While many pet owners have heard of raw feeding, finding the right information about the products available can be difficult. That’s why Jacquelynn Michalik, owner of Asgard Raw Dog and Cat Meals and Shedquarters Self Serve Pet Wash & Pet Supplies in Millvale, makes a point of consulting with customers before they take the leap.
“If you google the term ‘raw diet,’ your head will implode,” she laughed. “It’s like politics and religion—no two people have the same opinions about it. It scares a lot of people initially, which is why we make it simple; you just put it in the bowl. We make complete meals for all ages, sizes and breeds.”
Michalik, who has been providing a raw diet for her dogs for over 15 years and has raised rare Caucasian Ovcharka for the past decade, originally started selling the meals to a small group of people as a way to offset food expenses. “I show my dogs all over the U.S. and finished many champions, and the first thing that the competition asks me is what I feed my dogs,” she said.
Michalik and her husband made their own raw food at home, and word-of-mouth soon had the business growing beyond its original capacity. “We just kept getting bigger until we outgrew the laundry room at home and needed a larger facility,” she explained.
As the only USDA/FDA-registered raw dog food manufacturer and supplier in Pittsburgh, Asgard prides itself on providing customers with the information they need to make informed decisions about raw feeding.
“The overall health of the animals is our main concern,” said Michalik of the free phone consultations they provide. “Dogs are very simplistic—they don’t need a complex diet. The more complex it is, the harder it is to digest.
“Kibble has only been around 100-plus years, and prior to that, dogs basically ate a raw diet. They ate the leftovers from their humans, which is what they are designed to eat—whole foods,” she added. “Now we’re seeing a lot of dogs being diagnosed with allergies, which is one of the primary reasons why people come to us.”
It’s important to note that just providing an animal with uncooked meat is not a raw diet. “There are components that need to be included for the food to be nutritious,” said Michalik. “One of the biggest is organ content, but in Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to sell organs to the general public. Because we are a registered dog food company, we can buy this product to create a true raw diet.”
There are many advantages of a raw diet: according to Michalik, dogs that eat this way have glossier coats, shed considerably less, smell better, have fewer allergies, produce less waste and have overall better health.
“Dog waste becomes almost zero,” she said. “Dogs only eliminate what their bodies don’t need, which are the byproducts and fillers they can’t digest. In a raw diet, their bodies utilize nearly all the food, only eliminating excess fat and bone, which turns their waste into dust.”
Each of Asgard’s products are made fresh-to-order. “We don’t have mountains of food sitting around; our food comes right from processing to freezing and then to the customers’ hands,” Michalik said, adding that in the future they hope to develop a freeze-dried version that will allow for shipping nationwide while still retaining all of its nutrients.
When a building became available about a block away from their current Millvale location, Michalik and her husband decided to open Shedquarters Self-Serve Pet Wash and Pet Supplies. “Even though the pandemic was going on, it still seemed like the right thing to do, especially since two of the only self-serve dog washes in the area had closed,” she explained.
She added that one of the advantages of the space is that it features a private room. “You’re not in a big open room with multiple dogs, which helps lessen pets’ anxiety,” she said.
Shedquarters also offers a ground-level wash station for larger animals. “This is good for giant breeds and those dogs that have mobility issues,” said Michalik. “It’s also good for people who can’t lift their dogs and for dogs that don’t like to be handled getting into the tub.”
To make Millvale’s pet Mecca even more inviting, Andrew Cole Berisford-Rangel recently opened AuStella Pet Parlor, a professional grooming salon, right next door.
“Andrew is one of my dearest friends, as well as one of the best people walking the earth,” said Michalik. “We share the same philosophy of making sure that dogs and their owners have good experiences.”
Berisford-Rangel owned a grooming salon in Wheeling, WV, before moving to Pennsylvania. After training his brother to take over the salon, he was on his way to Cambodia to take yoga teacher training—and then the pandemic hit.
“All of the gyms were closing, so I had to take another direction in life. I decided to get back into the dog grooming industry,” he explained.
Named after Berisford-Rangel’s Boston terrier (Austin) and chihuahua (Stella), AuStella is designed to provide a stress-free grooming experience.
“A lot of pets have anxiety around other animals, so I operate on a one-to-one basis,” he explained. “There are no other dogs around, and there’s no need for caging. I build trust with them through grooming, and get to know their personalities—their owners see that, and it creates a positive experience for them both.”
Clients can take advantage of full grooming services or full bath services, and AuStella also has add-on packages that include Fur-B-Less de-shedding packages, tooth brushing and nail dremeling.
“I also offer a blueberry facial that all the dogs love,” said Berisford-Rangel.
Both Michalik and Berisford-Rangel hope to expand their reach in Millvale, collaborating with other businesses such as dog-friendly craft brewery Grist House; creating a mobile “treat truck” for pets and possibly opening a people-based gym in the future.
“There are always more ideas in the pipeline,” said Berisford-Rangel.
To learn more, visit Asgard at https://www.asgard-raw.com; Shedquarters at https://www.dogwash15209.com and AuStella at https://theaustellapetparlor.myonlineappointment.com.