By Angela J. Willard (Richards)
When Hazel Smith decided to bring a friendly special needs Chihuahua into her home, she never imagined how he would change her life.
A retired police officer, Hazel suffered from agoraphobia where even going outside to cut her grass was challenging. She was on several medications to help manage the symptoms of agoraphobia. She was a prisoner in her own home.
During this season of her life, her elderly Dalmatian "Binky” crossed over the rainbow bridge. The loss sent Hazel in search for a new companion. Hazel checked ads, visited humane societies and SPCAs in search for a new dog.
“One day when my husband and I were out looking we came across ‘Gunny’ a Dogue de Bordeaux. and we adopted him for my husband.”
Then finally Hazel came across an ad on Craigslist. A military family was being relocated and needed to rehome their 1½ year-old Chihuahua, “Hercules”.
“I called immediately,” explained Hazel. “I told the lady I would be out to get him when my husband got home from work. She said if he was still there I could come get him. Worried someone else might get him I told her to hold him for me and that I was on the way. I called my best friend and told her I needed her to take me to get him. When we arrived I fell in love with him right off.”
Hazel claimed the five-pound Chihuahua as her own and renamed him “Hooch”. “I thought it would be funny since we had a Dogue De Bordeaux”.
Hazel soon learned the meaning of the term “Velcro dog” but Hooch had very good reason to not want to leave Hazel’s side. Hooch is deaf.
Because Hooch wanted to be carried all the time, this made it difficult for Hazel to get things done around the house. “I tried carriers on the market for pets and babies, nothing worked for both of us.”
In her desperation to be able to be hands-free and still care for Hooch with his special needs, she decided to create a solution to her problem. “One day I picked up a canvas [remnant] that I had left over, and the Dog-On Bag hands-free pet carrier was born.”
With her new invention, Hazel and Hooch were able to not only get things done around the house, but leave the house as well. “When I had Hooch with me I discovered I could venture outside, away from home and even on short trips to a friend’s beach cottage, ALONE.”
This was a huge accomplishment for Hazel who could barely be in her own yard without anxiety setting in.
Every day Hooch and Hazel would go out for a bike rides and people would ask about her homemade Hooch carrier. She decided to venture out even more and make more carriers in different designs and then set up a table at a local Bark in the Park event. By the end of the day she had nearly sold out of her Dog-On Bags. A business was born.
Now, Hazel and Hooch have an in-home business, a website, and several retailers carry the Dog-On Bag. She has even expanded the reach of the Dog-On Bag as far as Italy. Her new-found strength and courage even set her on stage to audition for Shark Tank in seeking help for her business.
“Because of Hooch, I went from being medicated and scared to leave home, to no more medication for agoraphobia and panic attacks, and standing up at pet expos in crowds, and even auditioning for Shark Tank. Hooch saved me, gave me my life back, and more.”
Paradise Pets Magazine