An inventor’s passion for a product earns raves

March 27, 2010

I lost track after about an hour yesterday of how many products I had seen.  More than 24 hours and 75,000 miles of walking later, there are three items that stick out for me above the rest as the coolest, most imaginative, flat out most interesting products at the Global Pet Expo.   All three had the inventor-CEO-Chief Cook & Bottle Washer present at the booth, available to explain the product, and display his passion for it.   So in no particular order… drum roll please.

Paw Pedic Pet Beds: Major bed manufacturers usually don’t make their high quality beds for the pet market.  You want to know why?  Dogs and cats need beds that are smaller, and “strangely” sized.  If it’s not a big, people-sized rectangle, they’re not interested.  Enter Dave Ogle, CEO of Paw Pedic Pet Beds.  He’s been making super high quality, inner spring mattresses for the RV/boat market.   As a sailor, I can tell you boat berths (especially in sailboats) are always odd, trapezoidal, often notched shapes.   Generally speaking, the higher quality the yacht, the better quality the berth.  Dave makes beds YOU would be proud to sleep on, only they’re sized for your dog or cat.  They come in 5 sizes, from extra small (little cats and small dogs) to extra large (Great Danes, Newfies, seriously overweight Labs, etc), and four shapes (oval, rectangle, round and corner).  All their beds have the same high quality inner spring, pillow top construction.  They come with liners exactly like the ones used in hospital beds, where incontinence and other fluid issues need to be accounted for.  Mildew, mold or bad odors?  Not a problem.  The inner springs will support the dog with hip dysplasia, arthritis or spinal problems.  These are serious beds, not flimsy foam you can fold in half.  What blew me away was the pricing: the smallest bed is $135,  and the largest (44″x60″ rectangular, with a high back) is only $275.

Bird Ball: It’s a toy for dogs who love to retrieve (like, you know, retrievers).  It’s just a little plastic ball.  It comes in red, blue or yellow.  It doesn’t squeak.  It doesn’t bounce.  It has wings, though and it flies.  It also makes the coolest whistling sounds your dog has heard, and THAT will kick in their prey drive, big time.   Justin Hill is a guy in Los Angeles (really young…I’m resisting the urge to call him a kid) who hit on a great idea: make a plastic ball with holes, grooved so that it catches the air and whistles along its flight path.  If you throw it, it’s good.  If you have a tennis ball flinger, it’s great.  That’s how I’d recommend using it.  The ball also has little wings on the sides, which Justin told me help the ball’s aerodynamics, and give smaller dogs who can’t get their mouths around the ball something to grab on to.  Bird Ball was awarded 2nd place for best new dog product at the most recent SuperZoo.  The thing is deceptively simple, it’s fun, and it’s only $8.99.  Just a terrific little product.  Go to  Bird Ball’s website to check them out, because in places like New England, they can’t yet be found in stores.  Your retriever will thank you.

Air Catditioner: NOBODY likes the smell of litter boxes.  No matter where you put it, that’s the room you don’t want to enter.  One guy in Pennsylvania is a freakin’ genius in creating his solution.   Ken Ryan is a big, friendly man who used to be a building manager in New York City.  This building had window air conditioners everywhere, of course.  Ken hit on a magically elegant idea.  Take the housing from the air conditioner and rip out everything inside.  Take that front panel (where you had the controls), and replace it with a simple hinged panel, and put a little cat door on the right side.  The inside of the big metal box that’s hanging out the window, where you used to have the guts of the a/c, is now completely empty.  It will therefore house any size litter box you like, perfectly. There’s even a little angled bar in front to keep the litter box from slipping around inside.  Put a little shelf with a non-skid surface on the front for the cat to jump up on.  He or she now enters through a little cat door, which activates a convenient light (so they’re not doing what they’re doing in the pitch dark – isn’t that considerate?).  The light stays on for two minutes.  Done.  The bad odors? They vent to the outside.  The hinged door makes changing the litter box so easy a child can do it (check out the website).  Just plain brilliant.   The kicker was Ken’s telling me that air conditioning units are required by law in New York to have brackets securing them to the outside of the building.   That’s right, he’ll supply the brackets for you, too. Everyone on the team loved this product, which is why it made the ultimate Dr. Becker’s Best list, too.

It took Ken five years to make his dream a reality, and he thought of everything.    THIS is the kind of story I love.  Ken’s just a regular guy with a brilliant idea, a dream, and the sticktoitiveness to make it happen.  He is proud to say the whole thing is made in the USA, and I’m proud of his entrepreneurial spirit, which made the Air Catditioner my favorite product of the entire Global Pet Expo.   Long may his homegrown company, and the others mentioned above, thrive.

Filed under: pets, connected — David S. Greene @ 12:44 pm

8 Comments »

  1. Pet beds – I can’t usually afford them unless they happen to be on clearance. We generally go with the old pillows/blankets/mystery items snatched from the laundry set up. But one thing that’s funny to me is when they advertise these expensive pet beds, they often show a cute puppy snoozing away – as if he wouldn’t wake up and eat the thing in 4 minutes flat.

    Kitteh air conditioner litter box is pure genius.

    Comment by YesBiscuit! — March 27, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  2. “Pure genius”. Yes indeedy. That’s exactly what it is. One more note about Ken. He was there with his wife…a mom and pop operation personified. They were both enormously touched, flattered and I think awed to have made Dr. Becker’s Best of Show final 10. Ken and his wife stayed to see Dr. Becker tape his segment with Mikkel, and when I saw them back on the exhibition floor, Mrs. Ryan (I don’t remember her first name) was in tears. I asked what was wrong, and she said she had just been on the phone with one of their kids. The tears were a result of joy, awe and gratitude for how well this enormous, intimidating trade show had gone for this tiny, obscure vendor who was off in the far corner, in what Gina rightly calls “Entrepreneur Alley” — and I called Galveston. Sometime soon, after they hit it big, all of us at Pet Connection will be able to say we knew them when…

    Comment by David S. Greene — March 27, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  3. Don’t you think to yourself…why didn’t I think of that? The Bird Ball and the Air Catditioner are smart products and unusual. My kind of combo.

    Comment by ericka — March 27, 2010 @ 8:17 pm

  4. The Bird Ball will be wonderful for our rescue GWP’s coming into our shelter home. As they are avid intense hunters, they would love this!

    Comment by GWP Rescue — March 28, 2010 @ 5:13 am

  5. Genius!! The Air Catditioner makes me want to get a cat!

    Comment by Grisha Stewart — March 28, 2010 @ 7:20 am

  6. Thanks for the great write up David!!!

    We have been playing around with some changes to our website so if the above hyperlink does not work please check out http://www.BirdBallToy.com

    Justin G Hill
    Bird Ball

    Comment by Justin G Hill — March 30, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  7. You’re welcome, Justin. I have updated the link in the body of the post to reflect the changed URL.

    Comment by David S. Greene — March 30, 2010 @ 9:43 am

  8. I have known Ken Ryan for 23 years…he is smart, pleasant and a genius. I can vouch for his thoroughness in developing the Air Catditioner. I wish him the best. Cheers

    Comment by Pepi Kochhar — April 7, 2010 @ 5:23 am

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