Welcome friends, both old and new. For those friends who we know already, you’ll be aware that Life on the Hedge has been closed for a while. I wanted to offer both an insight and explanation as to why this was, and also what changes have occurred during this time.
Firstly, you’ll have noticed that Life on the Hedge has been renamed to Harbour City Dog Gear, and that the website’s undergone a bit of a facelift. Yet it’s not just superficial nips and tucks that have happened to the business, but a much deeper shift.
Here’s the journey both myself and the business have been on to reach today.
This business started as what most entrepreneurs would call a ‘side hustle’ in 2013. The inspiration behind Life on the Hedge was sparked when my husband Michael and I were attending local markets and dog sports events and noticed that there were a number of products popular with the pet community that weren’t easily available in Sydney. So we decided to supply these products to a small but loyal group of local customers.
But why call it Life on the Hedge to begin with? Well, actually there’s a story in there in itself. In 2003, I was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer when Michael handed me a cartoon he’d snipped out of the Sydney papers to lift my spirits.
It was a cartoon by Australian artist Judy Horacek and featured a woman sitting on a hedge, gazing up at the stars and crescent moon with a peaceful smile on her face. To me, that cartoon came to represent the journey we were on and the feeling of optimism we had for the future.
So when it came to naming our business, I kept coming back to this cartoon. No other name we brainstormed seemed to fit or was one we liked enough to commit to. But Life on the Hedge was a name that definitely resonated, which made it an easy choice.
Not a particularly strategic move, granted, as it didn’t feature words like ‘dog’ or ‘pooch’ but one that was driven by the personal meaning instead. Luckily for us, it was a strange enough name for a pet business that stood out, and many people found it memorable, helping our business to grow over the years.
In 2015, we added the Perfect Fit harnesses to our range, which was a real light bulb moment for me. By this time, we had also adopted our rescue dog Pepper, a pointer x kelpie with a very lean and deep chest. She was incredibly hard to fit harness-wise, and we struggled to find anything appropriate in Aussie pet shops and ordering from overseas turned out to be both expensive and slow. Some of the really good harnesses just weren't available to be shipped here at all full stop.
My personal and professional experience of harness shopping and fitting highlighted to me that my real passion was in sourcing great quality, ergonomic, non-aversive walking harnesses. Put 2 + 2 together and I came to see that’s exactly what I wanted Life on the Hedge - and by extension me - to be known as…a dog harness specialist!
After this realisation, I was a woman on a mission and I dived into researching dog walking harnesses, as well as talking to rehab vets and dog trainers, alongside testing products. Over time, we added more world-renowned harness brands to our shop and Life on the Hedge grew.
I thought my own battle with ovarian cancer would be one of the toughest moments of my life, and it was. But in early 2017 Michael was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, with no chance of a cure. The only treatments available would be to extend his life. We were determined to live life to the fullest, which meant Michael continued to work as a principal engineer (one of his many passions) during this time. Then in 2019 he encouraged me to leave my day job to run Life on the Hedge full-time.
In May 2021, I closed Life on the Hedge to care for Michael during the last weeks of his life. He passed away at home in October 2021.
As you can imagine, the grief was overwhelming after Michael’s passing.
In the following weeks and then months, the thought of reopening Life on the Hedge was unfathomable. I couldn’t imagine doing it without Michael by my side. Couldn’t imagine changing the business either, rebranding and renaming, losing that connection and those memories to our journeys with cancer and the love and laughter we shared as Life on the Hedge grew.
But as I sat, numb, at those crossroads, where one road led to me closing the business altogether and the other led me to building it into something even stronger, I somehow came to a decision.
This was a gateway to a new chapter in my life. Whilst I continue to grieve Michael and will do in one way or another for the rest of my life, I still have a passion for great dog harnesses and am brimming with new ideas to incorporate into the business. This is not me moving on, but moving forward.
The new name, Harbour City Dog Gear, represents this new chapter for me. My vision and mission remains unchanged, and my commitment to my customers is steadfast. This new name reflects both how my ambition has now evolved, and the clarity of direction I’m now heading.
What I love most about this new name is that Harbour City Dog Gear is a confident declaration of where we are and what we do. We now have a new name, a new logo and a new website, and shortly I’ll be opening a new fitting studio too (so keep your eyes peeled for further info about that and how to book a fitting appointment.)
Thank you, whether you’re a new or old friend, for reading this and joining me on this journey. I’m quietly optimistic and heartened about what the future holds for both this business and me personally. Michael will always be a part of this story, and with your support (and Pepper’s) I know I can make it something we’d both be proud of.
I hope you enjoy exploring my new website and please make sure to reach out to say hello - Pepper and I would love to hear from you!
Update July 2023
Pepper went to the rainbow bridge in April 2023 at age 13.5yrs. I owe her so much, especially for being my companion and my focus after Michael died. She simply cannot be replaced.