Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Favorite Post of 2008

It sure has been a busy year for Merlin's Bark Products. Things sure have been moving fast for the company and I don't want to brag, but I think Merlin's Bark Products may become one of those Fortune 500 companies you read about in the papers within a couple of years.

Anyhow, while I was reflecting on the past year, I realized that my company wouldn't be where it is today if it wasn't for Etsy providing us (and a couple hundred thousand others) with a great place to setup shop and sell all of our wonderful handmade (and vintage) items online.

Also, you would say that we also got our "big break" from Etsy too. Back before Merlin's Bark Products even had our first Etsy sale one of the co-founders (Jared) interviewed me for a feature story on Etsy.

So in celebration of the end of 2008, I decided to rerun my blog post on my Etsy Spotlight interview.



My Fresh Shop interview with Jared was published today! I am so excited about it that my little bunny butt has been shaking in a frenzy for awhile now. I reprinted the whole article below, but feel free to check out the article and all the nice comments people have been leaving me about my shop on Etsy's Web site.

*******

Fresh Shops: Merlin's Bark Products
Story by jared

Published on July 31, 2008 in Spotlight


Recently, I was clicking through Pounce Undiscovered with my right hand while rubbing my dog’s head with my left. I saw this great (well-crafted and simply designed) elevated dog feeder (in red-stained chestnut) by Merlin's Bark Products, and I ah-ha’ed aloud.

I love finding good woodwork on Etsy. This shop couples creative carpentry with a design sensibility that’s driven by deep compassion for animals.

So far, merlinsbarkproducts features an assortment of feeders and little wooden homes for an array of animals, such as bluebirds, bats, butterflies, flying squirrels…and of course, dogs.

I put a few questions to the creators behind merlinsbarkproducts, Sherry and Jerry:

There is a great beauty and variety of wood in your items. What are some of the benefits to using sustainably harvested or recycled wood?

It is very important to me that we use wood that comes from trees that are managed and farmed in ways that ensure the protection of the environment and other natural resources. Also, I would hate to think that I was contributing to the removal of old growth trees. I know that a lot of different animals depend on those trees for housing. Also, you can find a lot of beauty in old recycled wood. We get a lot of our recycled wood from a local building material recycling center. I am hoping to use some of their old barn wood for owl house I have in mind.

The designs of your animal homes seem strangely inviting...

I love to lay outside in my yard and watch all the different animals run around. When I’m watching them, I start to think about what type of houses and feeding station they would need.

One of my favorite products is our condominium for flying squirrels. It is just amazing! It is over 3-feet tall and has four floors. I came up with the design after watching our own flying squirrels and wondering what type of house they would need if our old pine tree didn’t exist anymore. I did a little research and came up with a house that any flying squirrel would be proud to call home.

I also realized the need for Purple Martin houses when a whole colony of them decided to move into our gutters this spring. I did a little research trying to figure out why they moved in and found out that Purple Martins are the only birds that totally depend on humans for housing. So now we will be adding Purple Martin houses to our product line.

Your blog details a very interesting story about how you turned an idea into a real company. Can you talk about some of the challenges you faced and how you resolved them?

One of the biggest challenges was figuring out what type of products I wanted to concentrate on. At first I was thinking about making products for animals and humans, but I have found myself concentrating more on products geared toward animals.

Though, humans benefit from our products too. Whether it is from installing a bat house and having Mother Nature’s little pest control experts take the place of using poisonous insecticide, or being entertained by song birds eating out of a feeder, the enjoyment our of products can be shared by animals and humans.

Our product line continues to evolve. I love receiving feedback and suggestions from customers. Recently we had people ask us about elevated cat bowl feeders. I had never thought making those before, but now we will be adding elevated cat bowl feeders to our product line. I also continue to do research on animal husbandry to see what other types of products we should be offering.

You are a member of the Abandoned Wild Babies Animal Resuce (AWBAR), who also keeps an Etsy shop. How does being a member of such a compassionate organization affect your role as a shop owner?

Since I’ve joined, I’ve been helping to spread the word about AWBAR through my blog and also on forums. I recently donated one of our dual feeders (a feeder that can be used by both birds and squirrels) to the AWBAR Etsy store. I can’t wait for it to sell. All of the proceeds from the sale will go directly to support the care of the baby animals at AWBAR.

******

I'll be barking to you later!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Animal Shelters Need Help!

You don't have to be the CEO of a company to know that the economy hasn't been doing that well lately. Every time you turn on the news you see another report of massive layoffs and the rising foreclosure and unemployment rates. One of the innocent (and sometimes forgotten) victims of the current crises are family pets. Animal shelters all over the country have seen a huge increase of once beloved pets being dropped off because their owners can no longer afford to care for them properly or they have lost their home to foreclosure. When I read this story in the local paper this morning I decided that as the CEO of Merlin's Bark Products I need to be doing more to help out my fellow canine (and feline) in this time of need.

Maybe you will decide to help out too....


Animal shelters feeling pinch, too
Monday, December 22, 2008
By Kathy Samudovsky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Animal Friends in Ohio Township is among local shelters in need of donations of anything from food to toys.
It's a pretty safe bet that animals in most local shelters won't find a permanent home for the holidays.

Not because Christmas is just three days away.

Rather, the economic recession has led to a rising number of pet surrenders and, at the same time, dwindling donations.

People who have lost their jobs or homes due to foreclosures are unable to afford food and medical care for the family pet, said Gretchen Fieser, director of public relations for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Many are having to surrender their pet to a shelter or, worse, abandon it, she said.

Charitable contributions are difficult for them, too.

"When people are stressed financially, they're not as giving because they're worried -- understandably so -- about their own existence. So it's kind of a double whammy for us: You have more animals coming into the shelter and less [donations] from the public to help support it."

To increase awareness of their needs, shelters have been promoting "Wish Lists" of in-kind gifts they'd like to receive, such as supplies, resources, time and equipment. These lists are typically available on their Web sites or via phone contact.

Animal rescue, rehabilitation and fostering organizations have wish lists, too. Their all-volunteer staff members often must pay for expenses out-of-pocket.

Shelters rely on donations from compassionate individuals and corporations to help maintain operations and keep the animals safe, healthy and happy.

There are no government funds available for animal shelters; only for animal control.

The Washington Area Humane Society reported a 25 percent increase in surrendered or abandoned pets since the same time last year. "We're even getting a lot of animals that were adopted through us, returned to us or dropped off. People can't afford them anymore," said manager Lorie Schooley.

Jolene Miklas, director of communications for Animal Friends, the no-kill shelter in Ohio Township, said the agency's Chow Wagon, which provides pet food to local food banks and pantries, has seen a 60 percent increase in demand since December 2007. Pet food donations are urgently needed.

If you're an animal lover but strapped for cash, you can still help.

Many wish list items are inexpensive -- as in less than $5. Buying one toy will cure boredom and stress for multiple cats or dogs. And if 20 people send a $10 gift card, that's $200 of store credit.

Do you knit? Consider knitting cage pads or large-dog sweaters. Like to organize? Coordinate a pet food drive. You can also foster animals in your home; volunteer as a handyman, dog walker or cat cuddler. Or, if you live in or near Washington, Pa., donate use of a heated barn. (The Washington Area Humane Society has a few unhappy, "cage-crazed" cats that need more space. To help, call 724-222-PETS.)

Finally, consider a tax-deductible donation to a shelter, or rescue or fostering group, or a specialized fund such as the Animal Care & Assistance Fund. The nonprofit fund, an extension of the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Ohio Township, was started in October. It was designed as a one-time benefit for referred pet owners whose financial situation makes them unable to provide veterinary care for treatable yet life-threatening conditions. For details, visit www.animalcarefund.org

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Doctor Recommended: Elevated Dog Bowls

How would you like to have to eat hunched over a bowl? Or how about trying to get a drink of water all hunched over? If your pet doesn't eat out of an elevated bowl, that is what your pup (or cat) is doing everyday. Not only is it uncomfortable to do, but it is also harder on the digestive system. By using a raised/elevated feeder, which is designed to provide food and water at the correct height, you can help prevent and alleviate any problems. That is why Merlin's Bark Products has its own line of elevated dog bowl feeders and also elevated cat bowl feeders.


Veterinarians actually recommend raised bowl feeders for dogs and cats since they help alleviate problems the pets might have with arthritis, neck and back problems, and also with digestion problems like megaesophagus and other conditions that make swallowing painful and difficult. Since elevated feeders are sit up higher, everything goes down the throat a little easier.

Elevated bowls also help keep pets eating areas cleaner. They help keep the food and water in the bowls and not dribbling all over the floor. Have you ever noticed pups "dripping" water all over the floor whenever they lift up their head up after taking a drink? Using an elevated bowl can helped stop the "lake" from forming around a pup's water bowl when they are getting a drink. A lot of pets like to play with their food and water dishes too and having raised bowls stop pets from doing that.

Elevated dishes don't just benefit members of the animal kingdom, they also benefit pet owners since they no longer have to bend over as far to pick up their pet's food and water dishes. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!

I'll be barking to you later!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Biden Puppy!

Did you hear the exciting news? Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be moving to Washington D.C. with a German Shepherd puppy! Check out this CNN news story about the lucky little puppy:


Biden beats Obama in puppy race

(CNN) – While the country is fixated on what kind of dog President-elect Barack Obama’s family will get when they move into the White House, his Vice President-elect Joe Biden quietly picked out a puppy of his own last week.

Biden’s wife, Jill, promised the future VP a dog if he and Obama got elected. Biden found the as-yet-unnamed pup, a three-month old male German Shepherd, in a breeder’s kennel in southeastern Pennsylvania, the area’s Daily Local News reports.

Biden revealed his wife’s pledge on Election Day, telling reporters flying with him to Chicago that she had first promised him a dog if he was elected president, and when his primary bid failed, if he was elected vice president. Mrs. Biden even taped pictures of dogs on the seatback in front of Biden on the plane, according to the report.

“I’ve always had a big dog my whole life, even the time I was a kid. I’ve had German Shepherds and Great Danes and Labs and Golden Retrievers,” Biden said on November 4. “So with Barack inquiring about would I be willing to get vetted, Jill said, ‘I’ll make you a deal: if you get the vice presidency and get elected, you can get a dog.’

“I know what kind I want, I don’t know what kind I’m going to get yet,” he added before reiterating that the ticket hadn’t won yet.

Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said the vice president-elect had owned three German shepherds in his life, “so he’s familiar with the breed and its personality.”

“He’s excited to bring it home when it gets a little older and has promised that his grandchildren can name it after the New Year,” Alexander said.

Biden was reportedly accompanied to breeder Linda Brown’s kennel by New Castle County Police K-9 coordinator Mark Tobin, who will train the puppy for the next six weeks before delivering it to the Bidens when they move into the vice presidential residence in January.
Brown told Delaware’s News Journal that the puppy is “the pick of the litter.”

Tobin added, “He’s well-tempered, people-friendly and social…It’s just a happy-go-lucky puppy.”

Monday, December 8, 2008

Elevated Bowls for X-mas!

It is time to get your orders in for Merlin's Bark Products' elevated dog bowls, cat bowls, or any of our other great handmade pet products if you wish to have them under your tree in time for Christmas. If you are interested in doing a custom order make sure you get your order in by this Friday (December 12th) so we can start production and ship it out to you in time for the holidays.


3-Inch High Elevated Cat Bowl


6" High Elevated Dog Bowl

Items are going fast, so make sure you get your orders in soon. I'll be barking to you later!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Magic Sleigh!

I am so excited about my Christmas tree this year! Thanks to The Magic Sleigh the tree is full of beautiful corgis! The Magic Sleigh sells the most wonderful handmade porcelain dogs, cat, angels, unicorns, and other fantasy figurine ornaments and sculptures.

Here are a couple of the awesome corgi ornaments that are proudly hanging on my tree this year:





Not only does The Magic Sleigh make the most wonderful corgis in the world. But her store is also full of other wonderful pet ornaments too - but for obvious reasons I find that the corgi ornaments are my favorites.

Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!

Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!

Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!


So check out The Magic Sleigh and find the perfect ornament for your tree too.

I'll be barking to you later!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gingerbread Dog Treats Recipe!

Recently, one of Merlin's Bark Products workers whipped up a couple batches of doggy cookies for a charity event. The cookies are totally irresistible and I felt that it was my doggy duty to share this delicious recipe with everyone so other pups can enjoy the cookies too.

Gingerbread Dog Treats
Ingredients:
1 cup molasses
4 tablespoons honey
1 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
6 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger or one tsp. of dried powder ginger

Directions:
Combine the molasses, honey, water, and oil in a medium bowl. In another large bowl mix the flour, the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Combine well. Divide this dough in four sections and roll each piece into a ball, wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 – 5 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll dough out into 1/4 “ thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter into gingerbread men or other fun shapes. Bake 10 – 15 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges and firm.


Carob Frosting
Ingredients:
Carob chips
Vegetable/Canola oil.

Put about 1/4 (or less) of a cup of carob chips in a small cup/bowl. Drizzle a little of the oil on top (just a tad) and mix it to make sure all of the chips are lightly coated with the oil. Microwave for around 30-45 seconds. Stir the chips and it should form a frosting like paste. If the chips are not melted enough you might want to microwave it again for a couple of seconds. Carob chips will burn if you overcook them. After the chips are in a frosting like state you can just frost the cookies.

I'll be barking to you later!