Rudy Green was 14 when he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer — a dooming aliment for the elderly chocolate lab.
A veterinarian said there was little to be done. But to buy the dog another week, owner Karla Haas could try feeding it nothing but fresh, unprocessed foods.
The directive made Haas think. If kibble was made for dogs, then why would a vet not recommend it for hers?
The simple question started Haas on a 10-year journey, in which she launched an all-natural dog food line and earned national attention for her work with the Louisville Zoo.
Rudy Green’s Doggy Cuisine, which first hit grocery stores in 2007, is now sold on Amazon and in approximately 450 Kroger pet food aisles across America.
It was a slow build, Haas said. But with more people looking into the foods they eat, her product has taken off with customers who want to give the same consideration to their dogs.
“You would never dream of giving your kid nothing but Cheerios for every meal, every day of his life,” Haas said. “Yet we’ve been brainwashed to think this is what dogs should eat.”
Haas never expected to get into the pet food business. She holds a degree in social work but spent the past few decades switching between careers, from modeling to sales management.
The only constant during that time was her volunteer work at dog rescues and animal shelters across several states. In Louisville, Haas rattled off a list of organizations for which she’s offered assistance, including the Shamrock Pet Foundation and Derby City Dog Rescue.
Saving dogs is Haas’s passion. And she can’t think of any better way to sustain herself while bettering the lives of pets than through her business, Rudy Green’s.
The line of natural dog food offers five recipes, sold for $10.49 per box in pet aisle freezers. Each box includes four 6-ounce packets of food that can supplement a sick dog’s kibble diet.
“It’s meant to be mixed in,” said Haas, who added that owners stretch out a box by reducing portions. “Most could never afford to do just this. Frankly, I still give my dogs dry food. But I know what’s in it, and I know where it’s made.”
Within three years of launching, Haas’s work caught the attention of a Louisville Zoo employee, who recommended her to a team of co-workers tasked with improving the health of the facility’s maned wolves.
Maned wolves are a near-threatened species indigenous to South America, zookeeper Angela Johnson said. And while they fall into the wolf category, they eat nothing like other members of the canid sector.
The red-coated wolves are finicky, said Johnson, who calls them “canine toddlers.” Five-year-olds Sadie and Rocko at the Louisville Zoo are no exceptions.
The pair of maned wolves are unwilling to eat various foods and are genetically dispositioned to develop certain diseases. In their time at the zoo, Sadie and Rocko have both been underweight with low muscle mass, and Sadie has struggled with irritable bowel disease.
Because of the issues, the two wolves have not been able to reproduce, Johnson said. But after working with Haas and a nutrition specialist to develop a healing recipe for Sadie, the female wolf gained enough weight to give birth to two pups this past Valentine’s Day — a big win for the entire population.
“We talked early on and said first and foremost, we want our wolves to get better and do well and thrive,” said Johnson, who’s worked at the zoo for more than 20 years. “If that works, we want other wolves to have the same benefits.
“This diet isn’t for every single wolf. But it shows a fresh, less processed diet can do good.”
Haas said she’s now working with the nutrition specialist to develop additional recipes the wolves can eat during off-breeding seasons. And other zoos have expressed interest in purchasing the first recipe — named Sadie’s Stew.
“We have had some setbacks along the way,” Johnson said. “… But this diet does seem to keep (Sadie) on track and keeps things going pretty well for her.”
If pet owners want to improve the diets of their own dogs, Johnson recommended trying to supplement kibble with fresh foods slowly.
“It’s expensive to eat healthy and it’s expensive to feed your pets healthy, also,” Johnson said. “Something fresh is better than nothing fresh.”
Reach reporter Bailey Loosemore at 502-582-4646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RUDY GREEN’S DOGGY CUISINE
What: An all-natural dog food produced in Kentucky at a USDA-certified facility. The dog food comes in five recipes, such as ground beef with brown rice, peas and corn.
Where: Find Rudy Green’s in the pet aisle freezer at Kroger, Rainbow Blossom and ValuMarket in Louisville or online at Amazon.
Cost: $11.99 per four-pack in stores or $64.95 for five boxes on Amazon
More info: Five-percent of the product’s sales are donated to various animal shelters. Learn more at rudygreens.com.