Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law. This week we’re introducing Julie Gorden, a Riverwoods mom of three college grown 20-somethings and the founder and owner of Canine Comfy, comfy dog (and cat) products that offer an alternative to the cumbersome cone.
In the weeks that followed the July 4th shooting in Highland Park, Julie and her canine partners were a staple in our neck of the woods, offering meetups with service dogs to help bring comfort to our grieving community. In our exclusive interview, Julie tell us the impetus behind starting Canine Comfy just five years ago, how the products have developed over the years and how she continues to help a community in need. Welcome, Julie!
Julie Gorden pictured with Oreo, her three children and husband.
Please introduce yourself. Where did you grow up, where do you live now?
Hi! I’m Julie Gorden. I grew up in Morton Grove, went to Niles West High School and now live in the Thorngate neighborhood of Riverwoods. It’s been a great neighborhood to raise my kids and dogs in, we have our own little community.
Tell us about your children – feel free to brag!
Now it’s mostly my husband Bill and our two puppies Phoebe & Joey living at home full time as our children are coming and going with school and work. I have three children, my daughter Jamie (25) and twin sons, Andrew & Justin (23). All 5 of us are University of Illinois alumni. I graduated with a degree in Finance/Accounting and have a CPA. Bill graduated in Computer & Electrical Engineering with an MBA from the University of Chicago. Jamie graduated with an undergrad degree from the Geis Business School in Supply Management and is currently in Dental School at the University of Pittsburgh. Justin graduated from the Geis Business School in Accounting and just got his master’s in accounting, CPA and is starting work in consulting next week. Andrew graduated in Economics and is finishing his masters degree in Finance/Data Analytics.
You founded Canine Comfy five years ago. Tell us about the products that are made for dogs and cats.
My business is called the Canine Comfy. I make products that protect and calm pets, mostly dogs as well as some for cats. They are multifunctional products that are alternatives to the cone/collars after surgeries, for wounds, itching/licking, etc as well as calming (anxiety, thunder, puppy nipping, sleep) and outerwear (raincoats, snowsuits).
I launched my business five years ago, after much time on the front end consulting local veterinarians, developing patterns, finding local people to sew my prototypes, testing & improving my prototypes, finding local manufacturers to produce large quantities and even finding all USA made materials. My products are made to fit all sizes, and if there are any unusual size pets, we can easily customize our products to make them fit. For example I have eight sizes of suits (recovery/anxiety/outerwear) that fit almost every breed from three to over 100 lbs but on occasion will need to make a custom suit. We recently made a suit for a Great Dane that is 140 lbs!
The suits were the first products and then I created vests that are also for wound protection, calming & outerwear followed by booties, recovery sleeves and now HP Strong bandanas with all profits donated to the Highland Park Community Shooting Response Fund.
Why and how did you start Canine Comfy?
Oreo, our Shitzu poodle, underwent three surgeries by the age of six: broken front paw, removal of a benign tumor, and knee surgery. For the first surgery, we purchased EVERY cone on the market in hopes of finding one that fit her well enough while eating, sleeping, and drinking. Most importantly, we wanted to protect Oreo from herself. She was constantly scratching, licking, and itching the wound, which would surely lead to infection. The problem was that we couldn’t find a cone that properly fit her. She kept wandering around the house bumping into furniture and walls. She cried from the pain and was very sad. After yet another sleepless night for Oreo and myself, I knew I had to find a solution to rescue our dog from the cruel and cumbersome cone.
The next day, I bought a baby onesie outfit, cut it, and pinned it so it would fit Oreo. To my surprise, once the cone was off and the onesie was on, Oreo’s demeanor immediately changed for the better. In addition, she had been trying to scratch the incision while wearing her cone, and once it was covered with the onesie, she no longer seemed to be irritated. I knew I was onto something–not just for Oreo–but for ALL dogs suffering similarly. Not to mention that Oreo looked super cute with the onesie rather than scary with the exposed incision and giant cone around her neck. With her new “Comfy” attire, Oreo and all family members were much happier, and the Canine Comfy was born!
You had a great idea and set the wheels in motion to develop a product. Can your products be personalized?
Yes! Once I finalized the product designs, manufacturing, etc. I then added the fun feature of being able to personalize with names or whatever design people would like. People love how fun this can be! Their pets are protected while being COMFY and EXTRA CUTE!
And these are practical – since the vests are great for new growing puppies to help with calming, sleep & nipping I just rolled out a new product, the “Grow with Me” vest. It grows as the puppy grows! The vest is made according to the puppy’s current size and estimated size 6 months out.
Tell us how you and Canine Comfy has been involved in the healing of Highland Park after the shooting. We appreciate you!
After the July 4th shooting I realized that there would be so many people in need of comfort, cuddles and something to look forward to. I had spent years focused on how to comfort animals, and now was the time to have these dogs comfort people. It seemed obvious and simple to me as every time I am out with my dogs in public people approach me to pet them and EVERY time, there are instant smiles on their faces!
Since I have a large following of local dog lovers, I knew I could find people to volunteer their time and their dogs to help comfort those in need. Many of these are not official therapy dogs, but all of these dogs can add comfort to anyone who likes dogs. I never could imagine that I would have over 100 volunteers within 48 hours of posting on Facebook. And the list keeps growing! It has been so heartwarming to see how all these volunteers in the community are wanting to help others and are happy to meet with people privately for 1 on 1 time. In addition, many have turned out for 2 events in Highland Park where we walk around the town. It’s not only been comforting for those coming to see the dogs, but it’s been great for the volunteers as well. For some, it was their first time returning to HP after the shooting. Many said that going back to HP with their dogs and many others made it a little easier for them. Instead of returning to a quiet town and focusing on the tragedy, we were able to add some happiness to the town which feels good for all.
How do you feel Highland Park will be able to move forward…
I feel that Highland Park has never been stronger than it is now. This horrific tragedy has brought out so much good in so many. And even though it’s been a few weeks, it seems like the momentum is still going. Our community is filled with doers and people are going to continue trying to support one another whether it’s through fundraisers or through coming together to spread some love.
I am hoping that events like mine and many others that is going on in the community will continue to help people and bring people back to HP. I am hoping that one of the silver linings for this terrible situation is that more businesses will come to HP so it will be lively like it was years ago.
How can people support the work that you are doing or learn more?
I am trying to get the word out that anyone can contact me about meeting up with our volunteers and their dogs and for as many times as they want. This has been a difficult, unprecedented time for so many people. Whether it’s now or months down the road, I have a list of over 120 enthusiastic volunteers wanting to help. That is our Highland Park community!
About Our Meet a Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here!