- Associated Press - Sunday, October 12, 2014

OCEOLA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - When Paula TenBrink became alarmed by recalls of pet products and concerned about what manufacturers were putting into her dog’s treats, she knew it begged for action.

So about three years ago, she decided to make the treats herself.

TenBrink created Paw-La’s Pantry and has been selling homemade cookies for dogs - think peanut butter or bacon - made in her Oceola Township home.

“I do a lot of research on dog foods and their ingredients - it gets kind of scary,” she said. “I don’t trust anything that’s imported from China.

“I couldn’t believe the number of dogs that were dying from eating this junk,” she added.

TenBrink sells her cookies at community farm markets and online. As the business expands, she hopes to get the cookies into local retail stores, the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus (https://bit.ly/1CP4a05 ) reported.

The cookies are gluten-free and made with natural ingredients such as brown rice flour, whole-grain oats, eggs and fruit. TenBrink also uses herbs and spices - turmeric, ginger and garlic, among others - known to offer certain health benefits.

“Everything from helping their breath to helping against cancer, and for bones and joints and teeth,” TenBrink said.

She has a very willing helper in Shebah, her 5-year-old Rottweiler and the company’s CTO - chief tasting officer.

“Rottweilers are very prone to bone cancer and hip problems and that sort of thing, so I wanted to start adding stuff to (Shebah’s) treats that would help her,” she said. “I don’t have children, so my dog is my kid. I’ll do anything I can to make her live as long as possible.”

All of the work - from mixing to baking to packaging - is done by hand in TenBrink’s kitchen. She estimates she goes through 50 pounds of rice flour a week, making upward of 100 pounds of cookies.

“Basically, everything in my kitchen cupboards is for dog treats,” she noted with a laugh. “There is more stuff in my cupboards for dog consumption than there is for human consumption.”

Because the cookies have no added preservatives, they are stored in a large freezer to keep them fresh until they are sold.

The peanut butter cookies are one of Paw-La’s Pantry’s most popular selections. TenBrink even forks them on top to make them look like ordinary peanut butter cookies.

“I had a customer who said she left them on the counter and her kids ate them,” she said. “People can eat them; there is no sugar, so they may be a little bland. I’m not going to say they are the best people cookies, but the dogs love them.”

A bacon cookie is another favorite of her four-legged customers. Made with dehydrated turkey bacon, the cookies are even delicately brushed with egg.

“It’s a labor of love, that’s for sure,” TenBrink said.

The cookies go for about $12 a pound.

Making the dog treats and marketing them is a full-time job for TenBrink, who worked as a manager in retail stores for many years until she experienced some health issues, including back surgery.

“I couldn’t go back to regular work, so I thought, ‘What can I do from home?’” she said. “I love dogs, so why not do something you are passionate about and work for yourself while you’re doing it?”

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Information from: Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, https://www.livingstondaily.com

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