November 2012

Tail-Waggers: Wagging a tail at sustainability

Author: Rebecca Edwards | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Jack Johnson sings a mellow tune in the background. Olive, a five-year-old Basset Hound rescue, rolls on to her back and telepathically sends messages of love, peace and belly rubs with her puppy dog eyes. And, chilling on a stool behind the counter of her store, dog guru Abby Wirth awaits to answer any canine question you might throw her way.

Welcome to Tail-Waggers, a shop where catering to man’s best friend has become one of Hilton Head Island’s best examples of sustainability in business. Wirth, who earned a minor in sustainability from Appalachian State University, believes in integrating ecological balance and conservation in every facet of her life and livelihood.

“Sustainability is the ability to self-sustain, be it a business, community or the lives of the people within it,” Wirth said. The single mother of two young children (Jake and Annie) and two adorable Hilton Head Humane dogs, Olive and a Newfoundland mix named Toby, bases many of her business decisions on servicing her community, supporting Hilton Head’s local economy and green practices. For this reason, she recently moved Tail-Waggers to the Village at Wexford.

“The Village at Wexford really fosters a sense of community,” Wirth said. “We have great parking and an immaculately kept shopping center. We have been able to become the store I always hoped for—a place to hang out, ask questions and enjoy life with your dog.”

In the dog-eat-dog world of business, Tail-Waggers is a 12-year-old company that owes its longevity and success to Wirth’s savvy sense of doing the right thing. For example, Wirth only offers high quality, USA-made items in her store.

“In making better choices on the products I carry, I’m trying to do my part in supporting local economies and smaller manufacturers that put quality and safety ahead of jumbo profit. Personally, I would rather pay a couple more dollars and support a company that puts their money where their mouth is,” said Wirth.
Wirth also points out that there are far less regulations on imported dog foods and treats than human-intended products, resulting in harmful and even fatal consequences.

“Recently, there have been a large number of dogs becoming sick with liver failure after eating Chinese made jerky and treats,” Wirth began. “People have become more aware and are seeking out completely USA-sourced and produced food items. I always tell my customers, no matter where you purchase your dog goodies, make sure they’re 100 percent USA made.”


Owner Abby wirth and Olive

Encouraging people to be in tune with their dogs is another important aspect of Wirth’s business. When it comes to food, she says, “If we ate Cheetos every day for 10 years, we wouldn’t feel or look good. Why would we do that to our dogs?” And when it comes to controlling pet allergies, she says, “When we feel it, our pets do too, so we can be proactive.” A wealth of Fido-facts, Wirth recommends giving your dog corn-free products and a tablespoon of flax or olive oil during Hilton Head’s allergy seasons.

In addition to running Tail-Waggers, Wirth demonstrates her commitment to sustainability by serving as the program manager for Experience Green and the market assistant for the Bluffton Farmers Market. According to Wirth, “EG is a sustainable initiative on the island that started two years ago and has already had huge success in being a steward for our community. EG keeps Hilton Head moving in a sustainable direction concerning all forms of development.” (To learn more about EG, Wirth encourages folks to visit EG’s website at experiencegreen.org).

As the market assistant at the Bluffton Farmers Market, Wirth channels her inner Olive—minus the belly rub. A welcoming presence and friendly face in the first booth, Wirth sells reusable totes and T-shirts and assists in other fundraising efforts for the non-profit market. Equally cool, she incorporates the Bluffton Farmers Market into her store by selling some of its products.

“Buying and selling locally made products helps keep our local economy moving and helps our neighbors,” Wirth said.

Tail-Waggers also participates in socially minded activities. Every Friday it hosts an adoption day for the Hilton Head Humane Association—a cause near and dear to Wirth and one she often volunteers for.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Dogs are the only family members you get to choose,’ and Friday is the perfect day to do just that,” Wirth joked. Really, any day is a good day to visit Tail-Waggers. This dialed-in, dog treats tricked out store epitomizes friendliness—from personnel, to your pet, to our local economy.


Special thanks to Alison Armao and her well trained pup.

Tail-Waggers Top Treats and Gift Ideas:

Freezy Pups Kit. This delicious frozen treats for dogs comes with an ice cube tray and the following flavors: white cheddar, sweet potato, chicken soup and juicy apple.

Molly Mutt dog duvets. These funky patterns can cover an existing bed or can be stuffed with old clothes and sheets to make your own new bed. Sizes range from kitty up to “huge.”

Kiss My Mutt collars and leads. These woven collars are made from recycled water bottles and are fresh and trendy.

Sawmill Smokehouse Jerky. This delicious, Bluffton-made treat comes in tilapia, beef and chicken flavors.

Dog Nose Best Shampoos. This small, Maine company makes their shampoos from fresh, wild Maine blueberries and smells good enough to eat!

Zukes Hip Action treats. These delicious treats come in beef or chicken flavors. Each treat contains 300mg of glucosamine and 50 mg of chondroitin sulfate. These are great for the dog that can find a pill in anything.

Pet Souvenirs. These beach-themed squeaky toys include dolphin, crab, lighthouse and sea turtle options.

Tail-waggers is located in the Village at Wexford. Find them on facebook or call 843.686.3707.

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