Dividing their time between two retreats in beautiful Boulder, Colorado, Kachina and Toby are two Golden Retrievers who have a life most humans would envy! The privileged pooches are owned by Steve Demos, President and founder of White Wave Inc., the makers of the leading national soymilk, Silk® Soymilk, and his wife of two years, Sheryl Lamb, who helped Demos’ company grow from $6.5 million in 1996 to $400 million this year. “[Kachina and Toby] either have their run of a farm with lakes and an orchard or a national forest in the foothills of the Rockies,” says Demos.
Kachina (pronounced Kacheena) is ten years old and was named after the southwestern word for Hobi doll. The well-bred pooch comes from a lineage of field champions and “has the capacity to understand instructions probably better than a lot of animals that I ever encountered,” according to Demos. “It’s as if she has another sense; she’s fully aware,” he says. Despite her refinement, she is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense canine that prefers a bandana or handkerchief to a girly bow after a coifing at her groomer’s.
Toby is Demos’ pick of the litter out of the pups Kachina gave birth to four years ago. When Demos bred Kachina, he took “pupternity” leave to personally care for his beloved dog. “I took six weeks and effectively ran the company out of a cabin in the mountains where [Kachina] gave birth to seven puppies,” recalls Demos. Toby was the largest of the group, and grew up to be an affectionate and playful pooch. His morning routine consists of jumping on top of both Demos and Lamb while they are still in bed, attempting to lie on both of them at the same time. “He just wants the contact and so do we,” admits Demos.
Some may call Toby a “mama’s boy” because, according to Demos, “He has never been outside of his mother’s sight…he’s a very soft, wonderful animal.” But, a male who has a close relationship with his mom and has no problem showing affection is a keeper in my book!
The mother/son pair are full of personality and display the wonderful attributes that belong to the Golden Retriever breed. Steve Demos explains why he and his wife are drawn to their eligible pets, who make excellent companions: “Goldens are very smart and very affectionate. They also have extremely soft mouths around children, so in my opinion, a Golden will leave before it gets into a fight. I really like the gentleness of the animal, particularly around children and adults and the very predictable temperament of Goldens.”
Dividing their time between their two homes, Kachina and Toby lead a very carefree life; they have rarely been on leashes. When Demos and Lamb moved from Boulder up to their cabin in the mountains, the dogs demonstrated greater energy and excitement. Their favorite hobbies are chasing bunnies, digging for ground squirrels in the mountains and going on walks with their owners. They are playful, fearless and curious canines that enjoy “socializing” with the wild animals they encounter in the mountains and can be seen barking at the Elk and the bears. In fact, Toby once cornered a baby bear! But the dogs’ pursuits are always in good fun; they never bite or run down an animal. Demos reasons, “I actually think they get tired faster. The animal is running for its life and Toby is doing it for entertainment.”
Demos and Lamb devote their free time to their canine companions as well as their favorite outdoor activities, which include gardening, cross-country skiing, scuba diving and snorkeling. When asked if the dogs accompany them on these adventures, Lamb giggles, “They don’t do much scuba diving.” “But they currently are in training,” jokes Demos. “They are Golden Retrievers, and they know how to swim; we just can’t get them to breathe through the apparatus.”
While these gorgeous Goldens enjoy the fruits of their owners’ success, they remain friendly and humble like their owners and do not stick their muzzles up in the air! Of course, this is due in part to their good upbringing and in part to them…well, being dogs! Demos had humble beginnings before he built his soy-based empire. After spending four years on-and-off in India, he came back in 1976 with plans to start a business that would further vegetarian based foods or vegetable-based protein. Demos told Animal Fair that he ultimately chose soy for its great environmental and human benefit.
“It is the most widely available complete protein outside of the animal kingdom. It’s life sustaining in the most fundamental way—that meat, fish, dairy and chicken are—but all of them are animal products. Soy is a basic protein that doesn’t seem to carry the carbohydrate load that other products or foods do. The bottom line that I chose soy—it can sustain life.”
Demos founded White Wave, Inc. shortly after a 76-day meditation retreat in California. He began by selling homemade tofu to his T’ai Chi Ch’uan class in Boulder. From there, Demos progressed to selling to local organic and natural food retail stores. Now, his Silk® soymilk is the national leading soymilk and his Chocolate Silk® is America’s favorite in the chocolate milk category. Demos disclosed that the secret to his success is making a healthier product that tastes great. Yet, surprisingly, Silk® soymilk contains less sugar than the average dairy product. Silk® products are made with 100% organic soybeans and organic sugar cane. Additionally, Silk® is the brand of choice in approximately 4,000 Starbucks locations in North America. Demos proudly states, “Our business has grown more than 30% every year for the past eight to ten years. In some years, we grew more than 100%.”
Recently, Steve Demos teamed up with Dean Foods, a $10 billion dollar food product company, and is now President of the soymilk and organic milk product lines of Dean, which is a $1 billion dollar division. He jokes, “I just took on the 100-pound gorilla on my back—or I should call it the billion pound gorilla.” After accepting this new role, Demos added, “I’ve been meditating ever since.”
Luckily, Demos has his furry friends to help him in this new endeavor. Demos says, “I think the dogs are in my life to make sure I stay grounded and connected to the things that are natural, basic and important. It’s really easy to get lost in the conceptual world and the dogs are great lighting rods to reality and practicality. They make sure that you face your human, sensitive side because that’s all they want to do. They don’t want to get into a cerebral debate with you.” Lamb adds, “I think they just bring great peace and joy.” And the dogs, especially Toby, are happy to give Demos a little puppy love in their own special way. “Toby still thinks he’s a puppy. So he has a tendency to crawl into your lap no matter where you are,” says Demos. Toby weighs a little more than 100 pounds, so his love is certainly felt!
With snow on the ground at the cabin from mid-September through May, Lamb and Demos frequently go cross-country skiing and Kachina and Toby go along with them. Lamb says, “They have little mutt lucks.” Demos adds, “We put shoes on them; if you don’t, they have to chew the ice balls out from between their toes, and they sort of loop around, so we put them in little booties.” But, the dogs don’t only enjoy walking in the snow, they like to eat the icy delicacy! “I think they consider that a seasonal water fountain,” says Demos. “It is their own personal snow cone.”
The Golden Retrievers receive their own stockings for the holidays and their own set of presents, although Demos and Lamb admit that they don’t wait until the holidays to reward their pets. “See, we didn’t consider that special…we consider it normal.”
Kachina and Toby truly lead a charmed life; one that most humans wish for—a caring family, homes with beautiful, natural surroundings and all the tofu they could ever want…life is good! In fact, Demos says, “If I ever come back other than myself, I want to be Sheryl’s dog.”