Dogs are People Too; A Letter from our CEO, Aaron Merrell

“At Plato Pet Treats, our pets are part of the family…”

The Plato Pet Treats mission that’s been on every bag for over 10 years starts with that line. This has never been simple marketing jargon to me, it’s been true since before Plato was founded.

In the summer of 2004, I was chosen to be the lucky caretaker of a fawn and white English Bulldog puppy with a solitary gold dot right on the top of his wrinkly white head.  I say that I was chosen, because out of the 8 puppies I went to see, he was the one that approached me, rested his chin on my leg, and refused to leave my side.  From that point forward he was my little buddy, and he took the name I’d been saving for him; “Tugboat”.  They are the little boats with lots of muscle that move the big ships around the harbor.  It proved to be the perfect description of him.

I was blessed enough to work in the pet food industry, and was able to bring Tugboat to the office with me every day where he’d cheerfully greet every co-worker and visitor and let them pet him as long as they could stand.  As my partners and I began the journey that would lead toward the start of Plato Pet Treats, Tugboat was both an inspiration for me for the vision of the products I wanted to make, and an active participant in the R&D and taste testing process.  Admittedly, he wasn’t much help in that area because he loved everything I offered him, but it drove me to make products that I could feel good about feeding my little friend.

Days together spent in the office, long walks, camping trips, jaunts at the park, turned into a couple years, and then I met and married my wife, Alli.  Tugboat, or “Tuggy” as she called him, soon became her shadow and guardian.  When I was frequently away from home in the early years of Plato travelling to trade shows, riding with sales reps, and spending weeks every month out of state, Tuggy kept Alli company and protected her from creaks and bumps in the night (plus the occasional raccoon trying to sneak his way in the doggie door, true story).  She often told me that he was what made my time away bearable for her.

Pretty soon, Tugboat was surprised by a mysterious ball of scents and squeals that blessed our family, followed not long after by another, and then another.  At every new chapter of growth in our little family Tugboat welcomed our children with a patient and loving presence, never minding when his ears were pulled or when my son tried to ride him.

This past week, I learned that my 12 ½ year old friend was suffering from heart failure and everything else that goes with it.  I knew he was a very ripe old age for a bulldog, but it still came as a shock.  We made the hard decision to keep him from suffering any further and he spent his last day with us loving on him, spoiling him with lots of treats, and scratching his rump the way he always liked it.  Coming home and overcoming the habit to look for him or reflexively take care of him is a constant reminder of how much a part of my life he truly was.

Tugboat was a big part of my family. And he’s played an instrumental role for the Plato family. We miss him dearly.

Goodbye, friend.