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These school chums are making people-grade dog food at Natural Hounds in Port Jeff

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For most, a sick dog means a trip to the vet. For Conor Wooley, it became a business plan.

Wooley, who has four dogs, said his two bulldogs had trouble stomaching their food and were exhibited allergic reactions to various brands he had tried.

Eventually he raided his fridge to find something that faired better with them.

“It was all over the place,” Wooley, 23, of St. James, said of the first batches of dog food he made. “We just got away from dog food, so it was turkey, potatoes, rice, basically human-grade food and we would change it each week. It was kind of whatever we had leftover in the house.”

It wasn’t until he and his high school buddy Rick Orlandi decided they wanted to start a business that he refined his recipes with precision for consistent batches — and lots of them.

“We just saw that as an opportunity to help out other dogs with the same issue,” said Orlandi, 23, of St. James, who has two beagles.

The two formed Natural Hounds in 2018 and shipped their freshly made food across the U.S. through their website.

After building a strong subscription base, they decided it was time to open a brick and mortar store.

Their first Natural Hounds shop opened in Port Jefferson at 216B Main St. this past April.

“We had a really hard time finding a spot, because we wanted to be right in a walking area, like a main street, where it’s a destination that people could walk around with their dogs and discover it,” Orlandi said. “Port Jeff is super dog friendly. Before we had the store, when we were building our subscription base, we were big on farmer’s markets. And Port Jeff’s farmer’s market was pretty much our most successful market and so we already had a following in Port Jeff.”

‘everything a dog needs’

Natural Hounds’ primary product is it’s line of wet food. The store makes two batches a day. The food is all slow cooked in what Orlandi likens to a crock-pot.

It is then sold and shipped frozen, made to be served warm or cold with dry food if so desired, or entirely on it’s own.

“When people home-cook for their dogs a lot of times it isn’t completely balanced,” Orlandi said. “This has everything a dog needs so you can feed it alone.”

Natural Hounds’ wet food comes in four varieties: original recipe, which is a turkey and beef blend, as well as beef, pork and lamb. Orlandi said each recipe follows a breakdown of 80 percent muscle meat, 10 percent organ meat and 10 percent vegetables, oils and nutrients.

That final 10 percent includes carrots, blueberries, sweet potato, pumpkin, broccoli, kale, brown rice, flax seed oil, coconut oil and vitamin D, among other ingredients.

The store also sells peanut butter and pumpkin biscuits, bully sticks, and frozen Greek yogurt-based treats, as well as leashes, CBD oil for dogs and some toys. Like their food, Wooley and Orlandi’s store is dog-friendly.

The ample floor space leaves room for even the biggest of breeds to come in and sniff around.

More importantly, there are free samples of all four varieties of Natural Hounds’ freshly made jerky at the front counter — for all the good boys and girls who come into the store.