DENVER - June 18, 2013
So, I heard that this Friday, June 21, is some *special* event called "Pet Sitters International's Take Your Dog To Work Day®" Crazy, right? I mean, why not take your dog EVERY DAY? Unless, of course, your dog is like our Great Dane Meryl, who would moan Helloooo! at everyone and whack people with her killer tail and cause general havoc. *SHUDDER* Now that I think of it, perhaps not every dog should go to work.
At any rate, I received a press release this week about a local company called Kyjen. It said, Kyjen employs 25 people and about a dozen office dogs, and is recognized as a top innovator in the pet industry with several high-quality product lines including their Dog Games® Puzzle Toys, an ever-evolving category that provides great ways to challenge, teach and play with dogs; Outward Hound® Pet Travel Gear, which is filled with practical solutions to travel safely and conveniently with the family pet; Plush Puppies® Dog Toys, one of the first plush products designed specifically for dogs; and Holiday Toys and Accessories. These fun and functional products last longer than others, challenge the dogs’ minds and stimulate their instincts for overall mental and physical health.
WELL. As you might imagine, I wanted to know more about this fabulous place. You know I love 7News, but there is a severe lack of new toys around here, never mind toys that challenge my mind. Seriously, right now I'm looking at a half-dead stuffed ladybug that is soaking in my water dish and a partially chewed green gummy bone. Tragic.
First, I took a look at their website (http://www.kyjen.com) and realized I have lots Kyjen toys! Next I got in touch with Kyle Hansen, CEO and owner, to ask a few questions:
JEB: (Hopping up and down) OMD, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your toys! I have two of the squeaky snakes, the pig and alligator squeaker mats, a bungee puppy and a hedgehog from my Auntie Deb, which is my FAVORITE. How did you decide to get into this oh-so-important business?
KYLE: Thank you, Jeb! My wife, Jen, and I started this business because we realized that there were dog products that we needed that just weren’t available. We felt that there were huge voids in the marketplace, and that many typical dog problems were not being addressed. The toys you mention are all part of our Plush Puppies® line. We were actually one of the first companies to make plush toys specifically for dogs. It’s been our goal to create longer-lasting plush that is fun for our canine companions.
JEB: Well, I think you've done that! Your snakes even survived a recent week-long visit from CCI Facility Dog Waffle, and she shreds everything. The toys that still squeak even when punctured are PURE GENIUS! How did you come up with that idea?
KYLE: We realized that our own dogs got bored with their toys when they stopped squeaking—and that eventually they stopped playing with them altogether. It occurred to us that if we could make a squeaker that couldn’t be “killed,” we’d be solving a huge dog toy problem. We got to work on it, and that’s how our Invincibles® toys were born.
JEB: What other ways do you come up with new toy ideas?
KYLE: Our amazing design team and I find inspiration from our own dogs, from kids’ toys, from our customers, and from a variety of other places. For example, we got the idea for our Bottle Buddies toys—which consist of plastic water bottles encased in durable plush sleeves—when we noticed that our own dogs loved to chew on empty water bottles. To some degree, all of our products have a similar starting point. We study dogs’ natural instincts and behaviors, and try to make toys and gear that will compliment those traits.
JEB: What's new and hot right now? If I don't have it I will obviously need to
make ask Marianne to buy it for me.
KYLE: Right now, we have three new Dog Games® Puzzle Toys (Yin Yang Yum, Doggy Blocks Spinner, and Tic-Tac-Twirl). These games are great because they use treat-hiding play patterns to keep dogs engaged and having fun.
JEB: (furiously scribbling notes, muttering) Yum, Spinner, Twirl -- got it. I want all three, but that might be pushing my luck. What is your best seller? I'm betting it's the hedgehog because it seems like every dog I know has one - am I right?
KYLE: You’re right! The Hedgehogs are among some of our bestselling toys. Another huge favorite is our Hide-A-Squirrel. It’s part of our puzzle plush category. These toys are fun for dogs because they are interactive, and encourage owners and dogs to play together. Since we released them ten years ago, they’ve continued to grow in popularity.
JEB: My alligator mat is kind of tattered and has become one of my outdoor toys. Last night the neighborhood fox was playing with it in our backyard. Did you know your toys would appeal to wild animals?
KYLE: It’s funny you should mention that, because our entire Dog Games® line is modeled after enrichment toys that are given to animals in zoos. So, actually, I’m not too surprised that a fox would have fun with them!
JEB: Why did you decide to locate your company in Colorado?
KYLE: We were originally located in Orange County, CA. It’s not that we didn’t like it there, but here in Colorado we have trails right outside our office. With all of the mountains, lakes, and parks, we love living and working here—and our dogs do too. Plus, the commute isn’t nearly as tough!
JEB: I have to admit, Colorado is a pretty fine place to live. What's the name Kyjen mean, if anything?
KYLE: The name Kyjen is a combination of my name and my wife’s name: Kyle and Jen.
JEB: Oh, that's clever! Say, your employees can bring their dogs to work, right? Do the dogs get to play with toys all day? What's your work environment like?
KYLE: All of our employees are allowed to bring their dogs to work. We are constantly testing new prototypes, and it’s super helpful to have our dogs around. We can tell right away if a new product will work or not, and make adjustments accordingly. We also use our own dogs for most of our photo shoots. It’s true—sometimes things can get a little hectic with all the dogs running around, but it’s definitely nice to have our best friends with us while we’re working.
JEB: (sniffling) Best friends. OK, now you've made me choke up. Do you have something special planned for Take Your Dog To Work Day?
Kyle: Since every day is take Your Dog To Work Day here, it will be business as usual for us.
JEB: Not even a cake? Pity. Oh, well. Please tell me about your dog. What are his favorite toys?
KYLE: My dog’s name is McMoose. He is gentle giant of a Labrador; and, he loves all kinds of toys. He has awesome howl, too. We have a toy called the Squawkie Talkie. Whenever I squeeze it, it makes him howl like crazy!
JEB: (Scribbling and muttering) Squawkie Talkie. Right, that's another one I need. What's your toy tester program all about? Maybe that's how I can
force talk Marianne into buying me these new toys!
KYLE: The toy tester program is a win-win situation for us. Customers can sign up to test our latest toys, and we get feedback on how well they work. Your readers can sign up for it on our website. And Jeb, this is Walter, one of our canine employees. You should get his thoughts on working at Kyjen.
JEB: Hey, Walter! (Readers, click on the slideshow above to see a photo of handsome Walter!) What do you like best about going to work at Kyjen every day?
WALTER: *wiggle, wag* Well, I have been raised at Kyjen so it is kind of like my second home… but a really cool one since I get to play with my friends, eat dog cookies, and test out new toys all day.
JEB: OMD, I think I hear a chorus of angels - that sounds like Dog Heaven! But seriously, is there anything you'd change?
WALTER: Yeah, we need a bigger yard to run around in.
JEB: Do you have a daily routine?
WALTER: I wake up bright and early and stare at my mom until she decides to move. When I see her move I lick her hand so she wakes up in time for our busy day.
JEB: Heh. That sounds familiar, although I sleep in a crate so I have to do a Vulcan mind-meld stare to wake up my humans. Then what?
WALTER: Some days I drive my mom to the gym and other days we carpool to work with Charlie Brown and his mom. I love those days, we are the best of friends! Once we get to the office, I do my business outside and when the doors open to the office I sprint in and making the rounds and give all my friends a good sniff hello. Then I wait under my mom’s desk and give her my saddest puppy eyes until 8:30 when she feeds me.
JEB: *GASP* YOU DON'T GET BREAKFAST UNTIL 8:30??!! Oh dog, that's awful. I am so sorry.
WALTER: Yeah, but at 10:30AM and 3:30PM (rain or shine) we get to play fetch outside. It’s my favorite thing in the whole wide world! By the time 5PM, rolls around I’m exhausted and ready to head home.
JEB: Well, I guess that sounds like a decent tradeoff, but I'm still glad I get fed at 6:00AM. What does your human do at Kyjen?
WALTER: She works with numbers all day in finance and inventory control. I help out when I can but all the typing makes me tired.
JEB: Tell me about it! When are they gonna design keyboards for us? Seriously. Hey, what is your current favorite toy?
WALTER: Well that’s a hard question. I really REALLY like tennis balls, when momma can play with me, but if I’m left to my own devices the Ginormous Squawkie Talkie Chicken is a lot of fun.
JEB: (checking notes) Right, Squawkie Talkie is on my list of new toys I plan to
force ask Marianne to get for me. What do you like to do in your leisure hours?
WALTER: I love my backyard and gardening with my mom. I play hide and seek in the long grass with my tennis balls while she plays in the dirt. I also really like watching TV… so many good shows to watch, I just wish I could smell all the cooking ones!
JEB: Smell-o-vision is what we need! Anything else you want to tell my readers?
WALTER: Funny story: This one time when I was a puppy I went into the Planogram Room and took all the blue Invincible Geckos off the shelves. My mom had to buy six geckos to replace the ones I slobbered on. OH! One last thing, there are tennis balls EVERYWHERE at the office! I secretly stash them under the copier and later, if I stare at them long enough, people will help me get them out.
JEB: Humans are so trainable, aren't they? Thanks, Walter and Kyle!
Chow for now!
"Let the Dogs Speak! Puppies in Training Tell the Story of Canine Companions for Independence" by Marianne McKiernan is available in paperback and eBook formats. Order your copy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble today! The author's proceeds are donated to CCI. My fellow puppies and I thank you.