Marty was one sick puppy.
He was six months old and had been living on the street when Sandy Bosben adopted him. She gave him top-flight kibble and chicken she cooked just for him but he had two ACL surgeries before he was four. Steroids were a staple. By the time he was nine the Rottweiler mix had such severe degenerative joint pain that he was barely moving. The vet didn’t expect him to live another year. Sandy tried different raw diets and supplements but nothing worked.
A Guest Who Changed Everything
And then her friend Zarna came to visit from Australia.
Zarna had been an animal nutritionist for 25 years. She took one look at Marty and said, “I have something that can help him. Make this recipe and it will heal your dog — and get rid of the smell in your litter box.” (Sandy also had two cats.)
Sandy mixed up a batch of the raw meat and veggies and within a week Marty was walking (added bonus: no litter box odor!) Soon after, he was trotting alongside when she went on horseback rides. Sandy laughs. “He hadn’t done that in years! I said to Zarna, ‘You need to get this out into the world,’ and she said, ‘I don’t want to make dog food for a living, you do it.’ ”
Starting Out Small and at Home
Friends who had witnessed Marty’s precipitous decline were shocked by his recovery. When Sandy told them it was the food, they begged her to make it for their pets. Sandy worked full-time in business development for a green commercial construction company, so she was juggling this unexpected new gig as time would allow. Every Saturday night she’d mix up a vat of the stuff. “It’s basically raw organic meats, veggies, and grains like organic quinoa and millet properly prepared so animals can get nutrition from the grain. The food emulates the stomach contents of what they would be eating in the wild — highly digestible and bio available.” Sandy delivered the food the day after she made it.
“What Do You Feed Him?”
Sandy’s best advertising came from the animals who ate the Marty’s Meals food. “People’d see the dogs, OMG, his coat’s so shiny, how old, no way, he looks great, and then the question: ‘What do you feed him?’ ” A vet in town asked Sandy to put a freezer in her office so she could sell the product right there (now eight vets in the Santa Fe area carry it).
Taking the Leap into Brick and Mortar
When the economy tanked and her day job shut its doors, Sandy walked out of her boss’s office and down the street to get a small business license. Word of mouth was intense and the business took off so fast that she soon had to rent a commercial kitchen for a few hours a week, which quickly became two and a half days.
Her first shop — commercial kitchen, storefront, and classroom for educational programs — opened in Santa Fe in 2010 and she just opened the second one in Boulder (Glenwood and 28th, behind The Bookworm).
Organic, Small Batch, Local, non-GMO, Low Carb
Proteins in the Marty’s line for cats and dogs include raw beef, bison, lamb, goat, rabbit, chicken, kangaroo, boar, and wild-caught salmon mixed with organic sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, squash, bok choy, kelp, parsley, fennel, carrots, chicory, and fish oil. Marty’s Meals looks like your mother’s meatloaf and comes wrapped in butcher paper.
Sandy, who works in concert with homeopathic vet Dee Blanco and animal nutritionist Richard Patton, says that no matter how high the quality of kibble you buy for your pets, because of the ingredients and the way it’s prepared it won’t provide what they need to live long, disease-free lives. Her product is 100% organic, non-GMO, and low in carbs. She’s committed to small batches, local ranchers, and human grade.
“The day we package the food we have a potluck in the kitchen; salmon tacos, maybe pulled pork. We eat the same meat that goes into our product.” She buys her wild salmon from the fisherman who catches it, grass-fed beef and marrow bones from Colorado ranchers, boar from Texas. Meticulous sourcing, as well as analyzing and testing, are cornerstones of her business plan.
Education Is Equally Important
“Feeding our pets is a gigantic responsibility. And how do we feed them what they’re supposed to be eating? How can we be effective and kind?” A huge part of the Marty’s Meals’ philosophy is education. The new location has a dedicated classroom space for classes on pet nutrition, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, Tellington Touch, body work. As Sandy says, “the whole idea is to create community.”
Sandy’s staff now make a couple thousand pounds of food a week. Her first delivery was 30 pounds of food six years ago.
A Deep Commitment to Animals
In addition to the several varieties of raw diet, Marty’s Meals also carries jerky, organ nuggets, six flavors of gluten-free dog biscuits, raw bones, and tripe. Everything is frozen right after being prepared. For animals who already have digestive trouble, there are “gently cooked” options for better metabolization. Marty’s recommends feeding the foods in rotation along with raw bones and raw green tripe to get as close as possible to the way wolves and big cats forage in the wild.
Sandy looks around the freshly painted classroom at her new Boulder store, a couple of dog beds on the floor, some pamphlets on a table. “My responsibility is to get this product to as many people as possible. My goal is regional — I don’t want to become a behemoth that ships all over the country. I want to source locally, employ local people, support families. And animals.”
She pushes back her baseball cap and smiles warmly. “Definitely animals. That’s what this is all about.”
Photo credits: Gabriella Marks