SKOWHEGAN, Maine — When a small company is just starting out it helps to be surrounded by people who know what they're doing; which is what attracted Bill and Julie Swain to a stitching shop in Skowhegan when they needed to expand their line of dog vests.
"I was a ski bum and a raft guide with a little business so that I could afford my lifestyle," explains Julie Swain, who was sewing together bright orange hunting vests; the kind that wouldn't tear off in the trees and made a dog more visible. "A dog vest that I made, a friend of mine is a Maine warden who was out hunting with the buyer for L.L. Bean and he was interested in getting it and that was pretty much the beginning of Dog Not Gone."
L.L. Bean wanted more than just a hunting vest for pets; they asked Julie and Bill about a fabric called no-fly zone.
"We get the fabric, it's permanently treated with permethrin. They bake it on the fibers when they make it; it does not come off even if the fabric gets wet and it's effective up to 70 washes in repelling ticks, black flies, mosquitoes, all of those insects we have here in Maine that we love so much."
The fabric is cut and shaped and sewn together into colorful vests for all shapes and sizes of dog. As the concern over tick-borne illnesses grew - along with the risk of chemical bug sprays - so did Julie and Bill's small business.
"We started making gaiters that you put on your pants or that you pull over your leg and it keeps the ticks from climbing up. We make hats; kerchiefs; a whole variety of products, so we have everything now from pets to people and we're actually working on a horse line that will be introduced in late fall or early next year," says Julie.
The Swains also took over the stitching shop, Maine Stitching Specialties.
Julie and Bill Swain field a lot of questions about the safety and usage of the products, so click here to learn more.
You can also stop by their factory store in Skowhegan.