NORTON SHORES, Mich. (AP) — Blame it on the dog.
The dog did it ... and did it ... and did it some more.
Some things in life just come naturally.
"Gross," says Jan Rohrs.
As much as Rohrs loves Bella, her 2-year-old Cavachon — a sweet little "designer dog" that mixes the best of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with a Bichon Frisee — Rohrs hated being left holding the bag, so to speak, whenever her dog did its duty out in public.
"Really gross," Rohrs says again, this time with extra emphasis.
Dog lovers everywhere know of what she speaks. There she would be, out walking Bella around her Norton Shores neighborhood, getting a little fresh air and exercise and carrying a plastic grocery bag of — well, there's just no polite way of saying it — freshly deposited dog doo.
"I mean, really, what are you supposed to do with it?" Rohrs asks.
If you're Rohrs, a woman with an inventive mind and "a whole scrapbook of dogs over the years," you head straight to the drawing board to build a better dog doo bag.
"I just kept thinking: How could this be changed? There has to be a way," she says.
Once a national sales leader in Longaberger basket sales, Rohrs used her ingenuity and people know-how and came up with a bag she says is a "stylish answer ... a hands-free way to temporarily store your dog's waste bag" while you're out.
But what to call it?
"I knew I had to think of a name that clicks with people," she says. "It had to have a special ring to it."
She calls it PooDunki.
The PooDunki is made of sturdy nylon, with separate pouches for house keys, cell phones, extra bags and whatnot, plus a pouch of aerated material in which to keep the bags of dog waste. It's washable and can either be slung over the dog walker's shoulder or fastened around one's waist.
LaRaine Kiel, dog owner, dog groomer and owner of Bow Wow's Bath House in Roosevelt Park, said she is a big believer in the PooDunki, pronouncing it a "fabulous product." She has two dogs — a collie and a Lab mix — she takes on nightly walks.
"Can you imagine? Two big dogs? Here you are, carrying these bags because you want to be a responsible pet owner. It's disgusting," Kiel says.
Not anymore, now that she has a PooDunki.
"It's such a needed product," Kiel says.
There's more to aesthetics here. Most municipalities have "curbing" laws in one form or another and can fine owners who don't pick up after their dogs in public areas.
And with the slightest encouragement, Rohrs will even deliver a short lecture on bacteria that can thrive in such an unsanitary medium. There are scientific studies, she says, that prove the dangers of leaving dog feces on beaches, near lakes, in the woods or in other people's yards.
"E coli," she says solemnly.
Science aside, there's another reason Rohrs wanted to come up with a better catchall than tying a bag on Bella's harness and leash, or carrying it herself.
"You want to do the right thing, the responsible thing and pick up the poo,'" she says.
One day, after standing and talking with a friend for awhile, both them bearing plastic grocery bags that were steaming and stinking, Rohrs went home, prepared to come up with a better idea.
The mother of five and grandmother of 11 — "number 12's on the way," she says — Rohrs has always been an inventor of sorts. She takes after her father, the late Robert Miller, an inventor who started R.A. Miller Industries Inc. in Grand Haven.
"I'm just somebody who thinks of things ... who likes to fix things," she says, "and it's perfect timing with everyone caring about ecology ... the green movement."
She first experimented with fancy fabric, but it was highly impractical, and even unsanitary. Eventually Rohrs came up with the nylon bag which is washable and lightweight. The bags are made at Holland Stitchcraft Inc. in Holland and silkscreened at Industrial Metal Identification Inc. in Spring Lake with the PooDunki logo she designed. Then she, with help from her husband, John Rohrs, and grandchildren, packages the PooDunki at her home in Norton Shores.
"I could get it made cheaper overseas," Rohrs says, "but I have to stay in the U.S. We have to help each other."
The PooDunki has been on the market since 2008, "so I'm still new to this," Rohrs says. In between marketing the bag, and "daily life," she still takes Bella for walks at least once a day. Before heading out, Rohrs straps a PooDunki around her waist, prepared for action.
"It serves the purpose," she says. "It definitely does."
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