When I adopted Skylar Grey from San Francisco Animal Care and Control, she was 2 months old, 19 pounds, and, we think, had been living in a car with a kid who fed her French fries from the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s. A lot has changed in little over a year: Skylar is now 14 months old, 63 pounds, and she eats better than we do.
Bully breeds in general, and blue nose pit bulls like Skylar in particular, can have very sensitive stomachs, and Sky has the most sensitive stomach I’ve ever encountered. During our first six months together, she had giardia, a ubiquitous parasite found everywhere from puddles to grass, four times (think 2 a.m. whining puppy wake-up calls and bouts of diarrhea). It’s not uncommon in puppies, which have developing digestive systems and are exploring (Sky still goes for grass like she’s grazing the Sizzler salad bar), but it makes you realize the importance of a healthy digestive system.
My friend Cat Obuhoff from Cat Fix It was over one day setting up my new MacBook Air, and she brought along her Boston terrier, Sydney, one of Sky’s best dog-park pals. “Oh, by the way, I brought you some treats for Skylar,” she said, pulling them from her backpack. “Syd didn’t like these.” I told her about Sky’s sensitive stomach and she said, “Well, BarkBox is perfect for you.” Considering myself pretty knowledgeable about all things dog, I was surprised, as Cat maneuvered around the website, that I’d never heard of it. She typed in her username and password and sent me an invite to try the service. “Now you get $5 off and I get a free month — it’s a great way to sample a variety of toys and treats to see what Sky likes and what works with her tummy,” she said. Great idea. “And they donate 10 percent to dog charities,” she added. Even better.
Here’s how it works: Go to www.barkbox.com and select the size of your dog (“Small and Cute” up to 20 pounds, “Just Right” 20 to 50 pounds, or “Big & Bold” for 50 pounds and over). Choose a plan — $29 a month for one month, $24 for three months, or $19 for six months (you save over 34 percent on this plan, so it’s obviously the best deal). Shipping is free, and 10 percent goes to help doggies in need. Plans automatically renew, and you can cancel at any time. Each month, you receive a box in the mail with four or more carefully selected products for your dog: toys, bones, treats, hygiene products, and new stuff just hitting the market. (If your dog loves a certain item, or you want to gift a favorite item to your doggy’s friend, the folks at BarkBox offer exclusive opportunities to order more at a great price through their app.)
BarkBox is serious about helping dogs. They work closely with rescues, shelters, military dog organizations, sanctuaries, and low-cost spay-and-neuter programs. In 2013, they donated over $150,000 and over 1,000 BarkBoxes, supported 80 charity events, and awarded a $10,000 grant to the Hugo Challenge Winner HeARTs Speak Shelter Photography Workshop Initiative (www.heartsspeak.org), an innovative program developed to improve photography skills of shelter personnel and volunteers (better photos dramatically increase an animal’s chances of adoption). They also work with rotating specific organizations for monthly promotions — for example, they gave a free BarkBox to every bulldog rescued in October.
You can also give BarkBox as a gift. My dear friend and KGO Radio cohort Ryan Scott had a birthday recently. As a celebrity chef, he not only has everything, he has friends who can give him what he doesn’t (Rachael Ray gave him a really nice watch that probably cost more than some people make in a year). He and his girlfriend, Leslie, absolutely adore their dog, Pumpkin, so for Ryan’s birthday I gave them a BarkBox. It’s a total win-win situation: Ryan got a unique gift for his lucky dog, and dogs not as lucky as Pumpkin are getting help as a result.
Skylar loves her BarkBox — she waits patiently each month as we unwrap the surprises together (it’s just as much fun for me). Some items, like Honest Kitchen Ice Pups, are now a regular part of her regimen. Products she turns her nose up at or that don’t agree with her sensitive tummy, I give to friends for their dogs (and encourage them to sign up).
If you’re looking for a unique gift for your dog or a friend’s dog, give a BarkBox — the dogs will love it, and best of all it’s a gift that gives back.