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    News — handmade

    The Magic & Mystery of the Miraculous Mochi Ball

    The Magic & Mystery of the Miraculous Mochi Ball

    Last summer, Eun Sun Park, a longtime School For The Dogs client, approached me asking if we'd be interested in selling these little felted balls in our small shop on East 2nd Street.  She was calling them "Mochi" balls because of their resemblance to Mochi ice cream,  she had been making by hand, and her two Shih Tzus loved them. I was skeptical... They didn't look like much and, even without marking them up hardly at all, we were going to have to charge more than $20 per ball. Would people really want to spend that much on a tiny bit of fluff with a squeaker inside? I said we'd take a few on a trial basis. 
    There was no way I could've expected what happened next: Every dog that tried one of these little balls became obsessed with it.
    "Mochi" balls are made from all-natural wool and dyed with organic Tumeric and Beets. I asked Eun Sun to tell me about how these balls came to exist. 
    eun sun
     

    What gave you the idea to start making your Mochi balls? 

    It all started because of my two lovely pups, Sofie and Mustang. I've been buying many different toys for them and one day, I realized that they are dogs who would care more about the scent of an object than its appearance. Most toys I found at pet stores were factory-made and seem to lack any natural scent that dogs would like.

    I looked for a material that is natural, organic and chemical free. I carefully selected wool from a farm where they treat their sheep humanely and shear them without cruelty, since I strongly believed the happiness would transfer to the material itself and dogs would definitely recognize the difference. Dogs have that kind of sixth sense!

    It was also important to me that I make a safe toy -- something they could chew and rip apart without it being a concern. Sofie and Mustang love chewing and ripping things and I was always worried about chemically produced fabric or dyes in their toys.

    Why do you think dogs go so crazy for them?

    It must be the natural scent of the wool and the chewy texture. Dogs like to sniff our shoes and our clothes to find out where we went during the day. I think they instinctively love to find out where things are coming from. Most city dogs have very few chances to meet farm animals or visit natural places in their life. I believe playing with Mochi ball gives them a chance to sniff their happy farm friends and must evoke feelings of being in the nature.

    This is the main reason of using a premium wool that never touched any harsh chemical during its processing. It is also important for me to make sure the wool is coming from farmers who appreciate animal welfare and give lots of love to their sheep.  

    I also think that dogs like them because the Mochi ball is softer than regular tennis balls, and it's very easy for them to produce a squeak.  

    What is the best feedback you've gotten from people who've gotten them from their dogs?

    It always makes me happy when I see a dog's first Mochi play time. And it makes me even happier when I hear from people that even months later the Mochi Ball is still their favorite toy. Dogs don’t speak but they deliver their messages with gestures and facial expressions. I am thankful for all my customers who show me how smiley their dogs get after playing with their Mochi balls. 

    I have a Shetland Sheepdog customer named Hanu who didn’t really care much about toys before. She fell in love with Mochi balls immediately and plays with them every day and night. Her human mom told me that Hanu will bring her a Mochi ball when she wakes up in the morning to play fetch and also brings it when she comes home from work.  It is a pleasure to hear that our toy can help a dog bond with his people. 

    I also think it's cute when people tell me that their dogs hide their Mochi balls in secret spots, or treat them preciously and won’t let anyone touch them.

    mochi bill

    Is there another dog product invention up your sleeve for the future?

    We would like to add more variable color and texture options for Mochi Ball. We will keep continue to find out what dogs will like to play and wants.  

    Our second goal is to introduce beneficial ingredient through toy. There are many dogs who gets unbalanced food for their entire lives and they have dog parents who don’t care about it until the dog gets health issues. But I see the importance of ingredients in food and also in toys. I want our best friends to be healthy and happy, and I hope that I can make toys that can help keep them that way.  

    Meet the miniatures: Italian Artist Sculpts Adorable Tiny Dog Portraits

    Meet the miniatures: Italian Artist Sculpts Adorable Tiny Dog Portraits

    Rome is a city full of little things to love, be it the copious gelato, swarms of Vespas, or unparalleled espressos. On a recent trip there, we found a new little thing to love about Rome: It's tiny dogs! 
    Okay, perhaps not real dogs, but tiny all the same. Artist Annabel June, based in Rome, has a big love of pets that she channels into little, adorable, handmade likenesses.
    annabel june
    Annabel June and her dog Noah
    We came home with handmade miniatures of some of our beloved School For The Dogs members, and now we are offering them in our shopSchool For The Dogs members can receive two for the price of one, with one of them put on display in our East Village studio. 
    dog miniatures
    Some of School For The Dogs members, as sculpted by Annabel June.
    We asked Annabel June to tell us a little about her unusual occupation:
    What inspired you to start making these tiny sculpted portraits?
    I have always liked making little things with Fimo -- a kind of German polymer clay. One day I had the idea of making one of dog, so I tried it and then uploaded the picture of it on Instagram. After that, a lot of people asked me if I could do one of their dogs...It all started there! 
    What is the material/process like of making one? 
    It takes me around three hours to make one dog, usually using photos as reference. I like having photos from lots of different angles. After its sculpted, I cook them to harder them, and then use a bit of paint to brighten the eyes, nose and tongue. 
    So your dog was your initial inspiration. Tell us about him! 
    His name is Noah, abd he is three-year-old red-nose pitbull-type dig. He has chronic gastrointestinal issues and social anxiety with other dogs, both things we are trying to help him live with as best we can. He is my love and I can't really imagine a world without him.
    As someone who has a much-loved dog, and who spends so much time studying them in order to create these tiny replicas, I'm sure you've learned a lot about the canine-human bond. 
    Well, one thing I've learned is that a dog isn't human-- a lot of times they need and prefer different things. It may seem a simple thing to say "they're not human," but when you watch how some people talk to their dog and interact, it often looks like people forget that. You need to learn how your dog express his emotions so you can help him live a less stressful life and be more happy and relaxed. I've learned that when a dog is aggressive, it is really insecurity more than anything else. He may be frightened or simply doesn't know the right way to communicate with other dogs. But there is one thing that I think they do have in common with people: they are usually most happy and most relaxed when they are with people and dogs they love!