Saturday, June 2, 2018

Uptown Startup Releases Body-Positive Stuffed Animal

Chewie the pit bull mix stuffed animal (available for preorder)
(courtesy Furever Home Friends)

The Furever Home Friends, a year-old business in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, will be releasing a new product this summer: a body-positive stuffed pit bull named Chewie. The Furever Home Friends, whose primary product is children’s books based on the stories of real shelter dogs, is adding a line of stuffed animals based on the dogs in their stories. The first stuffed animal, Chewie, will be for sale August 11.

Chewie’s book, Smile, Chewie!, which was released in the summer of 2017, tells the story of a pit bull living in an animal shelter, too scared to let the shelter volunteers take his picture because of the scars on his face, a result of previous abuse. It depicts Chewie’s journey to developing confidence in himself and learning to smile for the camera. The end of the book features discussion questions about what it means to overcome insecurities and gain confidence.

Chewie’s stuffed animal is 12 inches tall and features three scars stitched into his face. “Characters with scars don’t have to be tough or mean,” says Savy Leiser, founder of The Furever Home Friends and author of Smile, Chewie! “Chewie is a sweet dog, and his scars are a part of who he is.” One of the goals of both Chewie’s book and his stuffed animal is to teach kids about body positivity. “We all look different, and our differences don’t have to be seen as flaws,” says Leiser. The stuffed animal is manufactured by Adorable World, and it comes with a customizable adoption certificate.

Stuffed animals are now available for preorder on On August 11, Leiser will be hosting a launch party for the stuffed animal at the Portage Park store Replica Chicago. The launch party will also celebrate the release of the newest book in the series: Just Me, Wrigley, a story about a quirky mixed-breed dog searching for a place where she fits in. Ten percent of all profits from Furever Home Friends products benefit no-kill animal shelters, with the first beneficiary being ALIVE Rescue in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago.

The initial run of Chewie’s stuffed animals will be limited; there will be only 100 animals released this summer. Customers are encouraged to preorder through the website to secure a stuffed animal. Additionally, real-life Chewie plans to be at the launch party in August, and all Chicago residents are encouraged to attend.

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