Why On Earth Would A Wine Store Sell Pet Food?

Update: As of December 2022, Barley Malt & Vine no longer sells pet food.

Like most good ideas, this one also came from necessity.  A great many dogs these days suffer from severe allergies, both food & environmental.  Bonnie’s black Lab, Foster Brooks, suffered for years until Bonnie began researching this relatively ‘new phenomenon’.

What Bonnie learned about pet food ingredients is truly horrifying.  This information is now easily available on the WWW, but not so much back then. It is unthinkable what can pass as pet food.  A few years ago, many thousands of companion animals died or suffered long term side-effects as a direct result of a dangerous additive in their food (melamine) but the truth is that untold thousands die because of the poor quality of ingredients in their food which then leads to sickness from allergies & disease.  But even now, all these years later and with all the education about food sources and ingredients, although there are some really great foods out there, there are still a ton of foods that still put diseased and companion animals into the mix.

So Bonnie had to find a way to help poor sick Foster.  Her research led her to Natura Pet Foods. At the time, Natura was independently owned & their philosophy was that the quality of the food ingredients was inherently connected to an animal’s quality of life & health.  All ingredients were sourced as human grade & additives were severely restricted.

At the time, there was no local retailer of these foods with the closest found in Moncton, so for three years, we made regular trips to Moncton combining dog food run with a visit to Mum.

With Bonnie being as passionate about animals as she is, it wasn’t long before she began extolling the virtues of this new food with customers at BMV.  Many of you also began making the trip to Moncton but it was becoming clear to Bonnie that there was a market in Saint John for this very high quality pet food.

It took a little bit of work to convince the distributor that a wine store would be a proper venue, but with one customer telling another and them telling another (grapevine, you know!) and even some of the vets getting on board, referring their ‘don’t know what else to do with your pet’ cases to us, we were sending about 1400 lbs of pet food out the door every week.  Not bad for a wine store eh?

Then the unthinkable happened.  The couple who conceived and started Natura thirty (or so) years ago, decided to retire and they sold to Procter & Gamble.  A handful of long-term staff saw the writing on the wall and took their expertise and started their own company.  After wreaking havoc with these amazing foods with one food recall after another, P&G sold to Mars who did not see the Canadian market as being lucrative enough so they cut Canada out of the loop.  Not only did they cut the Canadians out, they also slashed the available Natura lines.  What a shame!

Fast forward an agonizing year trying to get food……you guessed it!  Barley, Malt & Vine is now one of only a handful of retailers for Tuscan Natural, the brain child of the purist staff members who left what they knew was going to be a sinking ship.

Tuscan Natural has a limited line of foods with their focus on the highest quality ingredients and olive oil…..and what foods they are!! 

Pet food customers came to BMV for the same reason wine & beer customers do – knowledgeable staff committed to providing the highest quality products and service available. 

Dogs have always been a very big part of Bonnie’s life.  When she & her husband Keith met, their 3 dogs set the stage for what was to come.  There has been a succession of dogs through the years with 6 being the largest family group.

(Martin Flewwelling Photo)

Within the pack there have always been dogs with health &/or temperamental issues.  With the exception of  3 dogs, all of our 15 dogs over the years have been adopted as adults, most of them as rescues.  One of Keith’s dogs, Thor, was a Police Service Dog for the Saint John Police Force from 1999 to 2007.

Over the years our dogs have been treated for severe allergies, recurrent ear infections, hotspots, extreme skin dermatitis and hair loss, interdigital cysts, liver disease, severe epilepsy, peripheral vestibular incidents (strokes), herniated discs, cancers, obesity - you name it.  Some of the major surgeries include hip replacements, spinal fusions, laryngeal paralysis, spleen removal, stomach torsion (bloat), splenic torsion and foreign object extraction (why do some dogs eat such inappropriate things?).  We’ve learned only too well the tragic consequences of eating or swallowing things.

Rescued Rottweiler Ben & rescued Golden Retriever Bandit were both epileptics given to us by different Veterinarians who recognized that these dogs would receive the care required.  Ben had hundreds of seizures over the years but was such a joy when he was healthy.  Bandit was another story altogether; he was at the Animal Rescue League after having been on the run for awhile.  His orthopedic issues, and likely his seizures, stemmed from the dozens of buckshot pellets which he received while on he was on the run. While at the Animal Rescue League, he began having seizures & we received a phone call from our vet late one night asking if we could provide overnight accommodation & monitoring.  He never went back.  But he challenged us at every turn by running away at every opportunity, chewing doorknobs, moldings, etc.  Oh yes & having the odd, wild epileptic seizure just to keep things interesting.  Like all our adoptees, within 6 months, he had become part of the pack & his wandering ways & destructive chewing had ceased. Sadly both died within thirty days of each other in 2009 claimed by the disease that had plagued them throughout their lives.

Bonnie is the driving force behind the care & rehabilitation that our dogs receive.  Her commitment to their quality of life clearly allows them to live longer, healthier & happier lives.  Over the years we’ve taken our dogs to a K9 exercise pool, we’ve used K9 wheelchairs & most recently have used a Biko brace for Thor with incredible results.  You can find lots of information on-line about the BikoBrace but you can start here.

Bonnie’s commitment to her canine family is found in the way she soaks up knowledge about the various afflictions, the way she researches the conditions & how she prods care givers to provide better treatments through nutrition, homeopathy & medication as required.  Answers to recurring health issues are often found in the foods provided & there are many different formulas to meet specific requirements - low carbohydrates, high protein, single source protein such as Lamb, grain-free or Fish.  It can be confusing but Bonnie has a dog’s nose when it comes to fixing certain common problems that seem insurmountable.   It takes a lot of dedication to fixing what is wrong but more often than not, it comes down to food although sometimes it can be the air freshener or that wonderful new expensive dog bed or your garden…..or the parrot.  Seriously!

The pet food we sell at BMV is among the best available.  It has kept several of our dogs (and customer’s pets) alive far beyond their expectations & can do the same for your pet.   Our experience has only been with dogs due to personal allergies to cats, but cats face the same issues as dogs related to food allergies & intolerances.  We also carry dry cat food which several of our customers swear by.

There is an old adage that says that the only thing that stays the same is change.  Well, that is so true.  Bonnie isn’t able to be in the store much anymore because of her own hyper sensitivity to of all things – yeast!  BUT, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t available for consultation or advice.  If you would like to speak to Bonnie, drop an email to her at bonniebmv@gmail.com and she will make arrangements with you for a chat.

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