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In Memory Of Blue — Fall 2009 | Out Here Magazine

Dog-food company fights canine cancer

By Carol Davis

Photograph courtesy of Blue Buffalo™

Bill and Jackie Bishop's large-breed Airedale, Blue, was just 5 years old when he had a lymphoma surgically removed from his shoulder.

Blue recovered nicely and was soon back to running through nearby woods and charming his human family.

Three years later, Blue had another tumor removed from his paw, and, eventually, a third bout. "We said, 'What is going on?'" Bill Bishop recalls.

In the meantime, his health-drink company had sold and he was looking to start a new business with his sons. Blue's health problems prompted an interest in dog nutrition.

"We got together with a holistic vet and animal nutritionist and talked about pet foods," Bishop says. "It's just like humans; the quality of food you eat has a lot to do with your health."

So does environment, and dogs are particularly vulnerable to toxins such as lawn chemicals and household cleaners because of their size, proximity to chemicals, and low weight, Bishop explains.

Indeed, one in four dogs dies of cancer, making it the No. 1 cause of death in dogs more than 2 years old, says the Morris Animal Foundation, which has launched an unprecedented $30 million campaign to cure canine cancer within 10 to 20 years.

"Once you start a conversation with someone, you find that they've either had a pet die of cancer or they know someone who has," Bishop says. "It's that rampant."

So they decided to fight canine cancer by creating a dog food that boosted immune systems. "We thought that we owe it to Blue to do something that's the best we can do," he says.

"We put together what we consider to be the best kind of pet food," he says. "We started with human-grade ingredients — fresh meat first, then whole grains, then fruits and vegetables."

They also added antioxidants — vitamins and other nutrients that may help protect cells from damage — in such a way so that the pet gets the most nutritional value.

When it came time to name the company and product, it came pretty naturally. "Blue was such a part of the process, so when we named it, we named it for Blue," Bishop says. "He was our taster ... and he really participated in this."

"Buffalo" was added because it represents, to them, the West, when it was pure, pristine, and toxin-free, Bishop says, and because the buffalo was considered by some Indian nations as a protector.

Blue Buffalo™ sees it that way, too. That's why Bishop established the Blue Buffalo™ Foundation for Cancer Research, which has given more than $250,000 in grants to universities studying pet cancer.

"It's how we can give back," Bishop says.

Blue, the Airedale, is no longer around. He succumbed to cancer a few years ago. Now, his cousin, Zack, charms the Bishop family.

But his impact is far from gone.

"Blue is an integral part of this," Bishop says. "Had it not been for Blue's incredible personality and his problems with cancer, which were difficult times, we would not have taken a further look into nutrition."

Carol Davis is editor of Out Here.