It was a chance encounter in a popular New York City bar that brought Dee and Tim O’Brien together 20 years ago, a quick break from their high-pressure jobs. She was a nurse in the cardiac intensive care unit at NYU Hospital. He was a special agent for a federal task force, investigating organized crime in the Teamsters Union.
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Soon, they were a couple, with dreams of getting married and starting a business together. And then they literally went to the dogs, for the business they decided upon was an all-natural dog biscuit company. It wasn’t just a sudden, half – baked idea, however. Tim’s father, Mike, a former food broker, owned a small family bakery in Connecticut, right around the corner form a neighborhood pet store. Encouraged by the owner, Mike O’Brien spent what turned out to be the last six months of his life developing an all-natural dog biscuit recipe, made from human-grade ingredients. With Mike very ill, the young couple got married and, following his lead, founded Nature’s Animals, Inc. The company was housed in an enterprise zone (an economically disadvantage area with cheaper rents to encourage business growth) in Connecticut. There, two bakers turned out the biscuits, while the O’Brien’s handled the business end in addition to holding on to their jobs. “I would be going through the Teamsters’ books, and then hop on a subway at lunchtime, to pass out free biscuit samples at pet stores around the city.” Tim said.