When I first met my husband Dave he had his family dog, Jake. Jake was a retired police dog in his senior years. Dave and Jake were truly best friends so I was fortunate to be welcomed into the pack.
Like many larger breeds, German shepherds are prone to hip and back problems. Jake had already gone through back surgery to improve his mobility and was on regular anti-inflammatories, but these often gave him gastric issues. It was heartbreaking to witness the steady deterioration of Jake’s hind legs.
In 2006 my step father Joe, a fisherman from Stewart Island, got involved in the green lipped mussel industry and put us on to (human) products to settle inflammation and improve joint health. Dave and I jumped at the opportunity to supplement Jake with something natural and gentle on his gut. The improvement was incredible, we genuinely couldn’t believe how much more comfortable and bouncy he was.
Jake also loved the taste - so much so that one day while home alone he broke into the laundry, opened the sealed bucket and ate about 10L of mussel powder! Jake was fine, but we don’t endorse bingeing for humans or animals.
Fast forward the next decade, and we are now the proud fur parents to Archie and Margot, a pair of weimaraners. As puppies and through their training we went back to green lipped mussels as treats and training driver (Thanks Joe!).
We found that whole, freeze-dried mussels provide great motivation as they have a strong aroma and are super tasty (judging from the drool). Five years down the track our two dogs, who are not particularly food driven, will still do anything for a mussel.
The added bonus of using mussels as treats was that the dogs were getting something healthy and good for them (a so-called “functional treat”) along the way.
As we learnt with Jake, green-lipped mussels provide high amounts of omega 3 supporting joint health, ocular health, skin and coat.
With Archie and Margot also being big dogs it’s important to us to look after their joints early.
In 2017 we bred our first litter from Archie and Margot. Again, we used the mussels to help train the puppies before heading to their forever homes. We sent the puppies to their new families with about 500 grams of mussels each to continue their training.
We had so much positive feedback and enquiries about how to buy more that we decided to start a small cottage industry business and sell them on our kennel website.
Steph joined me in the mussel side hustle and here we are today with Gourmate Pet Treat Co. - a real business that would not be here without Jake, Margot, Archie, and the puppies.