Obituary: Retired exec David Middlesworth, 75, founded vegetarian pet food business

08/01/2014 4:55 PM

08/04/2014 5:54 PM

David Middlesworth, a retired corporate executive and dedicated vegan who founded a vegetarian dog food company, died July 29 while hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana. He was 75.

The cause of death was unclear. According to the Missoulian newspaper, park officials said he suffered cardiac arrest and did not respond to CPR or a defibrillator. His wife, Linda said he had no heart problems and that he lost consciousness from a combination of low blood pressure and being at high altitude. No autopsy was done, she said.

Healthy and athletic, Mr. Middlesworth adopted a vegan lifestyle 25 years ago “because he did not believe in harm to any beings – human or nonhuman animals,” his wife said. He was inspired by “Animal Liberation,” a book by Peter Singer that argues that the welfare of animals should be respected because they can feel suffering.

Retired after almost 30 years at Xerox Corp., he distributed vegetarian dog food for a British manufacturer before starting his own business, V-dog, in 2005. Headquartered in Sacramento, the company sells plant-based kibble and breath bones mostly online at v-dog.com. The operation has six employees and four warehouses with meat-free dog food made at plants in Sacramento and Memphis, his wife said.

“He was passionate about animal-free and cruelty-free food,” she said.

Mr. Middlesworth was widely known in the humane community. Besides serving as a board member and past chairman of Red Rover, a Sacramento-based animal protection group, he was a strong supporter of Animal Place in Grass Valley, Farm Sanctuary in Orland and Born Free USA.

As a leader at Red Rover, he had “a corporate background that was very helpful for nonprofits” and was “very focused on the mission,” board member Don Garlit said. He was active in meetings among coalitions of California animal welfare groups to discuss legislation and campaign strategies.

“He was a very strong force in the whole Sacramento region and really beyond,” said Animal Place executive director Kim Sturla. “On top of that, he was just one hell of a super, super nice guy.”

Born in 1938 in Boulder, Colo., Mr. Middlesworth moved to California with his family as a toddler and grew up in Alameda. He earned a business degree at San Jose State University and spent two years in Vienna as a Fulbright scholar while earning a doctorate in German and Russian history from Ohio State University, his wife said.

“He was going to be a professor, and he was a professor at San Jose State for a brief period,” she said. “But we had three kids and there were no jobs, so he gave that up and went to Xerox.”

Mr. Middlesworth moved his family from San Jose to Meadow Vista in Placer County in 1974. He commuted to work in Sacramento as executive accounts manager for contracts with the state government and retired from Xerox in 2001.

He was an active member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit group that advocates plant-based nutrition, preventive medicine and alternatives to animal research.

Besides playing tennis three times a week, he lifted weights, ran and rode a bicycle regularly. He enjoyed hiking and was an avid snow-skier. He lived with his wife and two rescued pit bulls in Sacramento.

In addition to his wife of 51 years, he is survived by a daughter, Tory Schwab; two sons, Darren and Colin; a sister, Myrna Doan; and five grandchildren.

Services are pending.

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