In Depth Interview with Kerry Cooke Founder of TailChasers® and Inventor of Spleash®
Kerry Cooke has always been a dog lover, and it was her mission to make dog walking safer, more manageable, and altogether more friendly that led to the invention of SPLEASH™ . In addition to wanting to create a versatile product that would benefit every dog owner, Kerry also wanted to give back to women experiencing domestic violence, which is why every year a portion of the surplus funds generated by sales of SPLEASH™ will result in a donation towards a domestic abuse support organization that works with dogs.
We sat down with Kerry to find out more about her journey; how SPLEASH™ can make everyone a better neighbor; and why supporting domestic abuse victims is so important to her.
Where did the idea for SPLEASH™ originally come from?
I’ve been a dog lover for as long as I can remember. When I was in a position financially to have more than one dog, I rescued three dogs in pretty short order. I used to struggle to walk them as a group, but through a lot of trial-and-error, I managed to walk them multiple times daily without many meltdowns.
As they started to age and pass, I rescued a few more dogs. At times, I was walking five dogs at once (not recommended for the faint of heart). This was a trial by fire. The youngest one is the biggest we’ve had to wrangle and her fur is pure black, a real struggle in the Southern California sun. I realized that in order to walk her safely I needed a way to keep her hydrated without making it harder than usual to juggle the other leashes.
One day, an off-leash dog approached us while we were out on a walk. In that moment, I didn’t know what to do because strange dogs made mine nervous and I wanted to avoid a conflict at all costs. I began to reflect on my mobile hydration idea, and I wondered if it was possible to use it as a deterrent as well. Something to keep off-leash dogs from making contact with my pack. With some fancy maneuvering I managed to avoid the stray dog and made my way home.
As soon as I got home I took to Google searching for mobile spray bottles for dog leashes, and to my surprise, found nothing. I ordered a 12-pack of cheap squirt guns, duct-taped one to my leash, and out we went. It worked like magic. What’s more, while I had the squirt gun taped to my leash, I started to discover all the other amazing uses for it and SPLEASH™ was born.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be around dogs. I used to drive my mom crazy wanting to visit the pet store in the mall to see and pet all the puppies. I think because I am the youngest of five children, I felt a desire to love and care for something younger than myself. There is also a feeling of unconditional love that draws me towards dogs. As a military brat, to say my childhood was of a transient nature would be an understatement. Growing up as the “perpetual new-kid-in-class,” it was challenging to navigate the politics of each new school and feel a sense of belonging. I think the root of my desire now to always come home to a dog’s unconditional love has to do with belonging. After a lifetime of making new friends, I now share a roof with my BFFs (Best Furry Friends).
Dogs are also a great early warning system, sure half the time they’re just barking at the mailman, but I like the idea that they’ll give our family a head’s up when there’s someone in our “territory.”
We hear you talk about dog walking etiquette a lot. What are the main things you wish dog walkers would do to remain respectful to those around them?
When you walk a dog you are trying to direct the attention of an independent being -- with your language as its second language -- towards a direction and speed that you (hopefully) control. That in and of itself is complicated. If you are walking multiple dogs, you can add even more independent minds to that equation, all with different agendas.
Cooperation of fellow dog walkers is necessary and polite. Here is what I recommend:
Just as your pup can sense things miles away using visual and olfactory cues, the dog walker needs to plan ahead. If you turn a corner and see that someone is walking a dog 25-yards ahead on the same sidewalk, take a quick look at the person walking them. Are they smiling and looking carefree? Do they look nervous? Are they walking more than one dog? Did they just blurt out a cuss word? Assess the situation quickly. In most situations, a person walking more than one dog should get the instant right of way. It is a lot more difficult to turn a pack of 2-5 dogs, than to turn one.
If your dog gets aggressive or is anxious towards other dogs, consider these things:
A parked car is your best friend. If you can’t quickly change direction, try to block the field of vision of your dog using a parked car. Slowly advance on one side of the car, as the other dog walker passes on the other side of the street. This is a great way to keep the dogs a safe distance apart.
If you have a dog-aggressive BFF (Best Furry Friend) take the responsibility to turn around and go another direction if possible.
Call out to the other owner, “Do not come any closer to my dog. My dog is dog-aggressive. Please help me maintain distance between our dogs for their safety.”
Be a good neighbor: no one likes burned spots or messes on their lawn. Try to direct your pup to relieve themselves only on the grass belt or common areas of the neighborhood and always clean-up afterwards. If your pup does go on the neighbor’s grass use your SPLEASH™ to spray it down with water. This will dilute the urine and help reduce the burned grass.
There’s a serious side to SPLEASH™. Could you tell us more about why you donate a portion of all SPLEASH™ profits to training dogs for women who have experienced domestic abuse?
I am a survivor of domestic abuse. The experience changed me in so many ways, but perhaps one of the more lasting impacts is my reliance on dogs for emotional support. Beyond unconditional love they provide a sense of true companionship and understanding... a dog will always do their best to ensure your happiness, and I think that is a lovely concept.
It takes a lot of money to raise a puppy and to train it properly. I wanted to honor somebody I know whose life was taken as a result of domestic violence by donating a portion of surplus funds to place trained dogs with survivors of domestic violence in her name. The ultimate goal is to provide a portion of surplus funds to the foundation and place dogs with as many survivors as we can each year.
If you or someone you care about is a victim of domestic abuse, please reach out to https://www.thehotline.org/ for anonymous help.
By Zoe Oksanen