Teaching old dogs new moves

By Captain D

POOR OL' Harvey. My dopey but lovable nine-year-old basset hound, stumpy as he was, could no longer scramble up onto my wife’s bed. She made a ramp for him, but it was, literally, a pain.

Then I read where Stonington’s Coastside Bio Resources was conducting tests on Sea Jerky, a product derived from sea cucumbers billed as a flexibility supplement for dogs.

By coincidence, Bill Paquin, publisher of Discover Downeast Maine With Captain D, had been after me to do a story about Peter Collin, owner and operator of the aforementioned company.

Seeing this as a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, I decided to let my basset hound be a guinea pig.

Although I have consumed my fair share of Omega 3 fish oil, ginseng, ginko balboa and other herbal extracts said to possess wondrous medicinal properties, I confess I remain an agnostic on this whole issue. I guess when I come down with something serious, it’ll be off to a man with a medical degree hanging on his wall. Meanwhile, I’ll hope that some of the alternatives will work as preventative s. Needless to say, I didn’t have a whole lot of confidence that Sea Jerky would do Harvey any good.
But it did! After two weeks, Harvey was acting like a kid again. He could scamper up onto the bed with no problem.
This didn’t surprise Collin. He says that sea cucumbers have amino acids that are similar to our own cartilage. He claims that sea cucumbers have the capacity to actually rebuild damaged cartilage.

“We started out with products designed to aide joint mobility in people,” he says. “Then when the humans started having good effects on their mobility problems, they started giving them to their dogs and cats. It was a natural development for us to begin formulating products especially for animals.”

Collin says that today veterinarians comprise his primary customer base. “More than 600 vets from all over the country buy from us on a regular basis,” he says. “They’re always asking us for new products, and it seems to be once they like a product they want either more of the same or something similar for different animals. We’ve treated llamas, camels, and elephants. The Lincoln park zoo in Chicago buys our horse product for its old elephants. They hide it in cantaloupe and peanut butter. It’s just that elephants require a much bigger dose.”

Collin seems to be walking a fine line between aggressively promoting sea cucumbers and keeping a low profile.

“We certainly want to get the word out there,” he says, “but at the same time we don’t want to falsely promise people cures for serious diseases.”

Collin says that sea cucumbers hold great promise in many areas, but that research is still being conducted and at this point much is inconclusive.

“We are collaborating with medical schools about cancer, and we’ve gotten grants from the National Cancer Institute plus the Maine Techbnology Institute, and we’re looking at sea cucumbers in relation to abdominal aortic aneurysms.”

Collin repeatedly said he did not want to claim that sea cucumbers are a cure for cancer, but that research done elsewhere has indicated that sea cucumbers can have anti-cancer effects. “This is all in the published literature,” he notes. “It is not us saying this.”

According to Collin, Asians have eaten sea cucumbers for centuries and in recent times various companies have bottled sea cucumber capsules. But, Collin asserts, Coastside Bio Resources is marketing the best designed and most potent sea cucumber products ever.

Becoming the world’s number one sea cucumber guy hasn’t been Collin’s lifelong ambition. One might almost say he drifted into it.

In the early seventies, Collin was a sociology student at the University of California in Berkeley when he decided to pack up and move to Maine. “In the early seventies, there were a lot of people looking for the right environment in which to live and work, to raise a family, to find some sort of fulfillment. I knew I liked the idea of islands, I liked the water, and I knew a bit about fishing.”

Collin says he chose Stonington by looking at a map and thinking it looked about right. “I knew nothing about it, but I guessed right,” he says. “This is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.”

Once in Stonington, Collin says he tried various things—including the herring business and running a boat for the Stonington Packing Company. “I was a captain running a sardine carrier, and that lasted a couple of years, and I got my own boat and was in the herring/lobster bait trade for another 10 years or so,” he says. “Then I bought the dock here next to the packing company and was in the lobster business for another 10 years. This including exporting sea urchins to Japan.”

Collin says it wasn’t until the early nineties that he gravitated into looking at the sea cucumber as a nutritional supplement.

By necessity, he is self-taught. “There aren’t any courses you can take,” he points out. “This is all learned by the seat of your pants.” One might say Collin is an overnight success twenty years in the making.

“When we started making the supplements, selling them through chiropractors, they became extremely popular very quickly,” he says “From 1994 when we were incorporated til now it’s just been an increase every year, and that’s from word of mouth, friends telling their friends about their increased mobility and general good health.”

Well, Harvey, for one, has gotten the word. He’s never been friskier.