Zigler, a 10-year-old border collie, inspired Avi Bear to try his hand at creating a high-quality dog food made with local farm products. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)

 

CYNTHIANA, Ky. – When Avi Bear’s 6-year-old border collie, Zigler, became sick four years ago, his homemade solution became the genesis of his Kentucky Proud dog food business.

 

Avi’s brother, Haim, suggested feeding Zigler a special dog food recipe he was making for his sensitive Goldendoodle, Daisy. A trained chef and bakery owner, Avi took the recipe, which was basically home-cooked chicken and rice, and modified it to make it more nutritionally balanced.

“Within two days, Zigler was fine,” he said. “Eighty percent of the time, when people take their dog to the veterinarian, it’s the result of a bad diet.”

Avi said once Daisy tried his food, she wouldn’t go back to eating the recipe Haim once made for her. Haim, who lives in North Carolina, suggested Avi make the dog food commercially.

Zigler’s vet, Dr. James Rice of the Harrison Veterinary Clinic in Cynthiana, helped Avi fine-tune the product.

"We were guinea pigs when he was developing it," Rice said. "I even tasted his prototype. It's made with human-grade ingredients.”

After three years in the making, January will mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of the commercial version of Zigler’s food, called Canine Correct.

“My friend calls it crack for dogs; they go crazy for it,” said Avi, who makes the food in his Cynthiana bakery, Avi’s Oven Art. “It’s human-grade food for dogs. My biggest pride is how good it is for them.”

Another of Avi’s dogs, an American Kennel Club-registered red bloodhound named Georgette, Zigler’s best friend, suffered skin problems ranging from eczema to ring worm.

“I had to take her once or twice a month to the vet,” Avi said. “Once I started feeding her Canine Correct, her skin cleared up, her coat became shiny, and she had a lot more energy. It’s amazing what a good diet will do.

“We literally save lives with this food. Most people come to us so desperate that they’re willing to try something different. It’s the best dog food diet out there; it’s second to none. Not only do you make your dogs happy because you’re giving them something good and healthy, they also like it.”

 

'Dogs love it'

 

Avi insists that dogs have a human-like palate.

“Imagine eating crackers all of your life,” he said, describing a common diet of dry dog food. “Dogs have the same taste as we do.”

“Dogs love it,” Rice said. “It's extremely palatable. Every dog on it has done extremely well. If you have a real picky eater, they'll eat this food. My dogs will even eat it frozen. I call it a ‘dogsicle.’”

Canine Correct comes in five flavors:

  • chicken,
  • fish, specifically Asian carp sourced from Wickliffe in western Kentucky,
  • fish and duck,
  • lamb from Avi’s own farm, and
  • the newest addition, rabbit raised by a Harrison County farmer.

 

A home-style version for highly-sensitive dogs contains no additives; therefore, regulations don’t allow it to be labeled as dog food.

In addition to the protein, Canine Correct’s natural ingredients include ground-up bone, fish oil, white rice, rolled oats, and pumpkin for fiber.

“It doesn’t have byproducts in it,” Avi said. “It’s really a unique food. I can’t compare it to anything because there’s nothing else [like it] out there.”

To maintain freshness, Canine Correct comes frozen in cellophane-wrapped 1-ounce cubes. Dogs are fed one cube per 5 pounds of weight twice a day.

Avi said it also can be offered as a treat to supplement a dog’s current diet.

“It’s precooked, pre-proportioned, and frozen,” Avi said. “It’s very easy to work with.”

Canine Correct is sold at Bluegrass Barkery in Lexington, Completely Kentucky in Frankfort, and several other locations in central and eastern Kentucky.

Ben Shaffar, director of business development for Kentucky Proud, is working on getting Canine Correct into the Louisville market. Avi said he’s been in touch with the department’s marketing office about getting in on Kroger’s new Kentucky Proud initiative.

“Up to this point, being in the Incredible Food Show [Oct. 11 in Lexington] and having the Kentucky Proud logo on our product have been good for our marketing,” Avi said. “People recognize the label and feel good about buying local. Kentucky Proud has been a very good resource for help with marketing opportunities and making connections with other Kentucky producers. We are also looking ahead at possible grant opportunities provided by Kentucky Proud.”

 

Lifelong farmer

 

Avi’s love for animals grew from being raised on a kibbutz, a collective farming community in his native Israel, where he worked with chickens and dairy cattle. His father still lives there.

Trained as a professional chef and pastry artist, Avi graduated tops in his class from Tadmor Culinary School in Herzliya, Israel.

Avi followed his brother to the U.S. when Haim married a woman from Cincinnati.

“I came here in 1977 and didn’t speak a word of English,” said Avi, who found work as a pastry chef at a Cincinnati hotel.

“My brother’s mother-in-law made me a list of nice Jewish girls she knew, and my wife was one of them,” said Avi, who married Karen in 1981. She serves as his office manager while teaching music and directing the town choir.

In 1985, Avi opened his original Oven Art bakery in Cincinnati. But after living in the big city for 12 years, Avi longed for a return to his rural roots.

“I can’t live in the city,” he said. “You can take the boy out of a kibbutz, but you can’t take a kibbutz out of the boy.”

So in the mid-1990s, Avi and Karen bought a 200-acre farm in Harrison County, where the couple raises horses, sheep, and chickens.

“I love farming,” Avi said. “That’s my hobby.”

Avi bought an old tool and die shop in nearby Cynthiana and converted it into a bakery that sells cakes and desserts wholesale. Things were going fine until the Great Recession hit and a major customer that made up 90 percent of the bakery’s business went under around 2010.

It was about that time that Zigler got sick, opening up a new opportunity for entrepreneurial-minded Avi.

“I like the challenge of starting a new business,” he said.

Avi challenged readers who own dogs to try Canine Correct for themselves.

“All you have to do is try it and you’ll see the difference,” Avi said. “Your dog will tell you the story. I don’t have to.”

Canine Correct ships its products to customers across the country, including one in Arizona. To find out more about Canine Correct, or to place an order, go to www.caninecorrect.com.