You should know… Eric McCormick

Photo courtesy Eric McCormick
Photo courtesy Eric McCormick

Columbia resident Eric McCormick runs Critter’s Inflatable, which makes life jackets for four-legged animals. His dad started it eight years ago, after getting a patent, and turned the company over to his son last year. McCormick, 35, grew up in Bowie and, later, Severna Park, attended Temple Solel in Bowie and became involved in Jewish activities through 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. He noticed that the Coast Guard only looks at people, and only adults are allowed to wear inflatables. So he’s looked at how to apply this 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 on [their pets].

What types of animals wear the life jackets?

Mostly cats and dogs have used it, but basically it’s for any four-legged animal that weighs six pounds and up. There have been people that have asked for one for a horse. A miniature horse would be OK, but anything over 200 or 250 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 the boat.

Is there demand?

I would say there is demand. There are a couple of issues in trying to show people that there’s a need for it. One is that most people don’t buy this product until they’ve actually lost an animal. There’s a lot of people that go out on their boats and bring an animal with them and they don’t put anything on their animal. People wake up and they go, “Where’s Fluffy,” and Fluffy’s nowhere to be found. Sometime in the night the dog walked or jumped off the boat.

There’s a TV show, Flipper, and there’s a scene I saw online once where the boat takes off, the dog falls off the back and it’s paddling along, and luckily Flipper comes and saves the dog. But what if Flipper wasn’t there?”

Could a dog use this to learn how to swim?

When we first were advertising these we thought for the dogs that are doing physical therapy, this would be great for them, because you can adjust the inflation and stuff like that, and the way it’s made doesn’t put pressure on the throat but gives the head a lot of buoyancy. And the issue that we have found is that those dogs are so comfortable that they just sit there and float, which is kind of funny. You would think dogs would want to swim. No, they just want to sit and 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 in my pack. There’s different items that the scouts have to do in order to reach their rank for advancement. It seems that with anybody I talk to, they get to that part of religion and they feel uncomfortable. There are many religions out there and you want to make sure that you are inclusive and respectful at the same time.

Many packs or troops 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 is the difference between a pack and a den?

A pack is all the boys in the Cub Scouts. but the dens are how the boys are broken down by age, starting at Tiger, then Wolf, Bear, Weblos and Arrow of Light. After cub scouts gets the Arrow of Light, they move into Boy Scouts and the name “pack” is replaced with “troop” and “den” is replaced by “patrol.”

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 [scout] event [that we could do]. He said it was not allowed, because of the [Scouts’ policy] on the LGBT community of not allowing gays to serve as leaders. They recently changed their 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.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here