Four years ago, the Vigallon family was "looking for a friend to add to the family," Janet said.
They reviewed hundreds of photos and profiles on Petfinder.com and found the perfect dog, only to discover that she was in foster care in Taiwan. It took a volunteer and a 15-hour flight to San Francisco before the Vigallons met their newly adopted family member.
Daisy was warmly welcomed but she had some adjustment issues, such as munching on hard-plastic objects, including the TV remote control and CDs in their cases. What to do?
In desperation, Janet turned to the "Dog Whisperer" TV show. The star, Cesar Millan, advised, "A tired dog is a good dog."
Janet already was providing Daisy with one-hour walks or runs daily. The Dog Whisperer advised viewers to use backpacks for dogs, varying the load as needed to sufficiently tire the dog on outings.
Now she began searching for a dog pack for Daisy that would include pockets for two bottles of water. However, Janet found that dog packs on the market were made out of bulky material that was stiff, hot and heavy.
"Their sides stand away from the sides of the dog and make their width two or three times as big," explained Janet. "I wanted mine to have a slimmer profile -- sleek off the dog's back and sides, with expansion room at the bottom pocket."
For starters, Janet sought lighter, softer material that was machine-washable. She stitched up a prototype on her home sewing machine that had not only vertical pockets for two water bottles but also reflective ribbon for safe after-dark walks plus rings to clip things to, such as a collapsible water dish.
Perhaps her greatest invention is what Janet calls "poop loops": elasticized loops that make it possible for the dog to carry its own used poop bags when there is a distance to the nearest garbage can -- an unpleasant situation that responsible dog owners often encounter. Those same loops can hold a chuck-it stick for flinging tennis balls. The dog-walker might put into zippered pockets such things as cell phone, car keys, ID and tissues, along with dog treats.
Daisy loved her new pack, and soon people who saw the pack were asking about it. That's when Janet decided to launch a new business. What should this new venture be called? Daughter Karen, now 18, was sitting on the floor with Daisy, laughing at the rapidly wagging "happy tail" of their pet. Happy Tails Dog Packs it was.
Husband Scott, an instructional technologist at Las Positas College, introduced Janet to the college's design class, where the company logo was developed. Other students designed her website: www.HappyTailsDogPacks.com.
Besides offering 14 colors and multiple sizes, the website displays the "personality packs" that Janet has created. These include tie-dye, stars-and-stripes, camouflage, baby motifs, even a pink satin "princess" pack with white fur and pearl trim. A "beach pack" made from mesh material can transport wet and sandy items to and from beach outings. The dog packs can be custom-made, including personalization and special openings to accommodate dogs' harnesses. Janet will travel anywhere in Pleasanton to help with measurements.
During the past four years, Janet has created approximately 600 packs, which are proudly being worn by dogs in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington. In fact, at University of Washington, fondly called "U-Dub," the mascot is a live Husky named Dubs. He appears at the games wearing a Happy Tails Dog Pack in school colors, and the cheerleaders unzip the pack pockets to toss T-shirts to the roaring crowds.
"A lot of people think that dog packs are just for hiking or camping trips, but these packs are for everyday walks," said Janet. "They provide a great opportunity to let your dog be your helper and use up energy, plus they go walking in style."
Visit the website at www.HappyTailsDogPacks.com. Email questions to Janet@HappyTailsDogPacks.com.
Janet Vigallon will have dozens of dog packs on display at the C-DOG Festival (Coastal Dog Owners Group), 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday, May 19, at Soquel High School in Santa Cruz.
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