Born in Jamaica in 1968, Ziggy Marley is the son of reggae icon Bob Marley and Rita Marley. The 53-year-old musician is an eight-time Grammy Award winner and a Daytime Emmy Award recipient who has used his success to champion a variety of political and philanthropic causes. He served as a goodwill youth ambassador for the United Nations and is the founder of Unlimited Resources Giving Enlightenment (URGE), a foundation dedicated to making enduring contributions to the lives of children in Jamaica, Africa and throughout the world.
Marley and his wife Orly have four children – daughter Judah and three sons, Gideon, Abraham and Isaiah – and just before the pandemic, the family welcomed a dog, Romeo, into their home. Romeo is a lagotto Romagnolo, a medium-sized breed of dog that is known for its thick, curly hair and bright, happy demeanor. Bred to be a working dog, the lagotto Romagnolo originates from Italy and was first used to hunt waterfowl, but now is known as the Mediterranean country’s “truffle dog” for its use to hunt the underground tubers. The lagotto Romangnolo is assigned to the sporting group designation by the American Kennel Club.
Getting a pet had been a subject of debate between Marley and his wife, but he admits that getting Romeo “was a good addition to the family,” adding that the dog has enabled them to appreciate “life and nature and everything else.”
After Romeo joined the Marley family, the pandemic forced them to become isolated at their Los Angeles home. Marley chose to address the pain of the pandemic with his music, which he’s described as “a rebellious thing to do. Instead of writing about what’s going on, it’s something comforting.”
Since he was isolating with his family, the desire to express himself with music resulted in “More Family Time,” a follow-up to his 2009 Grammy-winning children’s album “Family Time.”
Romeo was the inspiration for one of the songs, the appropriately titled “My Dog Romeo,” which features the barking dog. Opening with Romeo’s barking, Marley sings of his great love and friendship with his four-legged friend.
“Yo, Yo, Romeo, why you chewing on the mic stand?” he sings on the playfully endearing tribute to his beloved pup. “Come on man!”
The popularity of Marley’s ode to his companion dog led to the song being turned into a children’s book designed to touch the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.
The newest endeavor for Marley is taking him into the pet care community. Through a collaboration with Anja Skodda, a scientist and founder of HAPPYBOND, Marley is launching a product line called HAPPYBOND x Ziggy Marley Grooming, which will be available in time for the holiday season.
According to Skodda, the first three products in the line will be a no-wash refreshing spray, a deep cleanse shampoo, and a leave-in conditioner.
“We wanted to start with a solution for an easy, at-home pet grooming routine that included washing your dog, keeping their fur and skin extra nourished with a leave-in conditioner while naturally repelling fleas and ticks with neem oil, and then maintaining and extending the grooming cycle by refreshing their fur with the no-wash spray,” explained Skodda, adding what the Marley family were looking for in their product line. “They were looking to create a natural and clean grooming line as they felt their dog Romeo’s skin would get dry from shampooing often and wanted a natural solution to keep his coat shiny and skin moisturized and balanced. Our dogs have sensitive skin and Ziggy wanted to find a natural and clean grooming line with innovative ingredients that are safe for pets, family, and the environment.”
The products in the grooming line are specifically pH balanced for a dog’s skin and contain no gluten, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil or silicone.
“Our joint grooming line consists of a ground-breaking ingredient complex that combines powerful cleansing and excellent skin compatibility with unprecedented environmental compatibility,” she noted. “It is based on natural renewable ingredients (sugar). It is biodegradable and contributes to the reduction of waste in natural water and marine ecosystems. All formulations are rich in superfood-derived protein made from hemp seeds. Hemp protein is known to offer a variety of health boosting benefits. It can help restore epidermal homeostasis for more vibrant and healthier skin and protect fur from damage.”
Pet Age spoke with Marley, who had much to say about his decision to bring a companion animal into his home as well as what motivated him to partner with Skodda on the line of pet grooming products.
Can you tell us about Romeo and what attracted you to the lagotto Romagnolo dog breed?
ZM: I grew up with dogs in Jamaica, I had a few dogs through the years, when I eventually moved to California, met my wife and had our kids. For years, the kids have been asking for dogs, but my wife was very reluctant. She didn’t grow up with pets, and she has some allergies and stuff like that. She was worrying about shedding and stuff. Eventually we decided we’re going to get a dog. We made sure Judah, my daughter, she’s 16, did some research and [it led the family] to this breed of dog. We got it last year in February or March. Judah named him Romeo, which is so cool. I love that name.
What’s been the impact of having a dog on you and your family?
ZM: It was pretty tough in the beginning because all of my dogs in Jamaica were outdoor dogs. We never used to have the dogs living in the house. And for me, it was a new experience having a dog living in the house. It was like having a new baby, basically. My wife was like, “You see?”
It was rough. But eventually, he became a part of the family. My wife and I have four, so this was the fifth child. His demeanor kind of matches with the 4-year-old [Isaiah]. We’re very happy to have a dog with this kind of demeanor. He and Isaiah are like siblings. They carry on and run around together.
For me, it’s been a few years [since the last time I had a dog]. It’s been like 20 years now. It brings up memories. I love dogs, I love pets. I love the camaraderie. I remember growing up with my dogs. It’s a great feeling to get back and to introduce my kids to. We had goldfish, but they’ve never had a dog. This is a different experience.
Romeo, he has a very cool personality – it’s a being, dogs are beings. We recognize the being in this dog – not as an animal, but like we are beings. We respect him as a creature that was created like we are created.
Why did you decide to enter the pet care industry with a line of grooming products?
ZM: Since we have a dog now, we’ve gotten exposed to the world of buying stuff for the dog and trying different types of things. My wife is different than I am. I don’t mind if the dog is a little dirty or smells a little funky [Laughs]. But she does, “Yo, shampoo, guys. Get some shampoo!”
We tried a lot of stuff that just didn’t work. My wife said, “Why don’t we try to work with somebody who can create stuff that could be under our philosophy of what we want to use?”
She looked for a good partner that’s on the same page as we are. We want something natural, environmentally conscious. Something that is good for dogs and also good for the environment and good for the family.
That led us to Anja. She’s a chemist and she has the same mindset as us: creating products that are good for animals but also good for the planet.
We have a good relationship with Anja. Putting money into something without having a relationship is not what I want to do. We made sure to build up that relationship and have an understanding with one another on a personal level. I trust Anja, that’s why we collaborated with her. I couldn’t work with someone where I have to micromanage. That relationship wouldn’t work. We had to develop the trust with the person we’re working with. We looked everything over and we agreed with what we saw. We picked the right person to do this with.
What do you hope to achieve with the product line?
ZM: We’re trying to set the example as responsible pet owners but also responsible human beings. Whatever we do, we want to have the least negative impact on the planet. Anja was already there. The ingredients that we decided upon are simple things but good stuff. I could use the stuff too if I wanted to.
Do you have a message to retailers about carrying your product and pet products in general?
ZM: If you’re getting something good for the pets, and it works and it works for the planet too. I think that’s the balance that we all should try and seek going forward in this world today. That’s the balance that we should all try to find as individuals, as a society, as pet owners. How do we take care of our pets and still be responsible caretakers of the planet. It’s a balance that we have to find in our life in whatever we do. It’s a balance. For us to be in this space, it’s not just about selling a product, but it’s also about sending a message and setting an example and trying to be better stewards of all of nature, including our animals. We have to start thinking about these things.
What made you decide to make him the subject of the song “My Dog Romeo” for the new children’s album?
ZM: It’s funny. I’m in the studio a lot. He’s been in the studio with me for a year now. The first couple of times, when I’m working on the record. You know puppies, they like to chew. He’s chewing on the mic stand, he steals the shoes and chews on the shoes. He’s got a great personality. We love him and enjoy time with him.
My children always wanted a dog. But when you have a dog… you know kids, they only want to play with the dog. They don’t want the responsibility of picking up the poop and everything else. Me and Romeo [laughs]. He listens to me more than he listens to them. If there’s an issue and they can’t get him to do something, they call for Ziggy. But having Romeo helps teach them about another type of being. It gives them some responsibility for care for something. They have fun, but they have to learn about what it takes to care for an animal. So it’s good for them.
What have you learned since getting Romeo?
ZM: Having a dog now [has helped me] relearn certain aspects of my humanity. Just like when I first had kids. It’s the same kind of thing. You have to have the patience. You have to have the understanding. You have to have the love, the unconditional love.
What if the dog does something bad? You still have to love the dog. You can’t be “I hate this dog!” You have to learn to forgive. It reinforms the characteristics that I do have. Practicing those characteristics is as important as having them.
It reinforces my humanity. It brings my consciousness back to the moment of understanding that these are God’s creatures. We’re all a part of the same family. When I pet my dog and have him close to me. I feel that humanity even more. This is another living being, and I’m feeling his heartbeat, I’m feeling his warmth and his energy.
For me, just looking into his eyes I see a personality in his eyes. He loves us. The love that he has, is what I see in him. The love that he has for us. It’s a real thing.