Cosy coats calming canines
QUESTION: What's the connection between a tiny newborn lamb, a kitten, a white rabbit and a dog called Isabelle? Answer: Lisa McCausland.
Lisa explains: "When Isabelle had to have minor surgery, I couldn't bear the thought of her wearing that hard cone round her neck. Like so many dog lovers, I considered it was a frightening thing for an animal to have to endure – after all, you can't explain that it's for their own good and to stop them worrying at the wound.
"So I began to think of possible substitutes."
That's typical of this enthusiastic woman, who pushes the envelope, especially when she was working in Los Angeles as a talented artist employing unusual materials; a light Polyfilla type base and acrylic paint and a pallet knife.
The abstract paintings she created were equally sought after when she returned home with a sellout first exhibition in the Tom Caldwell Gallery on Belfast's Lisburn Road.
But finding a solution to Isabelle's problems was on her mind and she started thinking, researching and planning. So Lisa went back to school.
As a mature student at The University of Ulster, she studied alternatives, drafted designs of body suits for dogs, materials, colours and marketing. She discovered bamboo socks in Marks and Spencer, a perfect fabric for her needs – soft, breathable, with antibacterial properties and, with the addition of lycra, the garment retains its shape – important, as just as a baby likes to be held secure in swaddling clothes, animals too feel safe when wrapped firmly.
At university she achieved a First Class Honours in product design and ended up with a series of prototypes which she took round dog shows. Lisa called her project DogEase and she went on to gain a Master's Degree in design, having produced an invention which has revolutionised the lives of animals going through the trauma of operations and wound recovery.
However, she points out that, apart from the medical aspect, DogEase has other benefits:
"This cosy coat calms an animal who feels anxiety, the dog on a long journey in the car, elderly pets with arthritic limbs or, as proved recently, when fireworks are going off around the neighbourhood.
"It's designed so the pet can go to the loo without having to take the coat off. Basically, it's like a second skin."
Or a second set of feathers, as in the case of Blondie, who was attacked by a fellow hen in the henhouse! It's not called Animal Wound Protection for nothing.
It's all very well having a viable product, but marketing is another hill to climb. However, as far as business acumen is concerned Lisa McCausland has a commercial background working in the family car hire business; she successfully approached Invest NI and researched companies and organisations who would be interesting in grant-aiding her new company.
She hand made 60 prototypes and asked Belfast's Cedar Grove veterinary surgery to 'test drive' them before she went to the London Vet Show at Olympia Exhibition Centre. Lisa also sent emails to relevant outlets and opened a website. As interest built, she researched where the suits could be manufactured en masse – 3,000 units at a time – and found what she wanted in Portugal.
Then, five years ago she officially launched her business. Interest was immediate, with her first order coming from Australia. Following a visit to a vet conference in Virginia USA, a Great Dane and an Irish Wolfhound were sporting DogEase jackets.
Available in extra small to extra large sizes, the jackets cost between £16 to £30 and come in a gender neutral colour of russet brown, so any wound seepage will not be readily noticeable – although washing is easy.
Lisa points out that these are not fashion items, but medical coats which have done away with the dreaded cone collar that upset dogs and their owners so much.
A terrific example of a dog lover determined to make life easier for her pet and in only a few years building a business which is reaching round the world giving comfort to animals of all shapes and sizes.
:: Special Donegal Weekend
THIS year sees the 20th anniversary of Dunfanaghy Writers' Circle, which has been held in Arnold's Hotel since 1999. Hundreds of men and women have discovered a talent they didn't know they had and have gone on to develop a skill which has opened up a rich seam of pleasure and friendship.
In recent years this has resulted in three books, collections of short stories and poems on a wide range of topics. Some have had work published under their own names and now enjoy a new challenge in their lives.
Under the tutelage of journalist and author Alf McCreary, the 2019 session takes place this weekend from Friday November 8 until Sunday November 10 and covers advice on writing for books, magazines and importantly researching and writing about family history, for those recording living history for families in the future. Also – vital to any writer – how to market your work.
Sounds like a good weekend for £295; two nights, two gourmet dinners, two light lunches and coffee breaks in the glorious setting of Donegal!
If you'd like more information contact Arnold's Hotel on 00 3537 4913 6208 or firstname.lastname@example.org