While people fret over pesticides and other nefarious additives in our food supply, who will be the watchdog for the four-legged crowd?
Betsy Petroski Smith has stepped up to the plate — or the dog bowl — with a line of completely natural dog toys and biscuits under the name dogOdog, with all the ingredients, from packaging to product, 100 percent certified organic and made in the United States. Ms. Petroski puts the packages together herself in East Hampton.
After losing a dog, her shar-pei, Leo, to a stomach-related illness, Ms. Petroski found herself plunged into despair. “I was writing songs for Leo,” said Ms. Petroski, whose husband, Mark Smith, is the managing partner of the Honest restaurant group, which includes Nick and Toni’s and Rowdy Hall. “I was a wreck, sunk into a funky depression.”
When she finally stuck a toe back in the canine waters to get a new pet, Ms. Petroski found herself with another shar-pei, Theo, and no available snacks and treats that were not filled with additives or packaged outside of the country. “He was a chewer,” she said. “But everything was brightly colored or made of rubber.”
She refused to give him rawhide, which, she said, “is bleached with formaldehyde,” and when she tried “those dog toys with squeakers and stuffing,” she said, “I found myself, every night, sewing them up.” She also tried the cotton-thread bones, “but there were these tiny thin threads all over the house.” And the treats were no better, filled with artificial and unpronounceable ingredients of questionable origin.
Drawing on her background in the hosiery business and her love of baking, Ms. Petroski took matters into her own hands.
She called an old friend in the textile industry and after finding a suitable organic, unbleached, and untreated cotton yarn milled in the U.S., asked him to make up a model of her own design. When the samples were sent to her, Ms. Petroski wove and braided together a play-tug cotton chew toy treat that she felt comfortable letting Theo gnaw on, with no mess either.
“I was sort of looking for something to do,” she said to explain her growth from hobby to cottage industry. “I decided if I was going to do this, it was going to be 100 percent, with every single, tiny element organic, U.S.A.-made, compostable, and green.” Soon she was producing them in three different sizes for dogs from Chihuahuas to Great Danes.
She also began producing round disks of dog biscuits, filled with healthy and organic ingredients like flax, grains, and honey. They are fine for humans (and pretty tasty, too), but made for dogs and other animals, with a shelf life of four to five weeks.
The packaging is all eco-friendly, the box is reusable with a wood pulp BioFilm bag holding the goodies. The ribbon is organic and hand-stamped by Ms. Petroski.
Ms. Petroski said she has been lucky to work with such good people as she brought the products to reality. “They were all dog lovers,” she said. “It was so rewarding.”
The logo for dogOdog features a smiling shar-pei in the middle of a flower bloom, with weimeraners around the outside — a nod of the head (or a wag of the tail) to Ms. Petroski’s previous pets.
For now, dogOdog remains “in the crawling stage,” Ms. Petroski said, with her as the company’s only general dogsbody. Gift boxes with chew toys and snacks can be purchased from the Web site at dogodogorganics.com. Ms. Petroski is grateful for the reception she has received for her products, and even more for the opportunities she has had.
“Everything I have learned in the hosiery business or as being a self-taught baker has brought me to a place were I can do something I’m so passionate about. It makes my heart sing,” she said.