Today’s episode is different than the others, we’re going to talking about a story that is very near and dear to my heart. The clinic, where I work part-time, holds an annual open house each December. In 2011, I was manning my “Holistic Veterinary Care” station, chatting with clients and sipping hot cocoa, when the trajectory of my life was forever changed. Naturally, at a veterinary hospital open house, pets are welcome.
I had treated Morgan, one of our technician’s dogs, a few times and was happy to see her headed my way across the parking lot sporting a festive bandana. Accompanying her was the technician’s husband, Todd, who is the closest thing I’ll ever meet to Leonardo DaVinci. He has been a forest ranger, horse farrier, and currently, makes his living as a chainsaw artist. “Look what I did for Morgan,” was the way he started the conversation. He pointed at her furry Australian shepherd paws and smiled. I explain this moment by saying, “He had me at ‘hello’.” I took one look at her toenails, and goosebumps covered my arms. Todd had concocted rubber rings for Morgan’s nails which I inherently understood would give her traction. I was awestruck because a dog’s natural mechanism for traction is to flex the paws and engage the nails. Yet never before had a practical, tangible solution capitalized on traction from the standpoint of the dog’s toenails. While my mind flooded with patients who could benefit from this invention, I stammered about my amazement. I told Todd that I had patients that desperately needed these devices and asked if he would be willing to meet me at my house to help me apply them to a few patients. He graciously agreed to meet me the following Saturday. I called one client immediately and arranged for Hope, her 15-year old Shepherd mix, to come to my home that Saturday. In my abundant excitement apparently, I forgot to tell Kim, her owner, what she was coming for, just that I needed Hope to be there and it was exciting. I also arranged for Chan, a 16-year old Shepherd to be fitted with the devices. He was already scheduled for an acupuncture appointment in my basement that weekend. In my enthusiasm, I began texting Todd multiple times a day with ideas for names for the product. I was in my glory. More than once I had to jump out of the shower and jot down a few ideas on a soggy scrap of paper. But Hope is really the reason we exist today. I knew we had to make ToeGrips available for other dogs. I wasn’t thinking globally at that time. I was simply thinking that there were going to be a LOT of happy dogs and happy people in the United States, if we could pull this off. As the weeks went on, I became more and more passionate about the HOPE this idea provided for senior dogs. Shortly after that, Todd said to me, “Julie, if you think you can help dogs with this. Go for it.” Essentially, he had other projects he was working on and passed the torch to me. I remain unspeakably grateful for this gift, which has dramatically changed the course of countless dogs’ lives, not to mention my own. And that is the story of ToeGrips, which have sold in almost 60 countries, are now carried by thousands of veterinarians worldwide, and have helped 100,000’s of slipping paws turn back the clock and rediscover confident mobility.