OUT OF THE DOG HOUSE: Nicole Miller has linked with Puppies Behind Bars, an organization that teaches inmates to train service dogs for wounded war veterans, and canines for explosives detection for law enforcement. Most of the puppies enter the prison when they are eight weeks old and remain there for 24 months. To help spread the word about the group’s efforts, the designer has created a $40 dog bowl and a $20 phone case with all of the proceeds going to Puppies Behind Bars. Miller will host an event for the group on Oct. 17 in her SoHo flagship. Dogs from Puppies Behind Bars will be on hand, and guests are welcome to bring their own dogs as well.
Miller initially collaborated with the nonprofit years ago, creating dog collars for the organization. She also had an honorary dog at one point and the inmate who was training the dog wrote to her periodically to tell her about its progress. “The inmates train the dogs, which I think is fantastic therapy for the inmates. But apparently, my dog was not very happy about being locked up. So after he was there a year they took him out because he was not doing well behind bars. But I’ve met some of these dogs and they’re quite amazing. They’re so well-trained.” Miller said. “They would do anything you told them to.”
While the initial plan was not to have an ongoing sale, the response right out of the gate was an online sellout for the dog bowls in the first day, Miller said. The dog accessories are sold via her company’s site and through Puppies Behind Bars’ site. She is also designing dog blankets for Puppies Behind Bars “Paws & Reflect” seniors program. Referring to the dog bowls and phone case, she said, “I’m open-minded about going further with it. It’s nice to have an item on the web site for charity that’s not overly pricey too.” Miller said. “It’s accessible.”
Nancy and Henry Kissinger, and Sebastian Junger serve on the group’s board of advisers. Vanity Fair’s Katherine Bang and Elise O’Shaughnessy are among the group’s board, as is Rooney Mara’s mother Kathleen. Another board member Gloria Gilbert Stoga, the group’s founder, met Bud Konheim, chief executive officer of Miller’s company, who connected her with the designer. “It’s such an unusual concept and I think it’s a really, really good idea. I’m sure it rehabilitates people as well as trains the dogs,” Miller said.