It isn’t often that a start-up company hits it big with the rollout of its first big product. But that’s what happened to Happy Pets Inc., a small manufacturer in rural Fountain City.
Happy Pets manufactures organic pet food, up until now produced in limited quantities and only found in area food co-ops and specialty stores. That was before they developed their Pet Population Intendance Line, or PPIL, a pet food with birth control incorporated into the product.
PPIL has taken the organic pet food market by storm, and threatens to invade more commercial lines, as well. The company is preparing to greatly expand its production facility, after having procured the county and township permits. In addition, investors are flocking to them. How did Happy Pets Inc. do it? Why wasn’t it done long before this?
According to one of the founders of Happy Pets, Gial Loess, the discovery of the organic ingredient in PPIL was purely by accident. Also, says Gial, it took him years to recognize the best use for his discovery.
After dropping out of college in the 1980s, Gial joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Suriname, in South America. While there, he became curious about the vast Amazonian jungle of Brazil, which abuts Suriname. When his tour was done, he vowed to return. A year later, Gial says he was lucky enough to receive correspondence from a contact in Suriname who invited him to be a part of an Amazonian humanitarian expedition.
On the trip, which Gial has written about in a small volume that is included in each bag on PPIL, the group discovered a small enclave of indigenous people who had what seemed to be a much more developed society than the expeditioners were expecting to find. The group has a well-developed religion, a strict moral code, a written language and semi-formal education system, organized agrarian ventures, and equal opportunity for men and women alike.
Gial was interested in why not all of the young women were either pregnant, or nursing babies, which was the situation in other similar communities. The people explained that the women could choose when to become pregnant by chewing the stems of a plant they found in the jungle.
When Gial shared this information with the other expeditioners, he was, to quote him, “laughed out of the tent.” There were other explanations for the infertility of the women, the others said, most likely diet and evidence found of parasitic invasion.
But Gial was assured by the native women that when they stopped chewing the stems, they could become pregnant, and proudly showed him their children.
When the expedition left Brazil, Gial took seeds home with him from the plant, which the women called the “naogravido.” By the time Gial was back in the U.S., however, the seeds were forgotten. He and his partner, Luz, had moved to the countryside outside Fountain City and were struggling to find a way to make a living off their land.
Luz and Gial began making organic pet food and selling it locally, and found some success.
Rodents were a perennial problem for the business, though, and one night when Gial heard a trap spring, he thought suddenly of the naogravido seeds from Brazil. He found them in his old expedition kit and that fall planted some in the couple’s small greenhouse. When they sprouted—to his surprise, because the seeds were so old—he picked some of the stems and mixed them with bait for the mice and rats.
The following year, Gial and Luz noticed that there were many fewer rodents in their production areas, and Gial decided to conduct an experiment. He bought male and female mice and kept them in cages. Half of the female mice were fed the stems with their food, and half not. Under controlled conditions, Gial attempted to breed the mice, and found that the female mice that ate naogravido did not become pregnant. When he changed their diet to not include naogravido, they were impregnated easily.
Luz admits that the next step Gial took was against her wishes, but when the barn cats had kittens, Gial sequestered the females, fed them naogravido stems and sure enough, they did not reproduce after mating with the male cats.
After several years of using the naogravido solely for birth control on the farm and experimenting with dosages, Gial decided to try adding it to their organic pet food and sharing it with friends and neighbors. Success was instant when suddenly people were able to control the fertility of their pets without surgery.
Seven years after finding the naogravido seeds in his old kit, Gial and Luz developed PPIL and began to market it locally. It proved to be foolproof for pet owners who fed it to their pets faithfully.
Gial and Luz have had an offer for the PPIL formula from a well-known international manufacturer of pet foods, but for now, they aren’t selling.
“We have been making pet food for nearly our whole life together. We don’t want to start over,” said Gial.
“Not even for the millions being offered?” we asked.
“Oh,” said Luz, “life isn’t about the money. It’s about doing something good for society. We’re happy to be doing what we do, and if it turns out to be as successful as we hope, we are donating 50% of our profits to charity.”
“Which charity?” we asked.
“So far,” said Gial, “it looks like it will be a full-time job just to read all the letters asking for help. And we haven’t even sold the first bag!”
“How about naogravido for humans?” we asked Gial. He said that, of course, it isn’t approved by the FDA, and he would be reluctant to use it in humans. Pets usually have a much shorter life span than humans do, and indigenous people don’t live as long as people in developed nations. There is no way to tell what the effect of naogravido would have on a human female who would eat the stems for, conceivably, twenty-five years or more. There is also no evidence to support the theory that there will be no effect on the offspring of the females fed naogravido.
We also asked Gial and Luz if a PPIL regimen wouldn’t be rather expensive for pet owners.
“It’s no more expensive than our organic pet foods,” said Luz.
“And you have to feed them something!” crowed Gial.
PPIL will be on shelves beginning tomorrow, April 1, April Fools Day!