The CEO and his human
My name is Clara, and this is Tolly.
Ptolemy's story. (Tolly for short!)
Tolly is the reason The Muzzle Movement exists, my love for him and my frustration with peoples response to his muzzle lead me to quit my senior position in the UKs largest rescue.. and spend all of my time advocating for muzzled dogs and their guardians. Wild right!
So what makes this pointer cross so special?
I adopted Tolly in November 2019 from my place of work at the time - Dogs Trust, he was 7 years old and his life up to the day he came home with me included being exposed to domestic abuse. As a consequence, he would use aggressive behaviour when approached by unfamiliar people. Particularly men, in black jackets to be precise!
Tolly also would use aggressive behaviour when approached by unfamiliar dogs, despite living happily with my other two pre-existing dogs. As you can imagine, this made him somewhat of a liability when out of the house!
My job at the time meant that I was working with some of the most challenging dogs in rescue in the UK, so I wasn't phased! I knew what to do, I had supported many adopters just like me with their own adopted dogs.
I also knew that many of these adopters had been subject of hateful words carelessly thrown at them by strangers both in public and on social media, in response to their dog being muzzled. What I didn't know, was how much it hurt to hear those things said about your own dog. A dog you knew was so perfect and loving and special when he was away from the things that scared him.
For the first time in my life, I was on the receiving end of the muzzle stigma! And my eyes were wide open!
I realised that in order to change the public perception of muzzled dogs, I would need to create a muzzle that didn't just look nice but it met the needs of the dogs wearing them.
I knew the arguments against muzzles now, 'they're cruel' 'you wouldn't tape a childs mouth shut' and those people weren't always wrong! We do have a responsibility to make sure that the muzzles our dogs are wearing, are ethical. That dogs can pant comfortably, drink easily and be reinforced freely! But are there actually muzzles out there that can both appear to be less scary AND be comfortable and ethical?
Well.. the answer was not really! So, me and Tolly set off on a mission!
First stop, Change the publics perception of muzzled dogs. Easy right?
We started out on instagram, creating content that helped people understand the magic of muzzles. That the dogs that wear them should be defined by more then their face fence, and the guardians that choose to use them are thoughtful, responsible, caring humans that don't deserve negative feedback.
Our community grew, and Tolly became an integral part. He was the face of The Muzzle Movement brand and its no surprise really because look at his handsome face!!
So.. I knew what I wanted for Tolly and our instagram community seemed to want the same thing!
Good looking muzzles, with a message. More than just a product, a company that wanted to shake up this outdated market and breathe new life into the muzzle space!
Which lead me and Tolly to designing our own muzzles. We had never done anything like this before, we had no experience, no contacts or connections. But I knew what Tolly needed didn't exist and I knew I was well positioned to make it a reality!
I might not have business experience but, I am an expert in this field. I have a BSc in animal behaviour, an MSC in clinical animal behaviour, 7 years experience at the largest rescue in the UK, 2 of those years overseeing their largest specialist rehabilitation unit and 1.5 years supporting all 7 of the south east centres with their most challenging cases.
So, we did it! We designed a product and prepared to lauch our first three sizes via Kickstarter in April 2022.
The build up to our kickstarter launch was wild, our email list doubled overnight, our community grew every day and I knew we were onto something magical. But there was something wrong.
Tolly was becoming unsteady on his hind legs, he was reluctant to jump on the sofa, off the bed, or into the car. Tolly was now 9, and my best friend. I knew he wasn't feeling well.
I launched my kickstarter campaign in the car, on the way to the specialist vets, on the 13th of April 2022. I snuggled Tolly the entire way, by now he was unable to use his hind legs at all - we moved him around using a waist sling and our hearts hurt thinking about what this MRI might show.
Orders came flooding in! We raised £10,000 in the first 12 hours. But I couldn't enjoy it, Tolly had his MRI. He had a spinal cord tumor. Inoperable and causing significant pain.
This couldn't happen! We had only loved each other for two years, he had a hard life before he came to live with me. How is this fair?
We spent 24 hours together, before Tolly fell asleep peacefully forever in my arms.
He never got to see his Kickstarter surpass its target and raise £46,000, He never got to wear the muzzle I designed for him. He wasn't with me to move into my new warehouse, or when I quit my job to do this full time.
But he is really. He has forever changed the muzzle market, his size is worn by thousands of dogs all over the world, who are all carrying a little piece of him with them every time they go on their next big adventure.
So whats so special about this pointer cross you ask?
Tolly changed the world, for other dogs just like him. And now its my responsibility to keep going, through the grief and heartbreak, through the ups and downs.
I couldn't be more proud of him.
So next time someone asks about your muzzle, feel free to tell them all about the dog that started it all, because that's what I will be doing every day, until we meet again!