by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Linda Ardray worked in health care for more than 30 years.
Approaching retirement after working as an MRI tech, Ardray wondered what she would do with the rest of her life.
She knew she had a lot of free time ahead of her. And she didn’t have any big plans to travel the globe.
Sitting at home all day didn’t seem too appealing either.
“My dad was an accountant and he always said you have to start your own business, that’s the only way you’re going to make it,” she said with a laugh.
So she took a deep long look at where her passions lied.
Turns out they were lying at her feet under the kitchen table.
“My dog is my kid and I wanted to get her really good food,” Ardray said of the beginning of her business plan. “I went online to see what I really needed to look for.”
She went to one of the big box stores for pets. Up and down the aisles she went, eventually leaving without what she was looking for.
“That’s why I thought we needed this in Moore,” she said. “I like that I’m right here and that I’m a little neighborhood store.
That’s how The Dusty Paw was born.
Just east of the Cleveland County Health Department’s Moore location, The Dusty Paw serves pet owners looking to make informed decisions about what they feed their animals.
“Unfortunately, the pet food industry is not very transparent,” she said. “There’s groups out there trying to change legislation on the wording of pet food. Instead of pet food a lot of it is pet feed.
“Once I started this store and really delved into it I thought ‘Oh, my God.’”
She noticed immediate changes from both her dog and her cat when she switched their food to one with purer ingredients.
A reduction in shedding was one of the first benefits.
Ardray has a miniature Australian Shepherd. Now 13, her dog still acts like a pup.
“She just runs circles in the backyard,” Ardray said. “When I changed her over I saw the biggest difference.”
Getting up every morning to go to work and then coming home at night, Ardray discovered that after 30 years she didn’t truly know the community she lived in.
Now, every day is an opportunity to bond with someone new.
“The customers are happy when they come in. The dogs are happy when they come in,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
She opened The Dusty Paw in February 2016, shifting from health care to entrepreneur.
“I had more time when I had a job,” she said, only half joking. “But it’s been fun. It’s been very rewarding.
And some things still remain the same. She’s still taking care of people on a daily basis.
Owning a business has allowed her to express her creative side. Often people come to The Dusty Paw in search of quality pet food but they fall in love with Ardray’s hand-made vests and leashes.
Pets are welcome to browse with their owners and most often leave with either a new treat, toy or article of clothing.
“I want them to know that they can come in here and if I can’t answer their questions about nutrition I’ll find out,” she said. “I have a nutritionist I can call for answers. I just want it to feel welcome here, not just a store.”
Ardray remains active in the community, raising funds for various causes, most of them animal related. In December she’s offering an opportunity for owners to bring their pets for photos with Santa. All proceeds benefit the Moore Animal Shelter.
She has a drop box for Pet Food Pantry, which currently serves over 8,000 lbs of dry food & over 2,500 cans of wet food each month to cats and dogs belonging to the homeless, elderly and veterans in Oklahoma.
The pantry also gets her expired food.
With Blake Shelton playing on the radio in the background, Ardray describes herself as a “wanna-be country girl.”
Her down-to-earth demeanor makes it easy for people to ask for advice. She’s researched the ins and outs of all things pet food related.
She warns customers to make sure they know where their food is sourced from.
“You can put Made in the USA on something and it can still be sourced from overseas,” she said.
You can be sure Ardray knows where everything in her store is coming from.
It’s now her passion in life.