforcement and boundaries.” 

Wonder Puppy offers about 38 classes each week, all focused on foundational training, with about 14 first-series classes offered days, evenings and weekends.  “We’re a tight team,” says Newton.  “We have public school, private school, and boarding school.  If someone trains with us for a group class we also have support for them outside of class, and even if they have a different trainer we all use the same methods so it’s not confusing.” 

Newton studied psychology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, animal behavior at the University of Tennessee, and interned with well-known animal behaviorist Gordon M. Burghardt.  Her psychology background is valuable in serving her human customers:  WP offers tea, coffee and granola bars in case puppy parents come from work and are hungry.  “We have a little bar where you can watch the classes,” she says.  “We call it a sit-and-sip station; it’s a place to hang out.” 

 Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Photo credit: Kforce Creative

Newton is gaining recognition in the dog training world.  She is the animal trainer for the popular television show “Portlandia,” and has done casting for the show.  “So fun!” she says.  Newton also offers webinars on puppy training and will travel to Chile in November to speak and present workshops at the Association of Professional Dog Trainers conference. 

Now, she’s ready to spread her wings even more.  Newton recently moved to Los Angeles part-time, and has plans to develop an iPhone app.  She’s also developing videos to support puppy parents who want to learn the Wonder Puppy way wherever they live, and is considering franchising in coming years, opening in Southern California and possibly East Portland.  “It’s really exciting,” she says. 

Wonder Puppy

1500 NW 18th Ave, Portland

503-697-PUPS (7877) * wonder-puppy.com

 

 

 

 

Home Vet focuses on comfort

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“We’re very lucky to live in Portland because it is such an animal-centered community,” says Dr. Louise Mesher, veterinarian and owner of At Home Veterinary Services.  Mesher’s practice earned votes in seven categories – including top among veterinarians.  “I think in many other places I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for another 10 years — that’s how advanced we are here.” 

What she does is provide in-home veterinary care.  With a special interest in end-of-life and hospice care, Mesher also provides general care such as ultrasounds and bloodwork in the comfort and convenience of patients’ homes.  “The house call arena is really a unique thing that other people aren’t doing,” she says, “but for me, it is focused on the comfort and stress level of the animal.” 

At Home Vet’s business has been growing as word has spread that treatments and tests can be done at home, as well as euthanasia when needed.  Mesher does as much as she can to support geriatric or young animals who have terminal diagnoses, and their families.  “The animals aren’t quite ready to leave us, and the owners aren’t quite ready, but something needs to be done for their quality of life and there’s no better way to do that than at home.”  Mesher and her colleague, Dr. Heather Dillon, “just love, love, love” geriatric animals.  “There’s nothing better than helping them be more comfortable and giving owners peace of mind that they’re doing everything they can.” 

At Home Veterinary is also a great option for animals stressed by transport or a clinic environment.  “Middle-aged or young animals with chronic illnesses that need relatively frequent bloodwork or exams can have that kind of service in their homes,” Mesher says.  “We develop a lot of close relationships with these clients.  It’s more relaxed, more personal.” 

Mesher and Dillon have been friends since meeting in vet school.  Mesher graduated in 1999; Dr. Dillon has been practicing since ‘96.  Mesher began doing house calls for another vet in 2004. “I knew house calls were an underutilized type of vet practice and that there was a need for it,” she says, “and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”  She hired her first full-time technician in 2010 and has continued to grow.  Soon they hope to expand services from five to seven days a week. 

Mesher is grateful for the recognition she’s received, but more importantly, wants people to realize that at-home vet care is a viable option.  “A lot can be done at home,” she says, “and it is a really beautiful way to support your animal’s healthcare needs in a low-stress way.” 

At Home Veterinary Services

16869 SW 65th Ave, Lake Oswego

503-281-1631 * pdxhomevet.com 


Vancouver boutique sweeps

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“Gosh!” says Evan Smith, about learning that his shop, Canine Utopia in Vancouver, won Top Dog Awards in eight categories this year.  “We strive to be different,” he says. 

That humility and kindness helps make them a perennial favorite with pet owners, coupled with Evan’s and partner Jason’s commitment to using all natural products. 

“We didn’t just open to open a store,” says Smith.  “We opened the store because we have dogs with allergies and no one seemed to carry what we needed.  So we said, ‘We can’t be the only ones experiencing these problems, so we’re going to open a store to carry what we want.’” 

Evan and Jason have two Pugs, Dunkin’ and Kyle, and a French Bulldog named Hera — “like the goddess,” Smith says, smiling.  “She earned the name.”  Hera is their most allergy-prone dog, and the shop’s original inspiration.  “Initially I was ordering or driving to Portland to get products, which was expensive and time-consuming,” says Smith.  All of their pets are adopted, including recent arrival Gordon, a 12-year-old cat. “Gordon thinks he’s a dog,” says Smith, “so he greets everyone and tells them about how he’s starving.” 

Starting their business was “a grass-roots thing,” says Evan.  After looking into purchasing an existing business, they decided to do what they wanted they’d have to build it from the ground up.  The business’s feline side is now expanding — being painted “Tabby-cat orange” to match Gordon. 

The couple thoroughly researched pet product manufacturers before opening.  “We visited plants and worked with the manufacturers on their recall history and product sourcing to make sure we were living up to our standards of quality products,” explains Smith. 

Smith says one concern around food recalls is companies that co-pack.  “For example,” he says, “Diamond manufactures 17 food lines and we learned that their machines never turn off; they run seven days a week, 365 days a year.  If they never turn off, they aren’t getting cleaned, so it tarnishes the outcome of the food.”  All of Canine Utopia’s products are independently packaged, and they support other small businesses whenever possible. 

The business is about a month from becoming “green certified” by Vancouver.  “It was a lengthy process, but fun,” says Smith.  “Last year our New Year’s resolution was to become a green store.”  

Community involvement was built into the business plan, and it shows.  Smith is a board member with DogPaw, the group managing off-leash dog parks in SW Washington.  He’s also spearheading a mural called “Portrait of a Town.”   

“I wanted to showcase the community, so that 15 years later people could see everyone that makes this town a town.” 

Mindy Smith, no relation to Evan, moved to Vancouver a couple of years ago and needed special food for her sensitive Jack Russell.  She’s shopped at Canine Utopia since it opened.  “They’ve just been wonderful,” Mindy says. “It’s a really nice atmosphere and they’re very service-oriented.  I really appreciate that.” 

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Mindy says while experimenting with different foods to find the right one, Evan and Jason were very helpful, patient, and generous with samples, “Which helped a lot.  We need those anchor business in Vancouver, and Canine Utopia is a perfect example of that,” she says. 

Canine Utopia

2309 Main St., Vancouver

360-737-7881 *  k9utopia.com   

Green Dog sits top of the heap

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For the second consecutive year, Mike and Christine Mallar’s Green Dog Pet Supply won 1st Place in the Holistic Merchant category. They also won 1st Place for Neighborhood Pet Supply, 2nd for Food Consultant, a category new this year, and 3rd for Food.  They also ranked top 10 for Specialty Boutique, Apparel, and Gear — altogether a fantastic showing.

In business since 2004, Green Dog opened with a commitment to provide holistic nutrition and information to customers.  “We started with that as our mission,” says Christine.  “We’ve always been nutrition geeks ourselves, and have hired people with the expectation that they are going to need to do a lot of homework.  If people want more information about kidney disease, we’ll put together a compilation from several reliable sources and email it to them.  We’ve always tried really hard to get tools and knowledge into people’s hands.”

That kind of commitment comes through loud and clear when talking with loyal Green Dog customers.  “I think Christine and Mike are two of the most approachable, knowledgeable pet people in town,” says customer Reed Coleman, who regularly shops at Green Dog for her family’s three dogs, Grace, Otis and Royce.  Coleman says staff are patient when helping with dietary concerns, offering advice, and even consulting with her veterinarian.  “You don’t feel dumb, intimidated or pressured,” says Coleman.  “They have great ideas, alternatives and options.  They see it like a puzzle that they want to figure out.”

Connie Christensen agrees.  A newer customer, Christensen discovered Green Dog when seeking a particular brand of holistic food for one of her dogs.  She was impressed with the staff’s knowledge.  “No matter who you talk to, they understand their products and what they’re all about,” she says.

“I have such rock star employees,” says Christine Mallar.  “It’s not uncommon for them to come in on days off to tell me about an article they just read — it’s fantastic.  We’re all interested and want to share what we learn with each other.”

Aside from a deep knowledge of animal nutrition, Green Dog offers the kind of understanding and support you expect from a dear friend when faced with some of the more serious issues involved in pet parenthood.  Ron Haber had been a regular customer, purchasing food for his two aging kitties, Angus and Willie, who required extra dietary support as they aged.  “I had a lot of questions and they were really helpful.  They are serious about keeping up on food choices.  As individuals it’s hard to know everything, so they really do a lot of that research for you.  Sometimes I would ask a question and they would say, ‘Let me find out,’ and research it and get back to me with an answer.  That’s so rare.” Haber sadly lost Angus and Willie recently, but he will always appreciate Green Dog’s help and compassion during difficult times.  “If I ever get other animals, which I’m sure I will, I’ll be going there.”

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For her part, Christine Mallar feels the relationship between staff and customers is a two-way street.  “We are lucky; we have great customers.  They are so into being a part of it and we try to foster that.”

Green Dog Pet Supply

4327 NE Fremont St, Portland.

503-528-1800 * GreenDogPetSupply.com

Wrapping dogs in love

  Emily & Xavier

Emily & Xavier

After spending more than a year studying apparel design at the Art Institute in Portland, Emily Lariviere realized her aspirations had strayed from those of most of her fellow students. Listening to classmates talk about couture wedding dresses or becoming the next thing in fashion, Lariviere held onto a closely guarded secret.

“I didn’t want anybody to steal my idea,” she says, laughing, “but it hit me that I just wanted to make dog jackets.”

Born out of that early inspiration and a desire to find a better-fitting, hipper-looking jacket for her own dog, Lariviere launched Muffinhead in November 2010 after finding other dog jackets wanting — either being too “cutesy” for her rough-and-tumble Pit Xavier, or too cheaply made.

“I felt a bit of lackluster with what was out there,” Lariviere recalls. “I didn’t feel like [the jackets] expressed who Xavier was and they had kind of a weird fit for his body.” After gathering several retail jackets, Lariviere hired a seamstress and came up with a pattern based on qualities she liked and didn’t like. “I know there are only so many ways to fit a dog’s body,” she says, “but there were a lot of little things I had to take into consideration” — for example whether a jacket goes over the head or fits through the arms and legs.

After coming up with a pattern she liked, Lariviere realized that to move forward she needed help. She found that in business partner Amy Giehll, a like-minded Maine transplant (coincidentally from the same small town of Orchard Beach as Emily). The two bonded over their love of animals and commitment to rescue work. “I wanted someone who shared my vision,” says Lariviere. “I mean, if people aren’t similarly passionate about your mission than it doesn’t feel like a step forward. She’s been such an amazing asset and has a big heart.”

  Xavier  

Xavier 

Portland-based Muffinhead is quickly becoming a known brand, recently winning a 2013 Top Dog Award for Apparel. Much of that success obviously comes from the labors of Lariviere and Giehll, but it’s also thanks to a business model that fits perfectly with local consumers and 21 st Century ideals. All of Muffinhead’s handmade jackets are produced from recycled, made-in-the-USA textiles, with additional locally-sourced materials, which Lariviere says is in line with her and Giehll’s philosophies. “There’s nothing about our company that isn’t totally consistent with how we live.”

That includes their commitment to engaging in the animal rescue community and donating product as often as possible to area rescues and shelters. Seeing a recent article in Spot on the plight of shelter dogs housed outdoors in Madras, Oregon, Lariviere was one of the first to respond, gathering a box of remainder jackets and shipping them within days. Lariviere says this type of altruism was built into her business plan. “We were asked early on to think about companies we might like to emulate, and all the ones that came to mind were companies that were giving back. If we were just interested in turning a profit, it would be much easier to do that, but that’s not in line with who we are as people or what we believe. Amy and I joke that our day jobs feed our wallets, but Muffinhead feeds our souls.”

Lariviere is looking forward to building on the success Muffinhead has had in the last two years and is optimistic about continuing to be a larger part of the community, even knowing there is plenty of work ahead.

  Muffinhead dogs

Muffinhead dogs

“Any small business is like having a child . . . it’s a lot of work, but you get so much joy and fulfillment that it’s all worth it. I mean really; when people picture Muffinhead, they should picture Amy and I sitting in one of our apartments, drinking wine, watching “Mad Men” and cutting dog jackets. Every two minutes one of us shows the other what we’ve just done and we’re like, ‘That’s so cute!’”

Indeed. Check out Muffinhead’s wares and learn more about its sustainable practices at MuffinheadDog.com.