There’s no question that Newtonites like good food. Whether it’s a satisfying meal at a wonderful restaurant or delicious home-cooked fare, the residents of our city place a premium on tasty comestibles.
But our quest for healthy food isn’t limited to ourselves; we also want our pets to eat well.
That is where John Edwards, owner of The Well Fed Dog, comes in.
“I don’t know that I could have started this in any other town,” Edwards says. “The community is so supportive of small businesses and really supportive of their dogs. This [Edwards’ products] is something that takes some education, and Newton is very open to that.”
Edwards grew up in rural northern Michigan. He graduated in 1998 with a BA in History from Alma College and earned an MBA from Boston University in 2007 while working for a brokerage firm.
He continued to work for the bank for several years, but “wasn’t enjoying what [he] was doing and decided it was time to pursue something else.”
At the time, Edwards and his wife had a newborn daughter (Victoria) so keeping a steady paycheck was an obvious priority. But Edwards’ wife, Laurie, recognized a higher priority.
“My wife said to me, ‘You can’t ask Victoria to go out and pursue her dreams if you’re not willing to go out and pursue your own,’ Edwards recalls.
And dogs were what John and Laurie were passionate about. They had rescued a six-month-old golden Labrador named Sasha who came to them with a number of health problems. Once she had put on weight and was on the road to recovery, they noticed that she was having sporadic issues with her fur falling out and with her skin breaking out in nasty, oozing sores. With the elimination and reintroduction of various proteins, Edwards discovered that Sasha was allergic to chicken.
But he was unable to find a commercial dog food that didn’t contain chicken, so Edwards started cooking for Sasha. His search for good food for his dog forced Edwards to question exactly what was in the food that we feed our canine companions. This led to extensive research, much of which contained contradictory information.
“What I realized through my research is that it’s a little bit like baby food,” explains Edwards. “People have very strong opinions and they think that everybody who has a different opinion is completely crazy.”
Undaunted, Edwards eventually came up with a formula that he felt satisfied both the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) standards and his own desire to provide for dogs a healthy, balanced diet derived from fresh ingredients from local sources.
Almost one year ago, on April 1, 2011, The Well Fed Dog was launched out of Edwards’ Newton Upper Falls office. In a sublet kitchen in Plymouth, Edwards initially just produced the Beef and Sweet Potato Dinner. By June he had added a Lamb and Vegetable Dinner and last fall Salmon and Pumpkin Dinner joined the “menu.” The Well Fed Dog also does custom dog food formulations for dogs with special dietary needs, including a vegetarian recipe.
Edwards sells regionally sourced treats from Polka Dog Bakery, The Canine Barkery and Chasing Our Tails. But one of Edwards’ most unusual offerings are The Well Fed Dog’s “chewies” – moose and deer antlers.
“They’re naturally shed,” Edwards explains. “And they’re a nice alternative to bones because they don’t chip or splinter. They’re almost pure calcium plus other trace minerals that the dogs need anyway.”
The Well Fed Dog’s commitment to supporting local commerce extends beyond procuring ingredients from area businesses and highlights Edwards’ contention that dog food really isn’t that different from people food. He sells The Well Fed Dog’s meals through his website but also at local farmers’ markets and even at Newton bakery Bread and Chocolate.
In the future, Edwards is considering adding a chicken dinner but will, of course, keep the poultry out of Sasha’s bowl.