this really should be about “us.” i'm kym colella and the “us” is my husband dave and our 16 dogs. together we are all equal partners in earthdog (a hemp dog product manufacturing company). i say equal partners because dave & i do all the actual work and the dogs provide us with inspiration, photos and the use of their names.
many people ask, and i'm sure still more wonder, "what could possibly have gone on in your life to have ended up with 16 dogs?" i imagine if you've read this far that you too may be curious so here's a brief history and explanation. let’s start at the beginning. i grew up in a multi-dog household and have had a lifelong passion for animals. when i was 19 i was incredibly fortunate to have adopted kody, an amazing 3-legged shepherd/collie mix who changed my life. he was my faithful companion for 14 years and i will forever consider myself lucky to have had him in my life.
when dave & i met i had 2 dogs. i like to say dave was a “normal” dog lover. i think at the time i believed i was too but apparently there was a fanatic lurking just below the surface. it wasn’t until we moved from new jersey to nashville that things changed - and fast. the homeless dog population here is something i had never experienced before and it hit me hard. a few months after moving we bought our first house - a diamond-in-the-rough complete with an ample-sized, fenced yard and soon after the pack grew to five. wanting to do something to help the homeless dog issue, i began fostering for the nashville humane society and over the course of the next 2 years we had over 100 dogs pass through our house while they either recovered from an ailment that prevented them from being adoptable or, in a few cases, until a pregnant mother had her pups. through all this time dave was quite the trooper and incredibly understanding. sometimes i'd have to concede when he’d put his foot down and plea for a break in the action but most other times i was able to talk him down - especially after he saw the particular dog in question. somewhere along the line i broke him entirely, evidenced by him on one occasion turning up back at home just minutes after leaving for work with a stray rottweiler in tow. i do think he would agree when i suggest that, given a choice, he wouldn’t change the course of our journey and life together - right dave? it seems that once you have a fenced yard and open up your door to a few wandering, homeless dogs they tend to just keep coming. the pack we've come to call our family are all rescues who one way or another found their way to us or us to them. with all the love and laughter they provide i'm not entirely sure who really rescued who.
earthdog began a little over 19 years ago and became a business quite by accident largely as a result of the foster work we were doing. since getting kody i had always been on the prowl for great collars to outfit my dogs and the choices at the time were very limited. not finding ones that really moved me, and feeling a bit crafty, we decided to make our own. we put a few of our new collar creations on the foster dogs who were returning to the shelter for adoption and found we were getting a lot of compliments on our work. soon after, when one of the humane society employees took up the management position at a new dog shop in nashville and asked to buy our collars, we had our first order and "earthdog" was born. we named our collars after our dogs and they were, and continue to be, the inspiration for all the various earthdog products that came to follow. we both feel incredibly grateful that we have been able to work together on a business that fuels our spirit and creativity. we live and breathe earthdog and it is truly a family endeavor.
after several years of growth we reached a point where the business was exploding out of our house. there was no more room to add outbuildings and we had a decision to make. we knew if we moved the business to a separate location it was highly unlikely that all 11 (at the time) dogs were going to get in the van every day to go to work with us – which was absolutely unthinkable. dave also wasn't a big fan of this idea, finding it a bit impractical. we both agreed that earthdog would somehow remain a home-based business so house hunting we went, both of us thinking it could take forever to find the right place. our wish list was pretty unrealistic: enough house for us and the dogs; a large, fenced yard; a basement for dave's music room; and, of course, a lot of space for the business with plenty of room for expansion. just five houses later we found it and knew right away it could be the "earthdog compound." this place had it all - a house with a large office, even larger outbuildings and 4 acres already fully fenced. one month later it was ours and we found out very quickly it was the right choice for us. we're just not the kind of business that could function in a business park or office building.
a few months after we moved in with our 11 dogs, hurricane katrina hit and dave & i went to new orleans for a weekend to volunteer with noah’s wish, an amazing organization that works on behalf of animals in disaster situations. we fully expected to be coming home with a hurricane dog, but wisely all the dogs were being held in the area in hopes of making happy reunions with their displaced families. we left in a weakened state - it was impossible to not be affected by the sight of such devastation and scores of homeless animals. i guess we thought we had some space in our new home and within a few weeks we had adopted 3 dogs, bringing us to 14. a year later 2 more dogs came along that needed out of their current situations so here we are at a current count of 16. i can’t say whether that number will grow (never say never) but i’m pretty sure it won’t be getting smaller. with the amount of homeless dogs out there i think dave & i both feel an obligation - we know we can handle 16 so when we have a spot open it will probably get filled. we have had to deal with the loss of several dogs at this point and it is something that rips us apart and never gets any easier. unfortunately, we knowingly open ourselves up to that loss exponentially with the amount of dogs we have. that being said, the amount of joy and love that these beings have brought to our lives is immeasurable and, as hard as it is to lose them, it is something that i wouldn’t trade for the world.
our life is definitely outside the box and not for everyone. living with a pack of dogs is a lifestyle and we have been very fortunate to create a business out of that lifestyle. there are some common questions/misconceptions we are often asked about which i will address: our dogs are "inside" dogs (unless we’re outside, then they're dogs outside); they all get along 99% of the time, excepting the occasional, inevitable scuffle; we do go out of town together, though not often or for long periods of time, thanks to various experienced, dog-loving sitters we've been fortunate to have. we have a wonderful vet, use about 75 lbs. of food a week, and no, it's not crazy expensive to have 16 dogs. we have a very "normal" house with regular furniture and a dyson vacuum that we couldn't live without. i sometimes cringe when i'm asked how many dogs we have – i always feel that after i say “16” the person in question imagines us living in a concrete hole with lawn furniture. hopefully this blog will sway some of those thoughts!
i started this blog to share my experiences living with a pack of dogs. my hope is that it will be both entertaining and informative. (we have picked-up some good dog-related knowledge along the way which might be of help to someone out there.) it’s also the simple musings of a girl who, with a bit of luck, happened upon an amazing life. my hope is to be able to provide a glimpse into that world. i consider myself incredibly fortunate to get to spend my days and nights with my husband & 16 dogs, surrounded by a ton of love and laughter.
please take a moment to leave a comment or email me. i look forward to your questions, thoughts and comments as to what you’d like to see here or where i should go.
enjoy! kym colella