leads to business
By Richard Vivian
It was an idea that developed out of
sympathy and a desire to make an old dog comfortable in her
elder years – easy-reach raised pet bowls. Now, Mike
and Chris Schaefer of St. Jacobs have turned the concept into
an emerging business, known as Creature Comfort.
The couple is marketing the product –
also available for cats – via the Internet, and is beginning
to see an interest from retail outlets.
Easy-Reach Raised Pet Bowls
Custom sizes offer optimum ergonomics
for your pet
Custom colors enhance home decor
Ideal for pets with physical challenges due
to size, age or medical concerns such as arthritis,
hip dysplasia, joint dysfunction, digestive issues etc.
“She had suffered from quite severe
arthritis, but then tore a tendon in her leg and had to lay
down to eat – she just couldn’t accommodate the
bending,” Chris Schaefer said, referring to their then
15-year-old Shepherd-cross, Cory. “We were trying to
raise [the bowl] because she was in such discomfort trying
to bend to the floor. Then she didn’t lie down to eat
anymore. She was perfectly happy with the raised feeder.”
It was Mike’s father, the late
Robert Schaefer Sr., who created the prototype, which Cory
continued to use for two years before she passed away in 2001.
A year later, the couple bought a new dog, Nikki, a black
Because of the height differential between
Shepards and labs, a new raised-bowl was in order; with it,
the inkling of a new product began to emerge.
“It was pretty much just from friends saying ‘that’s
a great idea, you should sell them.’ And a few asked
us to make them for gifts. We just decided that we should
be making this available to anyone who wanted it,” she
said of the business’ origins.
The bowls are particularly helpful for
large breed and/or senior dogs, she said, pointing to arthritis
and hip displacement as common problems. Raised bowls also
lower the strain on dogs with neck injuries.
“There’s a lot of arthritis out there –
it’s pretty common,” she said.
In December, they launched their Web
site – www.creaturecomfortcanada.com – and “a
trickle” of orders has come in.
“That’s slow at the moment,”
she said. “It’s a word-of-mouth thing –
as one [person] gets one, their friend sees it and says ‘I
want one too.’”
A five-per-cent portion of each online order goes to one of
several animal-related non-profit organizations. Purchasers
can choose from a list on the Web site, otherwise the funds
are donated to the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society.
“It’s a big part of who we
are. Mike and I are huge animal lovers,” she said, noting
they both grew up with dogs. “If even our little contribution
can save a life or make one more space for someone to come
in and not have to wander, then it was worth it.”
Each order takes Mike Schaefer about
two days – he works full-time outside the business –
to complete. He crafts them in their garage, building them
to the specified custom height and bowl size. Buyers also
have a choice of several stain colours or natural wood.
While online orders haven’t taken
off, Creature Comfort is also looking to get into the retail
side of things.
“We’ve had a lot of retail
interest,” Chris Schaefer said, noting she planned to
have the product available in a store for the first time this
“We’ve had a lot of interest
from suppliers … for standard sizes,” she said,
adding people often want something they can take with them
Creature Comfort also sells ‘guardian
angel’ pins and tags, of which $1 from the sale goes
to the K-W Humane Society.