STRICTLY FOR THE DOGS
on Wednesday, November 1, 2000
By By Erin Allday
an ideal world, all pet owners might skip the canned food and serve up
their animals exquisite meals of raw hamburger, raw eggs and raw chunks
of cow liver.
not everyone has the time, or the stomach, to whip up such delicacies.
Now there is a pair of Forestville women who will do it for you.
animal lovers Tiffani Beckman and Cathy Silberman started a company last
April, called Feed This, to make and deliver raw food diets, one of the
latest rages for picky pet owners.
company could be a case study in how a new business can start from the
germ of an idea and grow with pure personal energy.
started as a request for pet food help from their friends has since grown
to 55 customers in the North Bay willing to pay $15 a week to pamper their
and Silberman make the meals four nights a week after getting off their
regular full-time jobs, and drive around town delivering the meals when
they get a break during the day. The women even worry about the business
growing too fast for them to handle.
take people on as we can,'' Silberman said. ``This started
as a joke.''
most veterinarians still figure that quality kibble is perfectly healthy
for most dogs and cats, there is a growing movement that raw food is the
best and most natural diet for pets.
the raw diet, you have to remember, did animals know how to cook? No.
They're scavengers. That's what they like,'' Silberman
raw diet is exactly what it sounds like -- dogs and cats eat only raw
foods, mostly beef and chicken necks along with bits of organ meat, raw
vegetables and natural supplements.
idea, according to veterinarians who support the diet, is that dogs and
cats naturally eat raw foods. Unlike humans, who have always cooked their
meats, animals over time thrived on raw foods. It is only in the past
50 or so years that modern advances made it more convenient for pet owners
to give their animals cooked, processed food.
used to feed the dogs the leftovers, the parts that we don't eat,
the chicken necks and the backs and the gizzards and all of that,''
said Dr. Stephanie Chalmers, a Santa Rosa veterinarian who hired Beckman
and Silberman to deliver raw food to her two cats.
admits that vets sometimes argue against raw diets because, similar to
humans who become vegetarian, without proper planning the diets can be
limited nutritionally. But with a well-balanced diet, raw food is perfectly
safe, she said.
some pet owners worry that the bacteria sometimes found in raw foods --
salmonella, for example -- could be dangerous for dogs and cats. But Beckman
argues that many pets already eat plenty of raw food, from the mice that
cats capture to the garbage that dogs often dig through.
has been feeding her animals raw food for six years, ever since a vet
she was working for recommended it for a sick dog. When Beckman met Silberman
at a veterinary clinic last year, she recommended a raw food diet for
one of Silberman's sick dogs, and the pet loved it.
the two of them, Beckman and Silberman have four dogs and about eight
cats in the Forestville home they share. All of them eat only raw food.
of the animals were adopted from shelters where they were brought in sick
and mangy. Now they all are healthy, well-behaved animals, and Beckman
and Silberman said it's almost entirely because of their diets.
don't have bad breath. They don't have fleas or ticks,''
Beckman said. ``There are so many animals that are overweight,
but we have thin animals. They look healthy.''
the full-time jobs both women work, running their new business and sharing
a home with a dozen pets, their lives stay busy.
least four nights a week they prepare meals for dozens of pets while their
own dogs race around the house, kept out of the kitchen by a child safety
usually puts together the meals, which are developed specifically for
each pet based on its size and tastes.
example, a local woman who runs a sheep ranch has raw meals delivered
for her two border collies. Because the dogs are hyper and very active,
they eat more food than most other dogs their size. Plus, because they
herd sheep, their owner doesn't want lamb included in their meal.
about every diet includes ``Bogie balls,'' named after
a cat that belongs to Beckman's sister, one of their first customers.
balls are chunks of beef, eggs, ground up egg shells and liver mixed with
powdered kelp, alfalfa, milk thistle and vegetables. Beckman mixes them
in her kitchen at home then freezes them. She and Silberman deliver them
during the day when they get time off from work.
meat they use comes from Santa Rosa Meat Company and is good enough for
human consumption, Beckman said. The diets aren't cheap. They range
from about $10 to $20 a week for a dog, but owners can pay more for rabbit
meat and other exotic side dishes.
and Silberman also offer separate menus for puppies and kittens, pregnant
animals and overweight pets.
obviously are willing to spend more money on their pets these days. Huge
pet stores are popping up everywhere, and there even are animal day care
centers and professional dog walkers now.
said their company doesn't have a lot of room to grow right now because
they aren't yet ready to hire employees. But already there is such
a demand for their products that they can't let up, she said.
business idea first came up last November, when their friends heard about
their raw diet and asked the women to make food for their animals. Beckman
and Silberman hired a business consultant and a lawyer to help them get
the company started on the right foot.
put up a Web site in April. Within a month they had inquiries from 100
or so potential customers from all over the world.
of August they were making a profit on the business, Silberman said, though
neither of them is ready to quit their day job. Beckman still works as
a receptionist for a veterinary clinic, and Silberman is a managed care
contractor at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and works part time for a local
women aren't yet ready to ship food, and now make deliveries to about
five dozen customers in the North Bay, with a few exceptions for the kinds
of friends in San Francisco that caused them to start Feed This.
we even started the company, people were asking us to do it for them,''
Silberman said. ``They see their pets as families.''
Allday can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
2 b&w by Chad Surmick/The Press Democrat