B.A.R.F. or not B.A.R.F. That is the question

Tuesday, Dec. 7
December 7, 2010
Thursday, Dec. 9
December 9, 2010

Anyone who has watched a dog show sees the most beautiful dogs in the world. And why are they that way? Is it breeding alone or is there something else?

“They’re not born that way. They’re that way because of what they’re ingesting and what they’re ingesting is raw food,” claims Waggin’ Tails Healthy Pet Products Inc. co-owner Cheryl Ray.

And that raw food is B.A.R.F.

Quite an eye catcher but also an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

“The product has been out for 30 years but nobody around here has heard of it,” Ray said.

And at first, neither had the Rays.

Steve Ray is a 35-year veteran of the show dog world and when he and Cheryl decided they wanted a Doberman, they traveled to Detroit for their new puppy.

“We brought him home and couldn’t find anything to feed him. Everything we fed him he threw it up. He got sick and had allergies out the wazu,” Cheryl said.

Veterinarian bills soon began piling up and the couple couldn’t show the dog because he was too thin.

“We went to a show in Kenner a year and a half ago and saw B.A.R.F. We talked to the owner (of Healthy Pet Products Inc.) and when he finished explaining the benefits of raw food, my husband asked how do we get it?” Cheryl said.

At the time Louisiana didn’t have a distributor for the food so the only choice for the couple was to have it shipped.

“Well it worked. The dog loved the food. We didn’t have to beg him to eat,” Cheryl said.

That was the good news. The bad news was when the couple found out how expensive it was to ship n they couldn’t afford it.

“But Steve had told the man at the dog show ‘If this works for my dog, I’ll become the Louisiana distributor.’ And we did. Within a month we became distributors and we’ve been selling this product at dog shows and festivals ever since,” the New Orleans native said.

From there the couple opened a store on Bayou Gardens Boulevard. It’s only been a few weeks but they’re already suffering from growing pains.

“My dilemma right now is keeping it in stock because it takes about two weeks to get here. My freezer holds 500 pounds of meat and I’m running out. I’m getting another freezer so I can double my orders to handle the demand,” Cheryl said.

When fully stocked, those freezers are full of beef, whiting fish, chicken, duck, venison, herring, salmon, green tripe and B.A.R.F.

“Green tripe has seven digestive enzymes and seven amino acids. No other product on the planet has that. That is the healthiest thing you can feed your dog and it’s a very hard product to get. I have a waiting list for that,” Cheryl said.

B.A.R.F. is raw meat, finely ground bones, fruits and vegetables.

“A lot people out there are feeding raw but they’re stopping at the market, grinding up the meat and feeding it to their pets. We make it convenient for them. We add fruits, vegetables, vitamins and minerals plus the nutrition that comes from the cow or chicken,” Cheryl explained.

And she means to entire cow or chicken bones and all. But according to the store owner, bones aren’t a problem because if they aren’t cooked, they’re soft and actually clean an animal’s teeth.

“We take our dogs to the vet for their annual shots and the last time they went in the vet said, ‘Wow! How often do you brush their teeth? They’re gorgeous!’ There’s no tartar, no yellowing because they chew bones every day,” Cheryl said.

Their experience with B.A.R.F. has led the couple to believe it’s the fillers, artificial ingredients and grains in mass produced pet foods that are causing pet allergies.

“That’s what we believe. Is it scientifically proven? I don’t know. But that’s what we believe. What I’m learning is a regular outside allergy will cause a little cold in their eyes and a runny nose. A food allergy is in the skin. They’re scratching, biting and pulling at their ears. That’s the same with cats too,” Cheryl explained.

Waggin’ Tails hasn’t left out the cat crowd. The same food that has been developed for dogs is OK to feed cats as well. The store has a line of dry food, treats and supplements for both dogs and cats.

“Everything we carry is made in the USA. Nothing in this store is from out of this country,” the store owner said.

But pet owners know it’s one thing to read a label and think the food will be good for their pet and another thing to pay for it and have that pet reject it.

“We know people don’t have money to waste, so our kibble company provides free samples of all their products. We also give you two sticks (of B.A.R.F.) as a free sample to try. Everyone who has tried it is coming back,” Cheryl said.

If it sounds like Cheryl’s customers are spoiling their pets, you’re right.

“It cracks me up because I tell customers ‘You know what? If you didn’t tell me that you spoil your dog, I wouldn’t want you shopping in here because all my dogs have to be spoiled,” she laughed.

“We brought this food to the local market in hopes that all the people that come in here with issues with their dogs will have healthier animals. It makes for a happy owner because your animal is like a child. If they’re miserable, you’re miserable,” Cheryl said.

Waggin’ Tails is a partner with Hope for Animals and My Hearts Desire pet adoption services. Anytime someone adopts a pet, the store gives the new pet owners 10% off the store’s products for a year.

“When people adopt a pet, especially a rescue pet, and you feed them this diet, they come back a lot quicker because they’ve been so malnourished and abused,” Cheryl said.

“One thing we know is people will do without for their pets. We’ll eat peanut butter and jelly and give the dog steak. I think any human that has a pet, that’s what they do. Just like they’d do for a child,” Cheryl said.

Waggin’ Tails Healthy Pet Products’ co-owner Cheryl Ray and her husband Steve opened the raw meat pet food store in November. The store has enjoyed a good response from local pet owners looking for alternatives when feeding their pets. JENNIE CHILDS