Alright, it's time. We're dishing on our favorite ethical and sustainable doggie brands because A) all things dogs are instant spirit-lifters and B) we've comprised quite the list over our four or so months now as the proud owners of a puppy named Duck.
When we first got a dog, we knew it would be an investment. Not only do you have to worry about food and toys and leashes and collars, but the almost constant vet visits in the first couple of weeks can be a wallet drainer BIG TIME. Especially for city pups exposed to all kinds of germs on a daily basis. But the return has made all that worthwhile times 1000. In our completely unbiased opinion, Duck is the best dog God has ever created. He's been bestowed with a smiley and social and smart spirit, and we're currently working on his elementary school applications. Fingers crossed, he's going to be accepted to all the top schools in Boston. Kidding. Or am I?
Duck is best friends with everyone in our neighborhood and the #1 benefit of having a dog in the city that we didn't even THINK ABOUT initially is that we know so many MORE PEOPLE than we ever have in our neighborhood before. This is the beauty of being a dog park local. We know pretty much every dog that walks around our neck of Boston, their mood and owner's name, their breed and backstory, it's pretty cool. Also, as Porter put it, if you know someone through having dogs, you know you'll probably get along with them out-the-gate because dog people are the best kind of people!
But I'll put off telling all of Duck's great coming-of-age tales, like the time he stole a blind man's cane or how he enjoys drinking out of water glasses and likes to frolic with the occasional flock of pigeons to cut to the chase and talk sustainable dog products. Let's get to it.
Duck is a White German Shepherd, and like a lot of dog breeds, his breed comes with specific upsides and challenges. We knew when we chose this breed that stomach issues were pretty common. Shepherds tend to be finicky eaters and for the first couple of weeks we had him, Duck didn't seem interested in eating kibble at all. We realized pretty quick that chicken just doesn't agree with him and because he's our firstborn child, we wanted to give him the best. After some research, we came to believe (and standby the fact) that Open Farm offers the best dog food out there. It's grain free, responsibly and sustainably manufactured, and has zero chemicals or preservatives that could potentially harm our furry friend. We went with the Salmon Dry Dog Food because Duck has pink skin which also means he's super susceptible to itchy dry skin and my hope was that the fish oil would help sort that out. He's CRAZY about it. He LOVES his dog food now, and his skin issues cleared up within weeks of us switching him to Open Farm. I've loved how using their products allows us to stick to our own standards of ethics and makes me feel like we're helping him to THRIVE. Also, he's obsessed with their Freeze Dried Raw Lamb and any and all treats.
Harnesses & Leashes
When we first got Duck and he seemed so tiny and fragile, I didn't want to have to pull on his little neck to get him to walk on a leash properly so we decided to go with a harness. A lot of what was out there looked just plain uncomfortable, or, even worse, like something that might break or he could wiggle out of (which living in a city is a risk we just weren't willing to take). Then we came across Eco Bark Pet, which makes harnesses out of upcycled materials like plastic water bottles that are soft enough that they could be categorized as the Tempur-pedic bed of dog-harnessing. While Duck does where a collar nowadays, I will most definitely go back to using an Eco Bark Pet harness for the first couple of months the next time we get a puppy (& yes, we are hoping Duck will have a puppy brother or sister within the next five years, but probably not within the next two).
Truth be told, Duck preferred sleeping on the cold wooden floor 99% of the time in the summer. He runs hot and I swear enjoys even the 8 degree windchill we've had in Boston this week. That makes one of us. But now that winter has rolled around, you can find him snoozing most days and nights in his Jax & Bones bed. Jax & Bones is a completely eco-friendly company that makes toys (Duck has a plush platypus from here that he LOVES) and bedding and even though the price point isn't cheap, the hope is that we'll get at least 5-10 years out of his bed. Also, it just seems so comfy and he's so happy curled up in there that can you REALLY put a price on that kind of joy (Porter would say yes, yes you can). They also monogram with your pup's name which is great because I've had some friends take dog beds to a secondary person to monogram them and this just deletes that step!
Because we didn't want having a pup to break the bank TOO much, one of the ways we've cut corners is avoiding the dog spa. There are plenty of them in Boston and they are plenty fancy, but we've been able to meet all of Duck's grooming needs here at home and giving him baths with Port as a little puppy, suds everywhere, bathroom covered in mud, will be some of my favorite memories from this stage of life hands down. Again, because Duck has dry sensitive skin and it's suggested that most dogs avoid baths more than once a month, we went with something that would be gentle and hydrating for his skin: Earth Bath Pet. I've been SO pleased with their line of products. Their shampoos and conditioners smell amazing and Duck seems to enjoy them, too (as long as we've smeared enough peanut butter on the back shower wall to keep him occupied throughout the bathing experience). They also make wipes that are specific for cleaning ears or eyes or teeth and I like knowing that when I wipe his eyes it's made of something that's chemical-free and isn't going to sting him without me realizing it (the thought of that makes me so sad). Their whole line of products is AWESOME and we're definitely going to be customers for life.
A company I came across recently that I've really started to love for a couple of winter-specific issues we've had is Natural Dog Company. Because we live in the city, Duck gets sick in one small way or another relatively frequently, and the more we know how to cure him at home, the less often we have to take him to the vet and spend $. Whenever Duck gets a runny nose, his snout gets super dry so we've been using the Snout Soother from them and it works like a charm ! Think of it as Aquaphor for your dog's snout. Or snout chapstick. It's wonderful, and thick enough that Duck can't lick it all off (though he tries). We also love their Paw Soother, which is becoming more and more necessary as Hell (I mean winter) freezes over here in Boston. Even with paws, walking on freezing pavement for a couple hours every day must not feel that great some days, and using Paw Soother reverses most of the dryness and cracked paws Duck can get from his busy city life. Also I just think the Natural Dog Company has great branding, and as a photographer, I am openly biased toward top-tier branding.
Our favorite pet store in the city is Polka Dog because of the variety and quality of treats and because they carry Duck's favorite RedBarn bully sticks. We also occasionally head into Fish & Bone on Newbury for less treat-oriented dog shopping trips (they have amazing deals on bulk doggie bags there - even better than CVS, which is shocking).
I have to admit, when we decided to get a puppy four days before he would arrive, completely out of the blue, we were not entirely prepared. Those first couple months are busy and sleep-deprived, but it has brought so much joy to our little apartment and I feel like the quantity of quality time Porter and I have spent together on long walks with Duck or hanging out at the park has increased a lot too just by having Duck around. Yes, there are sub-freezing days where I think about how nice it would be to not have to brave the elements for a 45 minute walk, but with dogs I'm a firm believer that you get back twice as much as you give. If we're this obsessed with our canine baby, I fear for our human ones.