John Littlefield feared for the life of his pet, Miss Coco.
The 5-year-old Maltese Shih-Tzu seemed to be allergic to everything and itched — seemingly nonstop.
Her condition prompted Littlefield, co-host and designer on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," to begin researching healthy food options.
Enter Canine Caviar.
According to the product's website, this is the only alkaline-based dog food in the United States, meaning it increases the oxygen level in the blood and keeps at bay poor digestion and diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
"If humans should have a proper pH balance in their food, why not animals?" said Littlefield, who owns a rescued mutt, Max.
The Burbank resident plans to demonstrate his support for Canine Caviar by attending the group's first annual Aloha PAWmehana in Orange County from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Organized in collaboration with Posh Pooch Inc., a specialty retail and pet grooming store in Huntington Beach, this event aims to raise awareness and benefit the Canine Caviar Cancer Research Fund (CCCRF).
Max and Miss Coco, guests at a similar event in Highland earlier this year, will be there, Littlefield promised.
Canine Caviar co-owner Gary Ward, of Norco, has been a longtime dog owner. It was Moguls, the pet of Ward's brother-in-law and business partner, Jeff Baker, who crystallized the creation of their company in 1998.
"Moguls was receiving cortisone shots every three weeks in the summer to combat allergies," Ward, 43, said. "His vet had told the family that he might live to be 7 or 8 years old. But his organs were beginning to shut down, so they were also asked to think about putting him to sleep."
The Great Dane lived for 17 years, Ward exclaimed, all because of Baker's determination.
While working at a German pharmaceutical company, Baker was part of a team tasked with creating flea medication. Toward this end, pet foods were broken down and their ingredients inspected.
Realizing that dogs were being fed low-quality fare, Baker came up with his own recipe — and it worked. This "aha" moment eventually paved the way for Canine Caviar, which, as a lifestyle choice, boosts the immune systems of Fidos everywhere, Ward said.
What began as a two-person operation at a swap meet at the Orange County Market Place has since evolved into a 47-person team — not including independent sales contractors — and spread to 24 countries. To Ward, dogs offer unconditional love, companionship and a sense of security, making them worth the effort.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Assn., dogs are diagnosed with cancer at nearly the same rate as humans. The Morris Animal Foundation estimates that the disease kills one in four canines. These statistics argue the need for their service, Ward said.
Saturday's festivities — a throwback to Ward's part-Hawaiian roots — will include silk leis, grass skirts and a red carpet. Pet Tech International owner Thom Somes will be on hand to share information about pet wellness and demonstrate CPR for animals. Actor Austin Anderson, of "Wiener Dog Nationals" fame, will also attend, joined by the film's director-producer, Kevan Peterson.
Melesssa Austin, the owner of Posh Pooch, is eagerly counting down to the weekend event, whose name fittingly suggests "aloha pumehana." The phrase roughly translates in Hawaii to love, affection or warm regards.
Her 9-year-old Shiba Inu, who recently overcame adenocarcinoma but struggles with severe allergies and epilepsy, is the reason she discovered Canine Caviar. As a "paranoid pet owner," Austin first introduced the brand to her pooches, siblings Sunset Sky and Forrest Ranger. It is now also the No.1-selling food in her environmentally friendly and energy-efficient store.
When faced with the request to host Aloha PAWmehana, she responded with a resounding "absolutely," considering cancer research is a cause that has her complete endorsement.
Littlefield, a health fanatic whose guilty pleasure is one McDonald's Filet-O-Fish per year, recalls a bumper sticker that read, "Try organic food ... or as your grandparents called it, 'Food.'" Miss Coco and Max — the latter of whom bears a floppy mane of hair that Littlefield compares to the late comedian Phyllis Diller's — are like his children, so feeding them grain- and millet-free hypoallergenic food, as opposed to ground bones or processed food waste, is a no-brainer.
"If I'm so conscious about what I put in my mouth, why wouldn't I be careful on their behalf too?" he said. "They can't wrap their minds around what's good for them. They just eat — it's instinct — so I'm making the choice for them."
If You Go
What: Aloha Pawmehana
Where: Posh Pooch Inc., 16400 Pacific Coast Hwy., Suite 130, Huntington Beach
When: 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday