Local manufacturer Ozzie's Naturals has taken pet treats and supplements to a whole new level

Ozzie is a very picky eater—he doesn't eat like others of his own kind. Wheat, corn and sugar have no place in his diet. Instead, he prefers poultry without added hormones and other preservative-free food. His special diet has a direct effect on his appearance and vitality. He looks and acts half his age. Yes, Ozzie looks great—for a 10-year-old dog.

Ozzie's Naturals co-founders and owners Roger and Annette Emery started making treats for their dog Ozzie, a blue Italian Greyhound, more than nine years ago. They wanted a special treat to aid in training Ozzie. "When he was a little guy, he wouldn't eat anything," recalls Roger. "He was the pickiest eater. The only thing he would eat is cheese. That's how we got into making dietary supplements disguised as treats."

Roger has a few entrepreneurial ventures under his belt. In the 1970s, he pioneered the distribution of Amanda microwave ovens, taking an Omaha, Neb. company from $200,000 in his first year to $10 million in revenue 11 years later. Roger says he was one of the first distributors of Microsoft products. And he ran his own executive search firm for 10 years in Tucson. But in recent years, he decided to retire.

"I was retired and gaining weight. I wanted to do something that would bring happiness and love to people. ... If there's a person over here on the left and a person on the right and a pet in the middle, it becomes all about love. And that equates to happiness."

While the Emerys have been making treats and dog food for their own pets for many years, they decided to sell them to the public about two years ago. Focusing on direct sales at farmers' markets, the business grew and now they ship around the country. Roger says they are outselling their ability to produce. They are presently looking into automating their process, since the Emerys are the only employees.

Ozzie's Naturals produces three treats: Ozzie's Turkey Jerky©, Chicken Liver Pumpkin Bites© and Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bites©. There are few ingredients, even when you combine all products: turkey with no added hormones/MSG/nitrites, 100 percent whole chicken liver, natural oats, egg, non-GMO lecithin, turmeric, creamed/dry-roasted peanuts, pure pumpkin and non-GMO/hormone/BST milk. Raw dog food is produced by special order. And Roger says he is looking into an algae- and chlorophyll-type product that's all natural and organic.

What's key to Ozzie's Naturals products is the high percentage of moisture. Because there are no preservatives, all items must be frozen and refrigerated after opening. Our products have "the highest amount of natural moisture of any treats or supplements in the industry, ranging from 32 to 58 percent. The natural moisture carries all the natural nutrition, the vitamins, minerals and enzymes. ... These are treats with dietary supplemental value," says Roger. And if you want a high-protein treat for your dog, Ozzie's Turkey Jerky© has 46 percent protein.

With such high-quality ingredients (all human-grade food), you might expect Ozzie's Naturals to be pricy. But you'd be wrong. Their highest priced item, the turkey jerky, costs $6.50 for a quarter-pound bag. Put simply, this is a bargain.

The Emerys made a conscious decision to price their items way under market. "We felt it was important enough to get this kind of a quality product out, to get it into the perspective of how (pet owners) deal with their pets," says Roger. He explains that he likes to give people a different perspective and a better way to do things.

Roger and Annette have had great success training Ozzie using their treats. Using a combination of voice commands and hand gestures, Roger says Ozzie knows 100 words, dozens of phrases and even concepts.

While the Emerys produce high-quality pet edibles, Roger stresses love is an important ingredient as well. He reminds us: "Remember your pet will give you back everything you give to them." In the end, the Emerys want pets to be not only our loving companions, but our companions for life.

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