When Canadian freeskiing icon Sarah Burke died in a tragic training accident in 2012, her dog Dex proved to be a significant source of comfort for husband and fellow pro skier Rory Bushfield.
Burke first spotted the German shepherd cross in 2011 huddled under a car in Mount Currie, and Bushfield urged her not to take the dog home.
"But looking back, I'm so thankful. I love that dog," Bushfield said. "When Sarah passed away, without Dex, man, I don't know what I would've done. She kept me around all my friends, I had my support. And she just loved me unconditionally."
Bushfield is now one half of the duo behind Dex Knows Best, a premium dog-food delivery service that has caught the eye of Michele Romanow, tech entrepreneur and star of CBC reality show, Dragons' Den.
Teaming up with part-time Whistlerite Blair Harper, who previously worked with both Bushfield and Burke as a sponsor and manager with Monster Energy, Bushfield said the idea for Dex Knows Best came from an urge to give back. A portion of every sale goes to the Sarah Burke Foundation, which hands out two $7,500 grants to promising youth skiers a year.
"I wanted to make some actual money that we could donate to make a difference. I also love dogs to death," Bushfield said.
The concept emerged from what Harper saw as a gap in the market.
"I actually found the need for dog food delivered to the house because my wife and I had young children and were busy and would have appreciated that extra service," he explained. "There was nobody I could find that was really doing it well and so we saw an opportunity."
Launched last November, the company auditioned for a spot on Dragons' Den earlier this year, but didn't make the cut. They made such an impression, however, that Romanow eventually agreed to bring Dex Knows Best on with two of her companies: venture capital firm, Clearbanc, and marketing firm, Acquire Agency.
With Romanow's help, Dex Knows Best will begin rolling out a national marketing campaign this month.
"Since we've on-boarded with Michele, they've done a forecast on where they think they can take us to in terms of new sales," Harper said. "That's really helped us open our eyes and say, 'Holy, this is actually real.' It gives us a sense of where this can take us."
Along with the convenience of nation-wide delivery, the appeal of Dex Knows Best is in the quality of its product. Using "a very clean, limited-ingredient diet," the food is high in protein and free of grain, corn, wheat, soy and other by-products.
Bushfield said he's already heard of the health benefits of the product from dog owners.
"I get reports of people saying their dog was having seizures and ... it hasn't had one since they switched the dog food. People said their dogs' coats are 10 times shinier. A lot of great feedback," he said. "It seems like a lot of people are on it, man. Everywhere I go, I don't have to bring Dex's food anymore because all my friends have bags of their own."
Looking back, Bushfield said it would have been easy to launch "a ski brand or something" in his post-ski life, but he's proud to have started something with a charitable component that would have appealed to Burke.
"I think she'd be proud to know that the dog she found under the car is now feeding all the dogs around the land," he said.
To learn more, visit dexknowsbest.com.
Read the original story at Pique Newsmagazine here.