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Boy Wonder, Wal-Mart team up to better feed man's best friend

by Chris Bahn | September 20, 2015 at 3:22 a.m.

Burt Ward will assure you he is just fine being known as the "Boy Wonder" nearly 50 years after he played Robin on the TV series Batman.

Ward has reprised the role for TV and film throughout the years. Reruns have helped make his portrayal of Robin popular with folks who weren't around for the first run.

Being Robin remains a pretty lucrative way to help pay the bills. When I recently spoke with Ward he was on his way to a convention, where he said he could earn "more than $25,000" for a weekend of signing autographs and chatting about starring alongside Adam West, TV's Batman.

But his passion -- the thing Burt Ward would really like you to think of when his name comes up -- is caring for dogs. Ward and his wife of 26 years, Tracy Posner-Ward, operate Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions in California, where he said they've fostered more than 15,000 dogs.

They've been caring mostly for large breed dogs the last 21 years, an endeavor that led them to the development of Gentle Giants Dog Food. Wal-Mart sells the food in a handful of stores, and Ward said the relationship will expand "in a very significant way in 2016."

Ward and I discussed the business of being Robin, how to turn a personal passion into a professional endeavor and the dog food he claims can, in some cases, triple a pet's life span.

Portions of our chat below have been edited for space.

What brought you to Arkansas?

I've been down twice in the last month or so and met with Wal-Mart and appeared on a 6-minute segment for [the supplier development company] 8th and Walton's Focus on Suppliers TV show. I'm absolutely thrilled with what we've been able to accomplish with Gentle Giants Dog Food. We have 24 dogs, right now, between the ages of 15 and 25 years of age. To have dogs, in these breeds, living in their 20s and running around like puppies, nobody else in the world, to my knowledge, has accomplished this. It's the food. If it sold in a pet store we could ask $85-$95 a bag. But we don't want only wealthy people to be able to buy it. I'm thrilled about what we've created and we're not doing it to make money.

Caring for all those dogs can't be cheap, so how ...

We feed 600 pounds of Gentle Giant a day. A day! That translates to 112 bags a week. I go out and sign autographs on a weekend and make a lot of money. My wife, look her up on Wikipedia. She was running companies in her 20s and her father [Victor Posner] was one of the most feared corporate raiders in the country. I'm not saying this in any way to brag, but I'm saying we could do anything we want in life. We choose to save animals.

Besides having other sources of income, what is the key to turning personal passion into professional success?

There's lots of good advice, but the main thing is to always strive for the best quality and the best purpose. When you do things for the right reasons, ultimately you get the best results. We don't cut corners, and everything we do is done with what's best for dogs in mind. There is no half way. And guess what? The cream rises to the top.

Robin appears on the bags of food. Was securing the likeness difficult?

I'll be starring in [a forthcoming] feature film for Warner Bros. [an animated Batman and Robin film]. Warner Bros. loves it. I have all the rights to do this, so a lot of people who have never heard of Gentle Giants before see Robin the Boy Wonder on the bag.

You're OK with still being the Boy Wonder?

Yes. I love meeting people. I love doing these shows. Half the time I answer questions about Batman and the other half about dogs. I often spend an hour or two longer than I'm paid explaining how to care for dogs.

Anything else?

Yes. My personal phone number is on the back of every bag. Who in their right mind would do that if they didn't believe in their product? You're talking about millions of bags. I do get some people calling up to talk to Robin, but most people are calling about their dogs.

SundayMonday Business on 09/20/2015

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