Wag Rags are made of recycled T-shirts that are braided and knotted into a pattern that won’t unravel the first time a dog tugs on it.

If your dog likes to chew, you need durable dog toys. But it would be nice if the chew toy weren’t exposing the animal to plastics and chemicals, right?

Chris Voynik’s handmade dog toys, Wag Rags, have gone through product testing that includes being run over by a lawn mower – twice. They’re made of recycled T-shirts braided and knotted into a pattern that is not indestructible, but won’t unravel the first time your best friend tugs on it, either.

Voynik, who lives in Manchester, created Wag Rags in 2011, when he was home from college and his mother ordered him to clean out his closet. Ordinarily, he would have donated his pile of old T-shirts to Goodwill, but since it was still school break, he spent time thinking about ways he could make money from them. His two golden retrievers, Sydney and Sammy (who are, sadly, no longer with us), inspired him to try making dog toys. Voynik cut the T-shirts up by hand, twisting, braiding and knotting them in different patterns as he experimented to see what might work. He tested them out on Sydney and Sammy, who loved to tug and chew on things.

That summer, he took his Wag Rags to a crafts fair in Saco and sold out within the first hour or two. He made only enough money to pay for his gas and expenses for the day, and a quick run to Taco Bell, “but I was a happy college kid.” He spent the rest of the summer going to craft shows throughout southern Maine, each week bringing a few more dog toys. His mother and sister helped him keep up with demand, setting aside their own plans so they could cut and braid T-shirts by hand for hours on end.

“Friday nights were a big Wag Rag night in my house,” Voynik recalled, “because we were all making them to take to the craft shows on Saturday.”

Later that year, he marketed the toys at a trade show in Portland and signed on 32 wholesale accounts. As Wag Rags grew, Voynik started buying shirts in bulk from Goodwill, and he hired his grandparents to wash the T-shirts and make the toys (a couple of hundred every month) so he could focus on managing the business, which now sells toys to 41 retailers in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, Oregon, North Carolina and New York. (His grandmother, a retired medical transcriptionist, liked to work with her hands and was bored with retirement.)

Just how long a Wag Rag will last depends on the size of the dog and how much she loves to chew. Voynik’s new product tester, a 60-pound black lab named Phiona, is 3 years old and still has her first Wag Rag toy – but she’s not a big chewer, Voynik said. “The toys can get shredded,” he said. “We’ve seen them come back in pieces, but it’s totally dependent on the dog.”

The toys come in two sizes, Original ($13) and “Big Dog” ($20). Buy them at wag-rags.com or through one of the retailers listed on the website.

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