Columbia resident Eric McCormick runs Critter’s Inflatable, which makes life jackets for our four-legged friends. His dad started the company eight years ago after getting a patent and turned the business over to his son last year. McCormick, 35, grew up in Bowie and Severna Park, attended Temple Solel in Bowie and became involved in Jewish activities throughout high school and college. He also leads a Cub Scout troop, where he tries to meet the Scouts’ religious requirements without ruffling feathers in his multifaith group.
How did Critter’s Inflatable get started?
My dad was working for the Coast Guard and he noticed that only adults are [required] to wear inflatables. So he looked at how to apply [inflatables] to other things. He’s even had people come to him who have quadcopters that fly over the water and they want to make sure they have something [for their devices].
What types of animals wear the life jackets?
Mostly cats and dogs, but basically it’s for any four-legged animal that weighs 6 pounds and up. There have been people who have asked for inflatables for horses. A miniature horse would be OK, but 250 pounds is the max.
Do your cats use them?
They do not. One of mine is actually scared of everything, even me most of the time, so I don’t take him out on a boat.
Is there demand?
I would say there is demand. Most people don’t buy this product until they’ve actually lost an animal. [On an overnighter] people wake up in the morning and ask, “Where’s Fluffy?” and Fluffy’s nowhere to be found because sometime in the night, the dog fell or jumped off the boat.
Could a dog use this as a swimming aid?
When we first were advertising these, we thought this would be great for dogs in physical therapy because you can adjust the inflation. And the way it’s made doesn’t put pressure on the throat but gives the head a lot of buoyancy. However, dogs get so comfortable that they just float, which is kind of funny. You would think they would want to swim. No, they just want to relax in the water like everyone else.
How do you incorporate religion into Scouting?
Religion, or at least some view of a higher power, is a part of Scouting. The oath is, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.” But when it comes to doing the [religious] requirements, most people don’t know how to handle it, so they skip it as an activity. My goal is to bring in religion a little bit more. There are many religions out there, and you want to make sure that you are inclusive and respectful at the same time. Many packs are under the guidance of a church or temple, where everyone is of the same religion. But we are a pack that is not associated with any religious group, and I have boys of many different religions and backgrounds.
What types of events do you have?
At Temple Isaiah [in Fulton, Md.], we did a scout Shabbat. In the past, I had reached out to Rabbi [Craig] Axler to see if there was any type of event [that we could do]. He said it was not allowed because of the [Scouts’ policy] of not allowing gays to serve as leaders. They recently changed that policy, and so the temple is kind of softening up on that. One of the scouts wanted to have a scout Shabbat as his bar mitzvah project. So they ran it.