A Cushy History of Pound Puppies

sunsales333 via eBay
sunsales333 via eBay

Mike Bowling had spent nearly 20 years working on a Ford automobile assembly line in Cincinnati, Ohio, never once thinking about inventing toys. During the 1983 holiday season, he bought his daughter a handcrafted doll that she took everywhere and doted on like it was her baby sister. Soon, inventing a toy—one that could be produced with the same efficiency as the cars rolling out of the factory—was all he could think about.

Well over a decade before Beanie Babies caused pandemonium, Bowling issued tiny, pellet-stuffed creatures of his own dubbed Pound Puppies. With droopy ears and wide, expressive eyes, they came in cardboard “crates” and with adoption papers. Despite a total lack of experience in the highly competitive world of kid products, Bowling took his idea and turned it into a brand that would go on to gross hundreds of millions in sales and make TIME magazine’s list of the world’s top 100 toys.

tiny-ribbons via eBay

 
Because he knew virtually nothing about toy development, Bowling first contacted an intellectual property lawyer, who told him that registering trademarks and filing for patents would help protect his ideas. He went to one designer to have his Pound Puppies template sketched out and another to fabricate the cardboard box that doubled as a carrier.

Armed with a plan and mock-ups, Bowling was swiftly turned down by 14 different companies. One executive huffed that the Puppies were the ugliest things he'd ever seen.

Bowling’s persistence eventually landed him an audience with Irwin Toy, a distributor based in Canada that was still reeling from a partnership with Atari that had recently gone south; the video game craze, which was about to be reignited by Nintendo, had collapsed in a heap and left vendors with piles of unsold cartridges. Eager for a low-risk opportunity, they licensed the Pound Puppies and released them in Canada in 1984.

They were an immediate hit. As Bowling had predicted, children who wanted to nurture something adorable and parents who weren’t inclined to scoop dog poop found a perfect compromise in his plush animals, which came complete with a mock care guide. Walking and exercise were stressed; caregivers were advised that their chosen puppy had “had all the shots they need to stay healthy.” A bath was also recommended. Fortunately, the animals were machine-washable.

By December 1985, Tonka—like Irwin, a company that had been scorched by an ill-fated partnership with a video game company named Sega—was convinced Bowling was on to something, and brought the plush animals to the U.S. The Puppies were selling out across the country, creating a frenzy that had been rivaled in recent memory only by the Cabbage Patch Kids. In 1985, more than 2.5 million puppies were sold at the inflated retail price of $30. If kids wanted stickers and a personalized dog tag, Tonka would mail them both for an extra $3.50.

Like any respectable ‘80s toy craze, Pound Puppies were also awarded their own animated series, which premiered on ABC in the fall of 1986. At the “Wagga Wagga Pound,” a cast of endearing dogs awaited their turn for adoption. Nancy Cartwright, who would soon after become the voice of Bart Simpson, played Bright Eyes. Another one of the dogs was named Whopper, a strange choice considering the Puppies were usually found as a promotional item at Hardee’s. He was a golden retriever who wore a diaper.

morrbubb via eBay

 
As with any retail phenomenon, toy pundits predicted a short shelf life for the Puppies. And while they did eventually fade, it took several years and more than $300 million in sales before kids moved on to other obsessions. Their expected successor, a line of saggy plush dogs dubbed Wrinkles produced by Canadian toy company Ganz, failed to break through.

In 2011, Bowling sold the Pound Puppies IP to Hasbro for an undisclosed sum. Having long since retired from the Ford assembly line, he continues to brainstorm new toy ideas, including a line of plastic mermaids dubbed Splashlings. While they may catch on, it will be difficult to match the success Bowling had in marketing the idea of an imaginary dog adoption. In 2016, the inventor estimated more than 200 million Pound Puppies have been sold—nearly three times as many as there are actual dogs in the United States.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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LEGO and IKEA Have Designed a New Line of Storage Boxes With the Help of Child Psychologists

IKEA
IKEA

Putting together IKEA furniture can remind grownups of their days playing with LEGO bricks. The two brands serve very different demographics, and now they've joined forces to create these ready-to-assemble products designed to appeal to both kids and adults.

As ThomasNet reports, BYGGLEK (Swedish for “to build and play") puts IKEA's practical, minimalist spin on the traditional LEGO toy. The key is a plastic storage bin featuring LEGO-compatible studs on its interior and exterior. Instead of using the floor as their play place and making rooms minefields for barefooted parents, kids can contain their creations within the box. When playtime is over, adults simply pick up the box holding the LEGO masterpiece and move it out of the way. The BYGGLEK boxes come in clean, neutral tones, so parents can show off their kids' handiwork on a canvas that fits the style of their home.

Opportunities for artistic expression for children often lead to headaches for the grownups who clean up after them. In order to make play a more organized experience without inhibiting creativity, LEGO and IKEA collaborated with child psychologists. The resulting product is a win for everyone: It allows parents to organize messes without deconstructing their child's work-in-progress.

IKEA and LEGO's BYGGLEK collection includes four products: A large box, a medium box, a set of three small boxes, and a basic 201-piece LEGO set for kids 5 and up. Prices range from $10 to $15; you can order yours today from IKEA.

[h/t ThomasNet]