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.

These Rugged Steel-Toe Boots Look and Feel Like Summer Sneakers

Indestructible Shoes
Indestructible Shoes

Thanks to new, high-tech materials, our favorite shoes are lighter and more comfortable than ever. Unfortunately, one thing most sneakers are not is durable. They can’t protect your feet from the rain, let alone heavy objects. Luckily, as their name implies, Indestructible Shoes has come up with a line of steel-toe boots that look and feel like regular sneakers.

Made to be incredibly strong but still lightweight, every pair of Indestructible Shoes has steel toes, skid-proof grips, and shock-absorption technology. But they don't look clunky or bulky, which makes them suitable whether you're going to work, the gym, or a family gathering.

The Hummer is Indestructible Shoes’s most well-rounded model. It features European steel toes to protect your feet, while the durable "flymesh" material wicks moisture to keep your feet feeling fresh. The insole features 3D arch support and extra padding in the heel cup. And the outsole features additional padding that distributes weight and helps your body withstand strain.

Indestructible Shoes Hummer.
The Hummer from Indestructible Shoes.
Indestructible Shoes

There’s also the Xciter, Indestructible Shoes’s latest design. The company prioritized comfort for this model, with the same steel toes as the Hummer, but with additional extra-large, no-slip outsoles capable of gripping even smooth, slippery surfaces—like, say, a boat deck. The upper is made of breathable moisture-wicking flymesh to help keep your feet dry in the rain or if you're wearing them on the water.

If you want a more breathable shoe for the peak summer months, there's the Ryder. This shoe is designed to be a stylish solution to the problem of sweaty feet, thanks to a breathable mesh that maximizes airflow and minimizes sweat and odor. Meanwhile, extra padding in the midsole will keep your feet protected.

You can get 44 percent off all styles if you order today.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

No Squawking, Please: A Backyard Bird Library Is the Star of This Livestream

Bird Library, YouTube
Bird Library, YouTube

Many people discovered backyard birding when they were quarantined in their homes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you have a vibrant wildlife population in your area, the Bird Library webcam is worth checking out. As Atlas Obscura reports, the bird feeder at the focus of the livestream resembles a tiny library where feathered guests can misbehave.

Librarian Rebecca Flowers and woodworker Kevin Cwalina were inspired to build the Bird Library in 2015. Located in a backyard in Charlottesville, Virginia, it features a miniature reading chair, bookshelves, and a reception desk. The decorations are even updated to match the seasons; the feeder currently sports a banner that says "Summer Reading." The main differences setting it apart from a real library are the bird seed scattered on the floor and the avian visitors.

The Bird Library attracts a diverse collection of patrons. Sparrows, cardinals, and mourning doves have been recorded perching on the librarian's desk and checking out the reading materials. The occasional squirrel has also been known to stop by.

Live video of the feeder streams on the Bird Library's YouTube page and website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can play the video below to check in on the current guests. If the backyard Bird Library has inspired you to find birds closer to home, here's some gear for beginner naturalists.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]