Local takes puppy love to new level

Date: 8/6/2014

LONGMEADOW – Dog owners are known to bring their four-legged companions everywhere – shopping, yoga class, kayaking, walking, etc. – but most people don’t realize that some of them prefer the company of their furry friends to that of fellow humans.

Doug Ratner understands this passion and has created a booming business based on the love of “man’s best friend.”

Ratner, 26, a Longmeadow native has been a musician since childhood, but it wasn’t until last year when he wrote the song “I’d Rather Be With My Dog” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=62CfdcM6S9E) that his audience grew to unexpected proportion.

The sentiment of preferring one’s canine pet to the company of human friends resonated with enough listeners that Ratner was able to create a successful business of the same name.

“The biggest joy has been connecting with the customers, hearing the stories and meeting the dogs,” Ratner said.

Now, Ratner sells merchandise such as T-shirts, coffee mugs and stickers that picture different dog breeds for consumers to choose items that best represent their canine family. The line currently features more than 25 canine and feline breeds.

He has put his music career on hold while he tends to his new business. “Believe it or not, it’s been a lot of weight off my shoulders,” he said. Ratner added that he’s spent years trying to write a “hit” song, but it wasn’t until he wrote “I’d Rather Be” last year that audiences responded.

He described the writing of the song as a “very organic” process where he was sitting next to his dog Oggy, working on turning a riff he’d been working on into a full song.

Ratner and the top 10 best sellers of his product line will be featured on the Home Shopping Network Aug. 18, tentatively listed for the 6 to 10 a.m. time slot. Joining him will be a local shelter dog in need of a permanent loving home. He will also perform “I’d Rather Be With My Dog.”

Ratner said, “The potential to brand this [is limitless] – you could do anything.” He plans to extend the number of dog and cat breeds featured in the line. He will also debut a line of dog treats in the near future.

Long-term, Ratner said he would consider expanding the line to appeal to horse owners. He is also going to establish an “I’d Rather Be With My Dog” foundation to support local animal shelters and rescue services.

He has two German Shepherds, Trudy and Oggy. Ratner described himself as a dog owner who loves to “snuggle” with his pets and who allows them to sleep on the bed. “I am just obsessed with my dogs,” Ratner said. When on tour with The Watchmen, he would pass time by watching videos of his dogs.

“I’ve never been uncomfortable around any dog. I love all dogs,” Ratner commented, adding that he’s loved animals for as long as he can remember and can’t imagine life without having a dog.

“Dogs matter to me more than other people,” he said, adding that animals can’t advocate for themselves and need people to help them be safe and to find happy homes.

Why dogs and not another animal? “Besides the fact that they’re so adorable, they’re our greatest companions. They love unconditionally, don’t judge – [dogs] offer something other people can’t. You can learn more from being a great dog than being a great person,” Ratner said.

Ratner said he is usually wearing one of the T-shirts, which serve as a great conversation starter. “No matter where I am, people will comment [on the shirt] and start talking to me,” he stated.

One time, while waiting for his security check, employees of the Transportation Security Administration paused the line to speak with him to learn more about “I’d Rather Be With My Dog.”

Ratner admitted he couldn’t relate to those who don’t love animals and that he is disheartened by stories of animal abuse. “I get very emotional. [I can’t believe] that people can do what they do. It’s mind-blowing – it doesn’t register [in my brain how someone can be cruel to an animal],” he said.

 “You could argue that my love of dogs is older than my love of music. Every society has gone to war for something it loved. You love your dog, they’re part of your life,” Ratner stated about why he thinks people are so passionate about his cause.

Ratner’s overall goals for his company are “to be the company you think of when you think of loving dogs or cats” and for it to become “[not just] a lifestyle brand, but more.” He would “really love” to host his own TV show on the Animal Planet or the National Geographic channels where he would be know as “Doug the Dog Guy.”

To check out the “I’d Rather Be With My Dog” merchandise that benefits local charities, visit http://idratherbewithmydog.net.