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Wilson man innovates dog play

Laurie Everett mtjulietnews@tds.net • Dec 15, 2015 at 1:53 PM

It all started with a bowling ball and a pet Boxer named Haley.

"The bowling ball was in the yard; I don't really know how it got there," said Mt. Juliet resident Adam Harrington, 28. "I guess it was stuck in the garage, and my dad tripped over it and threw it in the yard."

For some reason Harrington's dog became intrigued with the immobile 12-pound ball that all of a sudden showed up in her domain. The energetic dog took aim and tried to play with the heavy ball that was never meant to be in a grassy field. She probably realized it was the same shape as the round rubber toy balls she chewed up at record speeds, only enormous and heavier, Harrington said.

"I noticed her trying to push it with her nose, and she'd jump on it and tried to push it around," said Harrington, who also has Haley's counterpart companion Harley. "But, she really couldn't do anything with the ball."

An idea popped into Harrington's mind, and he asked his dad to drill a hole in the bowling ball so he could run a rope through it, and then Haley could drag and pull the object of her affection.

"I ended up drilling the hole, and Haley loved her new toy," said Harrington.

Some days later, they found both Haley and Harley "passed out asleep" on his mom's bed.

"Everyday when my mom comes home from work both Haley and Harley come running to the car," he said. "A few days after I made the toy they didn't greet my mom like usual. She didn't know what was wrong and found them both sound asleep in the bed."

He said they were perplexed and went outside and saw the bowling ball toy many yards away from the house,

"It was really far away," he said. "They had played with it all day and were just worn out. It was then I thought I might have something here."

That’s when the entrepreneur in Harrington became inspired.

An established e-commerce businessman with an entrepreneurial spirit who likes to work for himself and make his own hours, Harrington decided to produce more of the toys that are now branded "Tuggo," with a patent pending.

"I was going to make more with bowling balls, but they are hard to mass-buy and cost prohibitive to ship," he said.

So, Harrington came up with a design with a plastic ball. And the beauty of this idea is those who buy it for their dog can fill it with sand or water to make it as heavy as they want, up to 20 pounds. "Testers" Haley and Harley loved his prototype.

"The whole point of this dog toy is the tension factor," he said. "The dogs like the whole tug-of-war aspect of it, and they love to hear the water sloshing. And, they certainly can't chew up the ball."

There are videos of dogs playing with the unique toy. Harrington even paid some people with dogs $50 just so he could video tape them enjoying his invention.

"They all want to buy the toy," he said with a laugh.

On his website, tuggodogtoy.com, people can view numerous videos of dogs of all breeds playing with the toy solo, or in pairs. They shake and drag the ball around for long periods of time. And while this first toy is targeted for medium-to-large dogs, Harrington said when he gets enough money selling prototypes, he will expand the line for smaller dogs.

"It's just the concept that's so popular," said Harrington. "What dog doesn't like a good, hard tug of war?"

And, Haley now has nothing to do with any other toys.

"She plays with it everyday," said Harrington. "She doesn't care about the other ones. She knows the name Tuggo. If you say Tuggo, she knocks down the screen door to get to it."

This businessman said dogs can play with the toy by themselves while they are at work, and when they get home they will have a happy and sleepy dog.

He's contacted the show "Shark Tank," where entrepreneurs pitch their inventions. He hasn't heard back yet, but thinks he wants to try to sell his product on his own, if possible. He's looking for investors, and in the last two weeks he's already sold 50 of the toys on his new website. He makes them in his garage, but hopes to go much bigger soon. Six percent of those who visit his site thus far have ordered the toy.

"We just need to get the word out," he said.

Harrington just wants to make enough money to keep producing the toy and eventually make a profit. He said there's nothing else like it on the market that he knows of. He never wants to sell his product because he enjoys the ability to hire people and whatever money he makes he wants to start another business.

"I don't like to punch a clock," he said. "I like to get paid for what I directly do myself."

Not married, when Harrington is not inventing items he likes to be involved in physical activity and this week will take part in "Tough Mudder," a 12-mile course with 26 obstacles.

He mailed out his first 20 Tuggos on Wednesday.

They've been donated to organizations, such as the Nashville Zoo, Agape Rescue, Alpha Dog and more.

Harrington said Haley, younger than Harley, wears herself out with her Tuggo every day. She has the original one, and all the exercise has made her lean and sleep sound at night.

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