This Business Brings Together Pet Owners, Parents and Kids

By Jane Whitttington on July 7th, 2015 / Comments

It’s a small space but full to the brim with all manner of interesting and appealing items for kids and furry kids—and their parents. We Love Kids and Dogs is the brain-child of Joe Rabideau, his daughter Melissa Allen and his son-in-law Chris Allen. These three offer a unique shopping (and exploring) experience to mid-Michigan and have been so successful that they are in the process of moving into a space four times larger to accommodate even more products, pets and people.

Melissa says, “We stock the store with items that shoppers can’t find anyplace else, and we source locally as much as possible. We want to help other small businesses grow so we buy from independent stores whenever possible. In We Love Kids and Dogs, customers will find things that are different and that the big box stores don’t carry.”

She continues, “Our plan at the beginning was to be a pop-up store during the holiday season. However, we had so many people in the store, telling us that they loved what we offered. So we decided to stay open permanently.”

We Love Kids and Dogs made their mark by Joe’s invention of the Poochie Bowl. He says, “I’ve always been a tinkerer and inventor, and I like to solve problems by creating new solutions.”

He continues, “We had a basset hound, and he was constantly getting ear infections because his long ears would fall into his food and water bowls. I wanted to come up with something that would keep his ears out of his bowls. We entered a competition through Spartan Innovations and were awarded funding. I kept working on perfecting it, and eventually it came on the market.”

The Poochie Bowl is made of a durable plastic that is light weight, durable and easy to clean. Both the top and the bottom of the bowl have spill-proof lids so pet owners can carry food and water with them as they travel. The lids serve as non-skid bases. While its shape is designed to keep dogs ears out of the food and water, it works for any dog and is a great solution for travel, tail-gating and boating (it floats). Its design also keeps dogs from eating too fast. There are many colors and decorative touches available.

The bowls are made in Lansing, and the printing for the customization is also done locally. The bowl is now for sale in many locations, including some veterinarians’ offices.

They have just started stocking dog coats called “Barkhart, the coat for the working dog”. It’s made of durable material and includes secure fastenings and a pocket for treats for the dogs and/or small items for the owner. They come in different sizes and in orange, brown and camo.

For children, We Love Kids and Dogs stocks strider bikes, small bikes that let kids start to learn how to ride. They offer kids’ toys that encourage creativity and allow kids to use their imaginations.

Melissa says, “When we saw how much the kids and parents enjoyed what was in our store, we branched out into what we call Mini Makers, a maker fair for kids. It’s been so popular that we’re moving into a much larger space in a couple of months. We can offer more classes and camps there.”

“Take it Apart Tuesdays” gives kids the opportunity to, yes, take things apart– things like couches,

toilets, clocks and coffee makers. Sometimes they can even put them back together again. Mini Makers offers kids the chance to imagine, develop and build whatever their minds can create. Youngsters between the ages of five and twelve can host birthday parties where they and their guests can disassemble and recreate toys, use 3D printers, dismantle objects and get the thrill of seeing their invention take shape. They also have camps during the summer. All these are listed on their website at www.welovekidsanddogs.com

Using their 3D printer, they have partnered with a group called Enabling the Future to make simple prosthetic hands for children at a very low cost. It’s not efficient to fit children with their permanent prosthetic until they are done growing; these bridge that gap. Kids in the store are able to assemble the hands and donate them to children who need them, giving them a chance to “give back” and help other kids.

It’s well worth a trip to Meridian Mall just east of the Michigan State University campus to check out the unique products and interactive experiences that are only offered at We Love Dogs and Kids.

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.