For Doug Ratner, dogs are more than just good pets – they’re serious business.
As the founder of the website idratherbewithmydog.net, Ratner, who many Western Mass music fans might recognize from his role as guitarist and vocalist in the band Doug Ratner and the Watchmen, operates a one-stop retail site committed to providing dog (and cat) inspired apparel and accessories to animal lovers worldwide.
T-shirts, tank tops, coffee mugs – all these items can be purchased via idratherbewithmydog.net, complete with the site’s slogan and the customers’ choice of one of 20 different dog breeds or a more neutral paw print. Not too bad for a business whose origin stems from a single song.
That song, “Dogs,” was written by Ratner in February of 2013 as a potential track for his group’s latest album Run With Me.
“As I recall, we were having really bad weather and I couldn’t do anything but write,” says Ratner. “I had my SG in my hands and I was working on this Keith Richards type of riff over and over. I knew it was catchy but I needed to give form to the song. So I just looked to my right and there was Oggy [Ratner’s German Shepherd] sitting right next to me, giving me that adorable dog look and I just started singing, ‘I’d rather be with my dogs, than be with you girl,’ just like that.”
Thus, the seeds for idratherbewithmydog.net were planted.
After recording a demo of “Dogs,” Ratner refined the song with the assistance of producer Ben Jons of Stillwork recording studio in Holyoke. The tempo and certain lyrics on the track were worked on, but important emphasis was placed on making the number feel relatable to all listeners, not just dog lovers.
Ratner says, “Ben kept telling me, ‘Try and write the song for someone who doesn’t love dogs. Make it a break up song for the ages. The dogs angle is very unique and so now make it universal.’ He challenged me as a writer more than anybody has in my entire life.”
Challenge or no, the approach worked. By tapping into his very real love of canines, Ratner struck a nerve with his listeners. Soon he was producing music videos for different animal shelters and humane society organizations across the country using “Dogs” as each video’s soundtrack.
Watch one of Doug Ratner's videos featuring "Dogs" here:
The response the videos received was so supportive Ratner decided to take the plunge and form his own business. In order to support such charities directly, Ratner vowed to donate portions of the proceeds from idratherbewithmydog.net to each group in exchange for promotion of his site and its products.
“My biggest passions in life are music, animals, and connecting with people,” says Ratner. “In some bizarre way, this business combines all three.”
One such charity that has benefitted from working with Ratner already is Peaceful Passings Senior Animal Rescue in Virginia, run by former Pioneer Valley resident Jackie Meyers. Peaceful Passings is a home-based rescue shelter, whose mission is to save senior and hospice animals by providing care for them in a home-like environment and by educating the public with grief counseling programs as well as other educational materials.
Meyers first met Ratner when he emailed her to ask for some dog photos he could use in a music video for the Grey Muzzle Organization, a group dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk senior dogs. Meyers passed along some images, and after viewing the finished video was blown away by Ratner’s work.
“I loved it immediately,” she says of the video. “Not just because our dogs were featured, but I love the song and the whole presentation. I was very, very, impressed with his work.”
In fact, Meyers was so impressed she soon agreed to advertise idratherbewithmydog.net to Peaceful Passings’ supporters.
She says, “Doug’s products have given animal lovers and rescuers a way to express to the world their true feelings about their beloved animal companions. Our followers and supporters have told me how happy they are with the relationship that I have formed with Doug because they feel that he is of the same mind and heart as they are. People relate to Doug via the message he sends through his art.”
The next step for Ratner is to spread his message to a larger audience. To do so, the “rock ‘n’ roller” turned animal advocate will be spreading the word about idratherbewithmydog.net on the Home Shopping Network’s “Pet Hour” on August 18th at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.
“I’ll have my guitar and I’ll be singing the song [“Dogs”],” says Ratner. “They’re even going to have a dog on from the local shelter for me to hang out with. I’ll tell the story, talk about the business and of course, sell the products.”
Other future plans include a line of “I’d Rather Be With My Dog Treats” that Ratner says he’ll be coming out with soon, which will consist of high quality ingredients and will be grain, gluten and soy free. For dog owners, Ratner says “I’d Rather Be With My Dog” hoodies and long-sleeve shirts are in the works. And as always, idratherbewithmydog.net will continue to expand its selection of breeds so each product can be customized for customers who want to show their love for a specific canine.
“When someone buys any I’d Rather Be With My Dog product, it’s more than just buying an item with your dog on it, it’s emotionally connecting with the idea that your dog is truly part of your existence in a very deep way,” says Ratner. “Of course I personally feel this way, and always have, so it’s a beautiful thing for me to connect with my fans and customers on the same level. A dog possesses almost all of the qualities we strive for in the human race. They can teach us more than we know and if we just stop to take the time and appreciate their beauty, the world would be a better place.”
Doug Ratner appears on the Home Shopping Network’s “Pet Hour” on Aug. 18 at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. EST
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