"There is lyme and talcum powder in some biscuits," she said, "and did you know that the sawdust that cattle stand in is considered a beef by product and may be in the food? Even the vitamin additives in this stuff can be a problem for some dogs. Every breed of dog comes from a different neck of the woods, with different dietary requirements, size differences, different muscle structures - it's difficult to say that the right vitamin dosage for every dog is in a food fed to all breeds."
Karen decided to experiment with some healthy, homemade biscuits for her beloved collies using all natural ingredients. She found that her dogs loved the results. Thinking that there were others pet owners who were also concerned about what they were feeding their dogs, she and partner Lori Adams decided to open a business of their own, baking the canine goodies in the basements of their homes. They started with biscuits but have expanded their selections to include muffins, scones, doggie pizzas, and even birthday and wedding cakes.
"Lori keeps me in line with accounting and that kind of stuff," Karen said, "but I do the experimenting with recipes. Every biscuit is entirely different, but we buy every ingredient at the grocery store and humans can eat every one of them. We use no preservatives, though, which can cause problems in shipping and storage to our retail locations. The biscuits are okay on the shelf, but most of our other products have to kept frozen until they're served to the dogs."
The products are named after pets that Karen and Lori have now or have loved in the past. An example, Karen said, is the Silly Millie Muffin, named after one of Karen's collies. To quote the Pooch 'n Pantry website, "Millie is one of our newest inspectors in our quality control department. To say she's silly is an understatement. So, we just had to come up with a loving treat that suits her personality. White flour, peanut butter and bananas baked in a heart shape. Sound silly? Silly or not, they're grrreat...just like Millie."
There are cat treats available as well, although Karen recommends that cat owners order an assortment at first to see what their cat will enjoy.
The Pooch 'n Purr Pantry has been in existence for four years. Karen said that they do attend dog shows, and will be at the E'town fair this year. All products can be viewed and purchased through their web site or order by phone.
"The business is really growing," Karen said. "Around the holidays especially, you wouldn't believe how much business we do. Our customers are big animal lovers, and want to do what's best for their pets. I think the pets appreciate it, I really do, and we're having a lot of fun doing this."
Karen has always made it a priority to look out for the health and welfare of her dogs, and has a special love for collies. She said she's had collies since she was a child, and currently has three of them, but can't help having a special place in her heart for Millie who was abused as a puppy. Karen adopted Millie through the collie rescue program and she serves as the inspiration for the Silly Millie muffin.
"Tom Lewis, from Mechanicsburg, runs a no kill collie rescue," she said. "When a shelter in the tri state area gets a pure bred collie come in, and they aren't able to place it, they call Tom and he will take the dog in to find a home. I got Mille when she was about 12-weeks-old. She and her mom and dad came to Tom from an animal cruelty charge. Tom really cares about these dogs, he is devoted to them and knows all of them by name. At any one time he may have 12 to 15 dogs waiting to be adopted. But people can't just come and take a dog; they go through an extensive adoption process. He's very careful about placing them where they will be happy."
Karen said, "Dogs from rescues seem to be so grateful for anything you do for them. But not just through those programs, there are so many dogs out there that need home, and someone to care about them. Each dog has a different personality, and they just become such a big part of your family. I can't imagine not having animals in my life. When I started making biscuits for my dogs, I wasn't thinking about having a business someday. I was thinking about another way to improve the quality of life for my dogs."
Contact the Pooch 'n Purr Pantry on the web at poochnpurrpantry.com, or by calling Karen Desio at 367-4428.