They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and any dog owner knows that the same holds true for man’s best friend. Embracing the philosophy that a healthy dog is a happy dog, Dishes For Dogs, a small, family-owned business dedicated to preparing fresh, whole food and nutritionally balanced meals for dogs, has officially opened its first flagship location in Wynwood, Florida, at 2561 North Miami Ave.
The young company, operating for close to three years out of the owners’ home kitchen and selling its homemade meals at special events and farmers markets, aims to increase its sales exponentially with the opening of its state-of-the-art kitchen and retail outlet, carving out its own special niche in the $60 billion U.S. pet industry market.
Owner Michael O’Rourke, whose pomeranian Ripley’s health issues provided the inspiration for Dishes For Dogs, has assembled a team of animal lovers and experts, including his parents Wanda and Dan O’Rourke, to serve as the company’s management team. O’Rourke began doing research when Ripley’s coat began to dull and she suffered from teary eyes. He decided to change Ripley’s diet from commercial dog food to home-prepared meals. Within a month, Ripley’s coat and eyes were completely back in tip-top condition, and her breath even improved. Amazed at the results, O’Rourke began cooking for his friends and family who had dogs with similar issues. After achieving equally successful results, he decided to turn his labor of love into a business.
He approached Dr. Justin Shmalberg, a board-certified veterinarian specializing in small animal clinical nutrition who is on staff at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, to seek his involvement. Dr. Shmalberg helps to develop and formulate recipes, ensuring that Dishes For Dogs meals offer the highest nutritional benefits possible.
“There are less than 100 veterinary nutritionists in the country, many of whom provide advice to the big commercial manufacturers of extruded, or kibble-based, dog foods,” Shmalberg said. “I was drawn to Michael’s passion and am proud to be part of one of the nation’s very few small businesses creating fresh, nutritionally-balanced meals for dogs with innovative ingredients.”
Rounding out the team is General Manager Mason Fox, an equally passionate animal lover. Michael’s mom is the head cook, and his dad oversees finance.
Destined to become doggie central, the modern, sleek 1,300 square foot location features an open kitchen where patrons can observe the small batch production process and interact directly with the Dishes For Dogs team to tailor a diet to best suit their dog’s needs.
“When it came to designing the space, we wanted to be fully transparent in the cooking process, so owners could easily see the quality of our ingredients and lack of fillers,” O’Rourke said. “Our main priority is to educate dog owners about Dishes For Dogs and the benefits of a whole food diet.”
“We encourage owners to bring in their dogs so we can assess their needs and work one-on-one to recommend the best options possible,” Fox added. “We also have the guidance and support of Dr. Shmalberg for more extreme cases.”
Playfully referred to as the Jackson Pollock of dog food for its abstract expressionist appearance, Dishes For Dogs meals feature a balanced blend of protein, minerals, vitamins, fat and complex carbohydrates. All ingredients are certified by the USDA for human consumption and every meal is completely void of preservatives, additives, artificial flavors, fillers or animal by-product. Dishes – which are made in small batches to preserve their nutritional value and maintain a consistent level of quality – are available in four sizes: 8, 16 and 32 ounces and 5 pounds.
Current offerings include Basil Beef with peas, pearls and pears; Herb Roasted Turkey with sweet potato; Lamb with mint vegetables and millet; Salmon & Satsumaimo Bento Bowl; and Wild Venison with squash and scrambled eggs. Meals can be catered to a dog’s specific needs with gluten free and grain free options. Just like every dog is different, Dishes For Dogs meals can be dished in three ways: as a special treat for being a “good boy or girl,” mixed in with current food, or ultimately transitioned as a sole diet, provided owners follow Dishes For Dogs’ Transition Guide. The Dishes For Dogs website also features a Feeding Calculator where owners can determine how much of each meal to feed their dog per day based on their weight, activity level and age.
Dishes For Dogs has also introduced a line of Treats – drool-worthy Beef Liver Brittle, Chicken Breast Strips and Grass-Fed Steak Strips, as well as Vitamineral Kits complete with vitamineral packets and detailed recipe cards for those who want to try out Dished For Dogs’ recipes at home. All products are now available in store and online. Local delivery is currently available, shipping options are in the works. In addition, the flagship location boasts refrigerators with grab-and-go options and a wall full of treats and toys. Of course, all dogs are welcome.
Dishes For Dogs’ hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Telephone: (305) 505-5712.
Go on a virtual tour of Dishes For Dogs here.
For a full list of products and pricing visit: http://www.dishesfordogs.com/.