KONG Cares

“There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” –Bob Ross

By Emily Lewis

With every manufacturing process, there are bound to be products that come out slightly flawed. Manufacturing KONGs is no different. In every batch, a small number of KONGs end up with minor aesthetic imperfections—mostly small black dots that make it so that the KONGs aren’t quite perfect. From the beginning, founder Joe Markham has wanted to sell only the best—so we set those KONGs, which we have known for years as KONG Seconds, aside for another purpose.

KONG Seconds are just as durable as the KONG products you can find at your local pet store, so there is no reason to throw them away—instead, we use them to help shelters in need. The KONG Seconds program began in the early 1990s. Though we manufactured KONGs on a much smaller scale, there were still some that came out with blemishes. Joe started the program by giving them away to local, Denver area shelters.

It’s not just about donating—it’s about helping. A number of dogs in shelters are there because they have anxiety or behavior issues. Unfortunately, this means that they may not be the most appealing dogs to adopt. If you give those dogs—many of whom have never seen a toy—a KONG, it can help ease anxiety and boredom, making them more adoptable. If a dog in a shelter has a KONG and can spend time focusing on the delicious peanut butter inside, rather than thinking about the fact that they’re in a crate in a noisy shelter, they become more relaxed. This is especially true if the barking dog in the kennel next door is given a stuffed KONG and stops barking. Joe decided to donate our KONG Seconds to local shelters to help these dogs become more comfortable in their surroundings, with the hope of helping them find their forever homes.

The Seconds program began with local shelters and has now expanded to shelters and rescues across the US. Though we aren’t sure how many shelters we’ve reached since our Seconds program began twenty years ago, Joe estimates that we’ve donated hundreds of thousands of KONG Seconds. We don’t keep track: we just do as much as we can, donating to at least 25 shelters every month through our Seconds raffle. In addition, we donate to others who are in need—especially in the wake of devastating natural disasters. In recent years, we’ve sent shipments of KONG Seconds to rescue operations in New York, Oklahoma and our own backyard after massive flooding in Colorado. We also work with various organizations to support Military Working Dogs, as KONGs are some of the only toys they are allowed to have.

Recently, we decided it was time to revamp the name, since Seconds often led people to believe the KONGs were used. Rather than coming up with the name ourselves, we let shelter and rescue organizations in on the fun. Groups around the country submitted creative new name suggestions, we chose our top eight and, after a vote on Facebook, KONG Seconds became KONG Cares.

The new name was submitted by 4 Luv of Dog Rescue, in Fargo, North Dakota. 4 Luv of Dog Rescue was founded in 2005 by Kish, who wanted to help the dogs doomed to be euthanized in the local pounds. Though Kish began the journey on her own, the rescue expanded and now has volunteers and foster families who have joined her efforts. 4 Luv of Dog Rescue is an all-breed rescue with no paid staff. They decided to get their volunteers involved in submitting a possible new name for KONG Seconds, since they’re the ones who have fostered dogs and have benefited from the Seconds program.

“We decided to open it up for suggestions, and there were a lot of great ideas! Our lead volunteer reviewed them all and picked what seemed like the perfect suggestion—KONG Cares,” Kish recalls.

With that, our KONG Seconds program has now turned into our KONG Cares program. We couldn’t have come up with a better name ourselves! Do you know of a shelter or rescue organization in need? Encourage them to register with us for a chance to win a box of KONG Cares.