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Going to the Dogs

With $50 billion spent on pets, three Wilton companies are making money and helping others.



Douglas Foulke

Last year Americans spent more than $50 billion—billion—on their pets. That’s a lot of kibble, leashes, and toys. A notable wedge of that financial pie is connected to three pet companies—Blue Buffalo, Doggone Smart/Nano Pet, and the up-and-coming Clear Conscience Pets—all with strong ties to the Wilton community.

In 12 short years, Blue Buffalo, located in Wilton Center, has grown to become a popular national brand. The genesis of the company was surprisingly simple. Bill Bishop, a Wilton resident and one of the founders of SoBe beverages, had just inked a deal to sell SoBe to Pepsi. He was 65, financially flush, and ready to retire.

While celebrating with his sons (who were also his co-workers) at the Black Goose Grill in Darien, Bill Bishop learned retirement wasn’t in the cards. Chris and Billy told their father they wanted to keep working with him. Why? “Because it’s fun and my dad is a very empowering person,” says Chris Bishop.

But what kind of business venture could they start? At the time, Bill and his wife Jackie had been researching nutritional cures with a holistic vet to help heal their Airedale, Blue, who was suffering with cancer. Recognizing an opening in the marketplace for a natural, nutritionally balanced product, Bill Bishop suggested creating a dog food company, and Blue Buffalo was born.

Bishop Sr. is a savvy marketer who believes that the company’s “Buff culture” embraces a healthy life/work balance. “Your kid only sings for the first time once,” he says with a smile. “You should be there.” Their offices are sprawling but maintain a casual vibe. Visiting dogs wag their tails as you pass by, the CEO wears jeans, and a “no BS policy” is in force.

Bill Bishop attributes the company’s success to the fact that they understand their consumer. “They’re normal people with normal lives, and that’s how we market to them. Our slogan is ‘Love them like family. Feed them like family.”’

In 2003 the company established the Blue Buffalo Foundation for Cancer Research, which has made huge strides in gaining a better understanding of dog and cat cancers. “And much of the research is transferable to helping humans,” he says with obvious pride.

On first blush, Chris Onthank, an affable, pleasantly rumpled art grad who does fine carpentry and breeds rare waterfowl, doesn’t appear to be a typical CEO. But when one learns more about his innate connection to animals and his passion for great design, it becomes obvious why he’s become a successful entrepreneur. His brainchild, Nano-Pet Technology, is a globally successful pet-product company responsible for creating the DogGone Smart pet line. Their signature product is a pet bed constructed with patented, non-toxic nano-technology woven directly into the fabric. The result is an environmentally safe pet bed that magically repels all liquids, filth and anything stinky. “We’re a solution-based company,” says Onthank. “We focus on solving the problems all pet owners face: how to deal with dirt, mud, and odor.”

Now in their eighth year of business, the company employs over 1,000 people worldwide and their product line is carried in pet stores internationally.

When developing new pet lines, product testing is a breeze. “All we have to do is go downstairs to the Canine Center, where at least 60 pet volunteers stand at the ready,” says Onthank. The pet center offers doggy daycare, agility, behavioral, and puppy training, and canine swimming lessons. Chris, who goes by the nom-de-guerre The Canine Master, is also an expert dog-trainer and makes sure to do at least one hands-on training session a day. “Working with dogs centers me.”

Onthank grew up above a kennel run by his grandmother where she raised Dachshunds and Dobermans. As a child, he helped Betty Ambler with the animals at Ambler Farm. Today, along with his family, he lives with a rescue dog, four active beehives and a menagerie of birds on a five-acre spread in Wilton.

Anthony and Amanda Bennie live just down the road from the Onthanks. Four years ago Anthony, a marketer, writer, dog lover, and “sales guy” in the pet food industry, asked himself the question:  “How do you reinvent the dog biscuit?”  After some trial and error, he came up with a quality product, and then he and his wife both left secure jobs and launched Clear Conscience Pets, a company that specializes in organically sourced, healthy dog treats.

Their trademark Sliders have ingredients that sound so appetizing they wouldn’t be out of place on a restaurant menu: chicken or beef tenders, organic flax seed, cheddar cheese, and vegetables. Anthony Bennie vouches for the superior taste and health benefits by eating them himself on a YouTube video. While experimenting, the duo also invented Super Gravy, “a powder that, when mixed with water, “becomes an au jus gravy so your dog can experience Thanksgiving all year round.”

“We won’t compromise on quality,” says Anthony firmly. “That made it harder initially,” adds Amanda. “But people are beginning to understand and appreciate what we do.”  The company has been expanding and they recently won their ninth national award for Best Treat of the Year from the Dogington Post. Will Clear Conscience grow to become a strong national brand like Blue Buffalo and DogGone Smart? Only time, hard work, and discerning dog palates will tell.

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June 2018

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
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Red Bee Apiary's Talk, Tour & Honey Tastings are an opportunity to visit a working apiary and experience honey at its source. Take a tour of Red Bee's apiary and gardens, once...

Cost: $35

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Red Bee Honey
Weston, CT  06883


Sponsor: Red Bee Honey
Contact Name: Emily Sabo, Events Manager
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Alan Sklar, a well known voice actor, will be reading short stories by Neil Gaiman. Alan Sklar has been a freelance voice actor for over twenty-five years, voicing radio/TV commercials and VNRs,...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
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Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
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Alan Sklar has been a freelance voice actor for over 25 years, voicing radio/TV commercials and VNRs, narrating everything from audio books and documentaries to thousands of corporate and medical...

Cost: free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
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Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
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Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
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See Shakespeare’s fairytale fantasy of love and magic potions at in a park setting on the Long Island Sound. The play is in the “round” as the...

Where:
Pinckney Park
177 Rowayton Ave
Rowayton, CT
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Dads climb free with a paid climber using promo code DAD18. Kids get to write a special note to Dad on our Father’s Day chalkboard, too!

Cost: Ages 5-6: $32 Ages 7-9: $39 Ages 10-11: $48 12 & Up: $54

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Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum
4450 Park Ave
Bridgeport, CT
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Morning exhale flow on the water! Yoga on the Boardwalk returns every Sunday morning, beginning in May, on the Harbor Point Boardwalk.  Led by our Yoga Teacher, Shannon Aleksa. Her...

Cost: Free

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Harbor Point Boardwalk
1 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT  06902
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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
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KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

A hands-on introduction to woodworking for kids! In this 4-day afternoon camp, kids will plan and create a one-of-a-kind project such as a wooden stool. Skills include sanding, drilling with a...

Cost: Fee: $210 / $190 for family members (supplies included)

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Cener
681 South Ave
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Telephone: 203-594-3638
Website »

More information

Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

See Shakespeare’s fairytale fantasy of love and magic potions at in a park setting on the Long Island Sound. The play is in the “round” as the...

Where:
Pinckney Park
177 Rowayton Ave
Rowayton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

A hands-on introduction to woodworking for kids! In this 4-day afternoon camp, kids will plan and create a one-of-a-kind project such as a wooden stool. Skills include sanding, drilling with a...

Cost: Fee: $210 / $190 for family members (supplies included)

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Cener
681 South Ave
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Telephone: 203-594-3638
Website »

More information

Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

Author Lee Mandel sheds light on the private wars of Sterling Hayden, examining his personal life, custody battles which including kidnapping his four children, alcohol and substance abuse, and...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton LIbrary
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Website »

More information

See Shakespeare’s fairytale fantasy of love and magic potions at in a park setting on the Long Island Sound. The play is in the “round” as the...

Where:
Pinckney Park
177 Rowayton Ave
Rowayton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Music on the Hill welcomes musicians and ringers of all levels for this "hands on" workshop. Artistic Director Ellen Dickinson leads two Tuesday evening sessions to build joy and...

Cost: free

Where:
WEPCO Church Complex
48 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: 203-529-3133
Contact Name: Ellen
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

A hands-on introduction to woodworking for kids! In this 4-day afternoon camp, kids will plan and create a one-of-a-kind project such as a wooden stool. Skills include sanding, drilling with a...

Cost: Fee: $210 / $190 for family members (supplies included)

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Cener
681 South Ave
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Telephone: 203-594-3638
Website »

More information

Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

See Shakespeare’s fairytale fantasy of love and magic potions at in a park setting on the Long Island Sound. The play is in the “round” as the...

Where:
Pinckney Park
177 Rowayton Ave
Rowayton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

A hands-on introduction to woodworking for kids! In this 4-day afternoon camp, kids will plan and create a one-of-a-kind project such as a wooden stool. Skills include sanding, drilling with a...

Cost: Fee: $210 / $190 for family members (supplies included)

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Cener
681 South Ave
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Telephone: 203-594-3638
Website »

More information

Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

See Shakespeare’s fairytale fantasy of love and magic potions at in a park setting on the Long Island Sound. The play is in the “round” as the...

Where:
Pinckney Park
177 Rowayton Ave
Rowayton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

See Shakespeare’s fairytale fantasy of love and magic potions at in a park setting on the Long Island Sound. The play is in the “round” as the...

Where:
Pinckney Park
177 Rowayton Ave
Rowayton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Nature is on display in “A Reverence For Nature” with pieces that reflect the artists’ admiration of nature or the environment in a multitude of ways. Exhibiting artists include...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

More information

See Shakespeare’s fairytale fantasy of love and magic potions at in a park setting on the Long Island Sound. The play is in the “round” as the...

Where:
Pinckney Park
177 Rowayton Ave
Rowayton, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Take a 2 ½ hour narrated train and riverboat ride through what the Nature Conservancy calls “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The train...

Cost: $37-$42

Where:
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
1 Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT  06426
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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