“It depends on the day,” chuckles Norm Levitz, one of Wagatha’s cofounders.
“I don’t think that it’s a sign of the apocalypse yet,” chimed in Neal Reilly, his business partner. “It’s a trilogy. We have the sticks now. We’re coming out with fall foliage in a can next year, and the following year we’re going to do fresh Vermont air in a can.”
We’re pretty sure he was joking about the last two, but it’s hard to tell. Norm and Neil keep their tongues so firmly in their cheeks that it would take minor surgery to remove them. Anna Dibble, a local artist and the third co-inventor, added to the cheekiness by creating a fully illustrated user’s manual, included in every bundle, that explains (in painful detail) the correct way to throw a stick. It even has a technical support line, which is Anna’s home number.
“I get two kinds of calls,” she says. “They either call up late at night and are a little loaded and think it’s hilarious, or they’re people who say their dogs love the sticks, but they’re worried about the toxicity. Are their dogs going to get sick from chewing on these sticks?” No, she explains calmly; they’re sticks.
Over the last two years, Wagatha’s has sold thousands of Fetchstix around the country. As you might expect, they don’t do very well in Vermont, but sticks are rare commodities in a lot of places. “We sold a surprising number of these in Las Vegas,” Norm explains. “They don’t even have trees there.”
Fetchstix are also wholesaled to distributors. One company’s reps insisted on testing the product before placing their order, though it’s unclear what they thought they might find. “It throws like a stick; it has bark like a stick,” Norm jokes. “People have gotten so removed from anything natural for their animals. I think it throws them off.”
“It’s God’s original dog toy,” Neil says. “How do you get any better than a stick?” He pauses for a moment, then adds, quietly, “With instructions.”