Rover’s delight

Show your ‘best friend’ some love with tasty treats from the bakery.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:05 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Janet Montgomery bought a special chicken liver cake with peanut butter frosting for her 3-year-old. Yes, that’s right — a chicken liver cake. It may seem strange that a toddling child would enjoy such a pungent dessert, but perhaps it becomes less strange when the 3-year-old has four paws, a tail and a healthy coat of fur.

Buster, Montgomery’s 3-year-old who celebrated his birthday Aug. 9, is a lively Jack Russell terrier.

Such a unique culinary treat can be purchased at doggie bakeries, businesses that indulge both canine and owner.

“It’s more than just a bakery,” says Mark Beckloff, co-founder of Three Dog Bakery, based in Kansas City. “People come in with their dogs, and the dogs break the barriers between people and help them connect.”

Bakeries appeal to dog enthusiasts

The appeal of dog bakeries, Beckloff says, lies in the relationship between owners and their four-legged friends. Dog owners tend to appreciate the dependent relationship they establish with their dogs, which require attention and care. The dynamics of such a relationship can sometimes transform the person from owner to parent.

“I buy birthday cakes for my dogs because they’re like my children, and you celebrate your children’s birthdays,” Montgomery says. “I buy a cake for my daughter, too — just not from a dog bakery.”

Montgomery purchases her dog treats at The Doggie Empawrium at 1400 Forum Blvd. She says she enjoys the selection of health-conscious foods and the fresh-baked treats she can purchase to indulge Buster and Buster’s “sister” Crystal, a 10-year-old Siberian husky.

Meredith Schoonover, pet treat baker at the Empawrium, says there is a greater market for dog treats than there is for cat treats because many owners initially use them to train their dogs. After the dogs have been properly trained, many owners continue to buy treats as a special reward for their canine companions.

“Buying specialty treats is just a way to pay back your dog for its unconditional love,” Beckloff says.

Cats lack the bond that dogs provide owners

Schoonover says she thinks a special connection exists between the dog and dog owner that is distinctly different from what cats and cat owners experience. She attributes part of it to what dogs enjoy doing.

“Dog lovers do more with their dogs,” Schoonover says. “Dog owners can take their dogs to the store, they can take them to the park. It just gives them a distinct connection that you can’t find with cats and cat owners.”

Although cats and their owners are seen as more independent and coy, dogs and their owners tend to be more outgoing and like to throw events with other canines and friends.

“We sell birthday cakes for dogs,” Beckloff says. “You can throw birthday parties for dogs, round them up and a have a party. If you tried to throw a birthday party for a cat, it wouldn’t care.”

Bakery started to provide all-natural dog treats

Beckloff, with partner, Dan Dye, founded Three Dog Bakery. The two started baking treats out of their home in 1989. They decided to create their own treats because they didn’t like the amount of additives and processed ingredients found in commercial dog treats. Since then, the two have opened 22 stores across the country as well as in Japan and South Korea.

Like Three Dog Bakery, Doggie Empawrium uses all-natural, human-grade quality ingredients in its treats — making the treats completely safe for human consumption — although not necessarily appealing to the palate. Dog treats must contain little to no sodium, and the quantity of sugar must be closely monitored. Carob is used in place of chocolate in many cases because canines cannot properly digest cocoa butter.

Although their taste buds might differ from those of their clientele, dog-treat bakers, just as any other baker, must sample their products. Schoonover says she enjoys the On Golden Retriever Pond treats fresh out of the oven.

“It’s just like pumpkin bread,” she says. “It’s hard to resist when it comes out because it smells so good.”

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