Earth Animal: On a Mission to Heal Animals and the Humans who Love them
Oct 31, 2013 01:06AM
By Nicole Miale
From the outside, Earth Animal in Westport looks not unlike many pet shops located in strip malls across America. On the inside, however, it’s a different story, for Earth Animal’s intention goes far beyond selling product.
“True healing – healing with integrity and respect for the whole animal,” co-owner Susan Goldstein says when asked about the Earth Animal mission. More than a pet store, Earth Animal is a holistic, solution-oriented community resource for people seeking to support, improve or ease their companion animals’ health at all stages of life.
Owned by Susan, husband and veterinarian Dr. Bob Goldstein and Merritt, their youngest daughter, Earth Animal has been in Westport for almost 35 years and was recently voted the #1 pet store in Connecticut by the readers of CONNECTICUT Magazine. As the company prepares for a national launch of its own Earth Animal line of treats, supplements and pet foods, its success tells a story of vision, perseverance and defying the odds.
“We have been a health food store for animals since 1979,” Susan says. “Back then some really brilliant marketing people in New York and Greenwich told us we wouldn’t last a few months if we didn’t carry chemical products, but here we are. I was on fire with a vision and energy that would not be denied.”
That vision was Susan’s entrepreneurial blueprint, but she was aided and abetted by her clinical counterpart in husband Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob and his brother, Dr. Marty Goldstein, were early pioneers in the movement of veterinary medicine from the conventional medical model to a more natural approach. Dr. Bob founded the now-heralded Smith Ridge Veterinary Clinic in nearby South Salem, NY, which later became Marty’s clinic as Dr. Bob and Susan moved on to pursue the Earth Animal vision. The Goldstein’s approach emphasized wellness and longevity, beginning with keen attention to an animal’s diet. This was radical in the 1970s and 1980s, when consciousness about human food was low and concern for animals’ diet was nonexistent. Dr. Bob was instrumental in formulating the first natural pet foods for such now well-known holistic pet food companies as Blue Buffalo (based in Wilton, CT) and Newman’s Own Organics.
A family run business even today with daughter Merritt managing the store, website and mail order business for the past 15 years and daughter Abbey running an affiliated pet sitting business, “Leave It To Abbey,” the Goldsteins have made sure as it grows that Earth Animal remains first and foremost about healing, secondarily about selling products.
“Every animal is an individual with individual wellness and healing needs,” explains Susan. “Because of our 35 years of experience, clinical and other, we are in a unique place to help families understand the specific needs of their animals and work with them. Whether you’re bringing home your new baby or working through the grief of transition, we are here to hold the hands of the family. “
The Earth Animal difference, according to Susan, is not only in the services they provide, but in the people they employ. “We don’t want to sell product. We want to create a culture that is about healing and well-being of animals and the people who love them.”
To that end, the store doesn’t hire salespeople to sell their many herbal, vitamin and nutraceutical supplements. Instead, the store’s hiring emphasis is on empathy and what Susan calls a “natural born healing ability.”
“I’m not interested in hiring retailers,” she says. “I hire naturally occurring healers. These are people defined by a soul-deep need to make a meaningful contribution to animals and their families.”
Earth Animal provides those dedicated staff members with a wealth of tools, including the various Earth Animal herbal products and the new Solution Finder, which is a proprietary software platform based on the Goldsteins’ decades of experience and research. More than 120 Solution Finders have been sold to vets and other pet stores so far. The system acts as a “custom vitamin shop” where a user can identify a condition or problem area and receive recommendations for herbal, homeopathic or vitamin remedies which are likely to aid the animal’s situation.
The Earth Animal product line is now available from Maine to Florida, with recent expansion to the Midwest bringing their formulations to more people and animals than ever before. The majority of their products are produced in Pennsylvania, which is also where they are sourcing Bell & Evans’ chicken for their new treat and food lines. Bell & Evans has given Earth Animal the exclusive right to use their chickens for pet food, something which excites the Goldsteins.
“There is a very dark side of the pet food industry, and we’ve been battling it for a long time,” Susan says. “We are completely opposed to factory farming and were determined to find the right source for our treats and future dog and cat food lines. We’re very excited and gratified that Bell & Evans recognized and shared our passion.”
As their business expands, the Goldsteins travel across the country giving lectures and workshops on the subject of animal well-being. In their “Ask Dr. Bob and Susan” workshops, they provide common sense, tested and nature-based solutions to common animal health problems. They recently had their first sold out lecture to more than 100 people in Ohio and Susan says she was struck by the intensity of interest from the audience.
“There is a shift occurring,” she declares. “There is new awareness and interest in finding solutions which work with the animal, rather than against.”
The Goldsteins are the authors of The Goldstein’s Wellness and Longevity Program, published by TFH Publications. Dr. Bob is the editor and an author of the groundbreaking veterinary textbook, Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practices, published by Wiley Blackwell. These books have introduced many veterinarians and laypeople to the concepts of natural healing for animals.
On the subject of the future of veterinary medicine, Susan is hopeful but pragmatic. “Veterinary medicine has a brilliance in service like no other,” she says. “At the same time, all medicine needs to move forward. We need to find alternatives to using pesticides and chemicals on ourselves and our animals.”
That was the Earth Animal mission when it was founded in 1979 and remains the mission today as the company expands its reach and product lines.
“We don’t want to get sloppy with age,” Susan says with a laugh. “We intend to keep raising the bar, for ourselves and others. The animals deserve nothing less.”
Earth Animal is located at 606 Post Road East, Westport. For more information call 203-222-7173 or visit EarthAnimal.com. See ad, page 39.
Nicole Miale is publisher and managing editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County. She has had a lifelong love affair with animals and wanted to be a vet until she realized how much math and science would be involved.