Treat yourself to some Ruff Life

The research journal “Psychology and Marketing” recently looked at retail therapy, the act of buying special things for yourself to feel better when you are unhappy.

Conclusion? Retail therapy can lift you out of a bad mood, causing an endorphin release that produces feelings of happiness and satisfaction.

Of the journal’s findings, Forbes magazine reported: “The study showed that, yes, people who are upset tend to be more impulsive, which could mean they spend more money during a retail therapy experience. However, individuals did not regret spending money on ‘self‑treats’ with the goal of improving mood.”

When my family, including our dog Teddy and his feline pal Pip, vacations at Lake Michigan, the thought of leaving the animals behind as we peruse specialty stores in Petoskey and Harbor Springs makes me feel guilty. So I head to my favorite store, Ruff Life Pet Outfitters, and let the endorphins flow.

I always leave that store happy and eager to show Teddy – and sometimes Pip – what goodies I found for them.

In January of 2012, Gary Albert gave his Chicago employers his two weeks notice. He said that “no longer having a job” was a great motivator to getting his store up and running as quickly as possible. First doing his due diligence, from hiring a CPA to making sure that all necessary documents to opening, owning and operating a business in the state of Michigan were signed.

Having secured retail space in downtown Petoskey, which caters not only residents but tourists’ outdoor lifestyles, he and his brother, Mike, started rebuilding the 1,300-square-foot site. Because of the limited space compared to the national chains, Gary decided his business would be dog-focused, carrying food, treats and accessories such as collars, leashes and toys.

With all, as Gary said, “his ducks in a row,” Ruff Life Pet Outfitters opened in May of that year.

The store carries items you won’t find in the larger box stores, items made in Michigan and across the country. Teddy’s new favorite treat is a blueberry banana cookie shaped like a sailboat. The treats are made in a small bakery in Traverse City. When you open the bag and smell the aromas, you would think this treat was intended more for dog owners.

The staff at the store is friendly and knowledgeable. Several times when we’ve looked at toys, they have steered us to one better able to stand up to Teddy’s chewing.

What I love most about the store and why I keep going back each time we’re at the lake is its focus. Gary wants the store and its items to foster happier relationships between owners and their dogs.

I can say from personal experience that Gary’s hit the mark. Every time I bring something home from that store, Teddy sniffs the bag thoroughly and his tail wags happily.

And I grin ear to ear, my endorphin cup overflowing.

Karin Spicer is a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at

For more information about the store and its products

Ruff Life Pet Outfitters

Location: 309 Howard St.

Petoskey, Michigan 49770


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