Behind the Brand: Merci Collective
Crystal healing helped Chani Ronez’s dog with their separation anxiety, so she launched a line of chic, customizable, crystal-infused products for dogs and cats.
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For some, crystal healing may call to mind the hysteria of Spencer Pratt on The Hills, however, crystals have actually been used to help treat myriad physical, mental, and emotional ailments since 25,000 BC. Crystal healers believe they, in general, repel negative energies while allowing positive energies to flow into one’s body and space — with specific crystals being better suited to address different issues. Nowadays, pet parents are adding crystals to their dogs’ and cats’ care regimens to aid in a range of health and behavioral issues — from inflammation (Sodalite) and digestive issues (Tourmaline Quartz) to separation anxiety (Black Obsidian) and trauma (Rose Quartz) — and holistic veterinarians are integrating them into customized treatment plans.*
Inspired by her own dog’s separation anxiety, Paris-born, LA-based designer Chani Ronez founded Merci Collective, a line of sustainable products — a harness, collar, leash, and water bottle — that can be tailored to your pet’s unique needs. Not sure where to start? She offers a quiz to simplify the process of figuring out which stones will serve your animal best. For example, Chevron Amethyst is a peace-centered crystal that emits a chill vibe and can be used to help calm dog and cat anxiety, fear, grief, and joint pain. We caught up with Ronez to talk about how crystals are especially curative post-pandemic (for people and pets), the challenge of incorporating crystals into pet care products, and what new products are about to drop. Here’s looking at you, cat people!
Could you tell me a little bit about your background as a designer?
I grew up in Paris and both my parents were in the fashion industry. My mom is a designer and my dad had a fashion brand so it’s in my blood, I’d say. We grew up with pets, so many pets — cats, dogs, turtles — it was crazy. I always was between these two worlds of design and my love for animals. I went into fashion because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, then worked for a startup owned by a French guy here in Los Angeles, helping him launch his website while taking care of his clients. I learned everything I needed to know to create a business.
When did you start learning about the healing benefits of crystals?
I was always very spiritual. I love astrology and pretty much everything around that. I got really intense about crystals a year or two before I started the company, though I always had stones laying around my home in France and a crystal in my wallet for good luck and good business.
When launching Merci Collective, what inspired you to incorporate crystals into pet products?
My dog Benzo (he’s a tiny Pomeranian, like the cutest thing you could ever imagine) had horrible separation anxiety. It’s just terrible, it’s acute. The vet told me that the next step would be to put him on Xanax and I was like, “We don’t give Xanax to animals — that doesn’t make any sense!” I was looking for other solutions such as CBD, but then I thought, crystal healing makes people feel pretty good — no matter how it works or whether people believe in it.
It just clicked: We need crystal healing accessories for dogs that are done right. When I say “done right,” I mean there are already such accessories you can find on Amazon for $5, but how are they made? Because of my background, I know they’re probably made in sweatshops and with materials that are destroying the planet — which is not okay. Doing it right starts with making it locally, with materials that are — I wouldn’t say good for the planet because nothing is really good — not so bad. I came across a cactus leather that’s made in Mexico. It’s amazing — it’s the revolution of leather alternatives in my opinion. [It’s important to me that] from A to Z, we are doing it in a mindful way and with the right intentions.
How did you decide what products to offer?
I knew what I wanted to make: a beautiful leash, a nice collar, and a harness because my dog is so tiny. But it took a very long time to figure out how to integrate crystals, because at the end of the day crystals are like glass — [they’re sharp] if you break them. I did a lot of research on how crystals are incorporated into jewelry, but I had a lot of setbacks because most of the time [in jewelry] a layer of metal is added in between the skin and the crystal, and I knew that I wanted the crystal to touch the skin.
So, fast forward, I invented this ring that basically holds the crystal in the middle so that it touches the skin. It’s safe, it can pop out, and it’s very unlikely it will break on your dog (if it ever breaks, it would be because the accessory fell on the floor and the crystal then broke.) It’s the safest way to integrate it and we use it across all our products. With crystals, it’s even better to place them on the chakras, so I’m happy we were able to integrate it on the heart chakra, and for the collars on the throat chakra.
What would you tell a new dog parent who’s trying to understand their dog’s mental health?
First things first: They don’t speak, so it’s very difficult to understand what they’re trying to tell you! To understand your pet, you really need to observe them. I mean, I look at my dog, Benzo, now and I know if he needs to poop. It’s about connection and understanding how to read their behavior. From there, I know when I’m gonna do something that triggers him or that’s going to make him anxious.
It’s a lot about positive reinforcement, too. Because of his anxiety, Benzo would pee and poop all over my house. It was kind of a nightmare. [Now], every time he does something great, we reward for his effort. It’s about creating communication between the two of us.
Do you think that people have become more receptive to crystals and alternative therapies through the turmoil of the last couple of years?
100%. I feel like we took a pause and had to step out of the craziness that was going on in the world. Since they had to be home, reflecting on everything, I think so many people are now a lot more holistic, more mindful of their nutrition, what they put in their body, and of course a lot more sensitive to energy healing with crystals.
Are there new products in the works that you’re particularly excited about?
Oh, definitely, super excited for so much. We are going to launch our cat collection! I’m working now on a catnip toy that has a crystal in the stuffing. Cats don’t play as rough, so after asking a ton of veterinarians — because I’m not crazy — they assured me it’s safe to do that. I’m also working on other cat toys and cat collars.
* Crystal healing should not replace, but rather, supplement, routine veterinary care.
Nope, that’s not a typo — dog yoga can improve the mental well-being of people and their pets. They don’t call it downward dog for nothing!
Are you psyched to re-enter society but your dog is stressed AF? A veterinary behaviorist offers advice.
Rachel Davies is a writer who has written for numerous publications including Vox, Wall Street Journal, and Architectural Digest and the parent of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel mix named Thea.