Collar & Bone
Photographs by Michelle Giorla and Kate Chadwick
They say that dog is man’s best friend—and there is quite a substantial amount of evidence to support this. From their four-legged devotion, comfortable companionship, and willingness to eat whatever crumbs drop to the floor, dogs seem to love their people. And in return, people seriously love their dogs.
While in the past, love for an animal might have meant an extra long walk on the beach or some couch cuddles after dinner, these days, affection for our canines has infiltrated every aspect of the pet care industry. Whether we’re paying top dollar for doggie day care spaces and personal pet sitters or investing in organic dog shampoo and CBD gummies, the affection and attention we pay our pets seems limitless, and it’s only growing. According to Technavio, a global market research company, the pet accessories market alone is expected to grow by $9.2 billion by 2025—so no, you’re not the only one buying Halloween costumes or special bath products for your pooch.
For Kate Robbins, this is a trend that means business.
“If you would’ve asked me when I was 5, 10, 15, what do you want to do with your life, I would have told you I wanted to be a vet,” says Robbins. “This actually ended up being a better thing because I don’t want to see [the animals] hurt.”
Robbins has her finger right on the pulse of the pet care industry, and it’s enabled her to pursue her passion of helping dogs without any of the suffering you might find at a veterinarian’s office. Instead, she’s banking on pet experience and full-scale puppy joy. Six years ago, she opened Muddy Paws, a self-service dog wash and boutique in North Cape May. And this year, on Easter weekend, she opened Collar & Bone, a doggie ice cream shop and boutique at the back of City Centre Mall on Washington Street in Cape May.
That’s right, doggie ice cream. For those who sometimes treat their pooches to a cup of soft serve while they indulge in their people ice cream, this isn’t a totally novel idea. Doggie ice cream seems like the inevitable next step in the continually evolving and elevating pet care industry. Turns out, it’s also better for dogs.
“Dogs can’t digest lactose. When they eat that, it can cause a lot of issues. Plus, they’re not supposed to have added sugars and things of that nature, which are all in ice cream,” says Robbins. “Even vanilla extract can be poisonous to them too, so you have to be careful of the vanillas and the peanut butters that you’re using.”
Instead, Robbins uses a dog-safe brand of ice cream and offers flavors your pooch will love, including bacon, peanut butter, pumpkin, and blueberry. Because she doesn’t have running water at Collar & Bone, Robbins has pre-formed frozen molds of ice cream and even doggie paw prints, handmade water-ice treats available in watermelon, blueberry, and pumpkin, which she keeps in the freezer. But the fun hardly stops there. After all, what’s ice cream if you can’t top it, or better yet, make a sundae? “All of the sundaes are named after famous animated dogs,” says Robbins, who has a colorful illustrated chalkboard sign with each sundae alongside its famous namesake. “People come in and they almost build their sundaes as if they’re going to eat it. We’re just having the best time.”
Sundaes include the Blue’s Clues, made with blueberry ice cream, dehydrated sweet potato, peanut butter, and apple chews with a frozen blueberry paw print; the Scooby-Doo, made with pumpkin ice cream, chicken crumbles, salmon and coconut chews, sweet potato and honey bones with a watermelon paw print; the Slinky Dog, made with bacon ice cream, beef crumbles, pumpkin sticks, and a frozen blueberry paw print; the Lady and the Tramp made with peanut butter ice cream, chicken crumbles, duck sticks, and a frozen watermelon paw print; and the Dug, made with blueberry ice cream, freeze dried minnows, chicken and veggie chews, and a frozen pumpkin paw print.
Of course, guests are welcome to build their own sundaes with rotating treats and premium toppings, just as they would at a traditional ice cream shop. And if your favorite four-legged buddy prefers crunchy snacks to cold treats, there are plenty of decorated dog cookies including tacos, Cape May bones, Happy Birthday bones, narwhals, stars, hearts, and doggie donuts as well as an entire BYOB bar—Bring Your Own Bag—of small mix-and-match dog treats, which are also available in a refillable ‘Cape May’ treat jar.
The entire selection of treats is all natural with limited ingredients and made in the USA. Robbins herself has tried just about every treat in the place. Her favorite? The peanut butter and apple treats in the BYOB Bar.
“If it’s not good enough for us to eat,” says Robbins, “then it’s not good enough for them.”
But that’s not all, because while Collar & Bone is the first doggie ice cream shop in Cape May, it’s also a boutique, stocked floor to ceiling with a wide variety of goods that any dog—or dog parent—would love.
“I tried to find products that are not being offered already everywhere else,” says Robbins. “And to have things for people and things for dogs. A little bit of both, so that even if somebody comes in here that doesn’t have a dog, they might find a candle or something for their friend who has a dog.”
Other ‘people’ items include mugs, treat containers, kitchen towels, canvas bags, toy bags, shop t-shirts, doormats, earrings, and leash hooks, all with some sort of dog tie-in like “pawsitive vibes only’ or a dog image.
But it’s the dogs themselves who really benefit at Collar & Bone. Not only is there an array of fun dog toys, leashes and collars, but there are more unique items like dog life vests for those summer days at the beach in Cape May; dog barrettes, bows and hair clips; whimsical pet tags that say things like “I still live with my parents;” grooming supplies and wellness formulas; safe-for-dogs peanut butter and “Bowser Beer” (a nonalcoholic treat for dogs with fun names like Perky Pup Porter and Cock-a-Doodle Brew); as well as slow feeders, pet carriers, and dog clothes.
People seem to love it. Though the shop isn’t huge, it’s often bustling with shoppers. Dogs love it too and are completely welcome in Collar & Bone. However, four-legged guests are encouraged to use the back door to enter the shop as the rest of City Centre Mall, like Washington Street, prohibits dogs.
“The worst and the best part about this location is that you can’t walk your dogs on the Mall, and Rotary Park isn’t dog friendly,” says Robbins. “I’m right in between. But guests can come right in the back door and that’s 100% good to go, and you’ve got benches and everything outside.”
A bench, your favorite human, and a doggie ice cream on a warm summer’s night—what more could man’s best friend hope for? ■