The year was 1976, and Joe Markham was working on his VW Bus. His German shepherd, Fritz, was chewing on rocks. The two had no idea that they were about to irrevocably alter the dog chew-toy world. But the moment Markham threw a chunk of the transmission to distract his dog from grinding his teeth to nubs, Fritz gave up rocks forever to chew on the dense rubber cone, which was soon dubbed Kong. More than a quarter-century later, the Golden-based Kong Company has cranked out millions of the toys, which are essentially the same VW part Fritz enjoyed in 1976. And while canines are still attracted to old-fashioned novelties such as rope bones, rawhide chews and tennis balls, Kong has found a home in the grip of Fidos and Fifis across the county.