Garry Ridge has dedicated over 30 years to serving as CEO and chairman of the board of the well-known WD-40 company, based in San Diego. Also a celebrated author and business coach, Garry always aims to inspire happiness through leadership. He became an advocate for animals as a young boy in Australia (we recommend reading his interview with an Australian accent!), and his compassion for animals still inspires his ideals today.
When did your love of animals begin?
My dad came home from the pub one day with a little, tiny puppy in his pocket, and it was this Australian silky terrier named Toohey. Toohey was one of those lovely little affectionate dogs who always sleeps under the blankets by your toes at the bottom of the bed. We lived on a fairly busy road in a suburb of Sydney and, unfortunately, Toohey was hit by a car and killed.
At that time, I took up a petition and had people up and down the street sign the petition to stop these heavy trucks on the road after they unfortunately ended the life of my little dog. I’ll never forget that. Toohey gave me the inspiration way back then to be brave enough and take action to seek some change in the world.
Garry's Father and childhood dog, Rastas
Garry and Max
Have you had many more dogs?
All through my life in Australia, we had dogs. When we first moved to the United States, we had a little Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Minnie, because my daughter loved Minnie Mouse. She was always such a loving dog.
My current dog is Max. We call him Max the Wonder Dog! He’s part Lab, part shepherd and part Great Dane, so he’s quite a large boy with long legs! He’s a bit goofy.
What is life like with Max?
Max is just a wonderful dog, very loving. He likes to put his paw up on your arm or your leg, which means it’s massage time for him! Not soon after we got him as a really tiny little puppy, he decided that he loved to eat the sprinkler system in our garden, and he really loved to eat all of the electrical cords to the outside lighting! We knew that for him to be the dog that we knew he could be, we’d have to send him to boot camp. After a few weeks, he understood all of those things that now make Max who he is.
He still goes to day camp three days a week because he loves to play with his friends! I drop him off in the mornings and pick him up in the afternoons. They even give him baths on Fridays, and he often comes home in a bow tie. It’s formal Max on Fridays.
We take him on a 7- to 8-mile walk every Sunday morning. He knows when it’s Sunday, and he’ll get up early and wag his tail. I’m just surprised how much Max wants to smell everything, all the time. He has so much energy. He’s just a sniff-aholic.
How has having such a vibrant pet changed your outlook over the last year?
I think the wonderful thing about animals, particularly the dogs we have around, is that they have unconditional love to give. The little things that excite Max should maybe excite us more in life. It’s just great to have furry friends around.
I was just writing an article around reentry. There’s so many people now working from remote locations and at home, and they’ve been partners to their pets — more than they would have had an opportunity to be partners with them before. I’m wondering, when we get back to somewhat normal life, how we are going to help our pets get used to us not being around all the time. It’s something we have to think about. Maybe more companies will even have Bring Your Pet to Work Day now!
Is there anything you’ve learned from pets that has shaped your business leadership?
Pets are always treating us with respect, dignity and love. And I think in business that respect, dignity and empathy are really important. Our purpose in life is to make people happy — and if we can’t make them happy, at least don’t hurt them. When you think about dogs, they’re striving to make us happy, and they certainly don’t want to hurt us. I was watching a video the other day where pets were at a children’s hospital and bringing some joy to their lives. They feed those chemicals in our brains that bring us joy and love, which is so important.
We should allow ourselves to appreciate caring about someone. No matter what, when I come home Max picks his head up and wags his tail and is happy to see me. Well, maybe it’s because I’m always giving him food!
Why was it important for you to rescue Max?
Life is important. You kind of know what will happen if we don’t rescue animals, and that doesn’t feel good. It’s better to take care of a life that wants and needs a home.
The other thing is, you know that rescue operations and facilities have done their work. You can have a high degree of confidence that the animals are in good shape and you know any issues. It’s a shame when you see breeders that aren’t being as responsible as they should be. We got Max from Helen Woodward, and I was teaching a class at University of San Diego when my wife took the kids to adopt him. Max, a tiny puppy at the time, went up to my step-son and undid his shoe laces. That sealed the deal! Little did we know that the digging up of the garden and the eating of the sprinkler system were just a few months away.
Published: April 5, 2021