Paws-itively Awesome Canine Companies Run By People with Disabilities
In honor of National Dog Day, celebrated annually on August 26th, AmeriDisability is spotlighting dog treat businesses run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Dog lovers around the world are ready to fill your social media feeds with the cutest puppy pictures. That’s because National Dog Day is celebrated each year on August 26th. This happy hound holiday honors all dogs (mixed breed and pure), promotes the importance of animal rescues and the many important roles that dogs have to impact the human race – i.e. personal protection, law enforcement assistance, disability service and health companions, to name a few.
AmeriDisability is pleased to spotlight the following five dog-centric businesses that happen to be owned and/or operated by persons with varying disabilities.
1. Doggy Delights by Allison
The kitchen wasn’t always Allison Fogerty’s favorite place to be; nor was food consumption an enjoyable pastime. Allison was born with Down syndrome and Tracheoesophogeal Fistula, a rare condition resulting in an abnormal connection between the esophagus and trachea (windpipe), which required her to have a trach tube to breathe. As a tween, Allison was also diagnosed with a laryngeal cleft, an abnormal opening between the larynx and the esophagus through which food and liquid can pass through the larynx into the lungs; thus Allison relied on a gastrostomy tube (G-tube), a surgically placed device that grants direct access to one’s stomach for feeding. Several surgeries later, Allison’s health has improved; and the health of animals has become her top priority.
Inspired by her complicated food journey, Allison uniquely understands the importance of healthy nutrition for both people and their pets. Now her kitchen, aka the home-base of Doggie Delights by Allison, is her happy place where she whips up treats using all-natural ingredients. And the company motto says it all: “Your Best Friend Deserves the Best Treats!” Doggie Delights' products are sold frozen or freeze dried to eliminate the need for preservatives. Allison sells these homemade bites at farmers markets in her hometown of Clermont (just west of Orlando, Florida), and also ships to any location via website orders.
Plus, this young female entrepreneur isn’t shy about making connections with fellow Fido owners in high places. Just recently, Allison received a letter from President Joe Biden thanking her for sending treats to his dogs, Major and Champ!
2. Waggies by Maggie & Friends
In 2007, Leigh Corrigan and Mary Ann Nolan of Wilmington, Delaware recognized that employment opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities, including their daughters Elizabeth and Maggie, weren’t plentiful in their area. So they cooked up a doggone solution by launching Waggies by Maggie & Friends, a nonprofit dog treat company with a mission to employ persons with disabilities. With direction of an advisory board, Waggies operates with about a dozen bakers who tackle equipment prep, ingredient measuring, additional baking steps, product labeling, kitchen restocking and miscellaneous business-oriented tasks.
The result: Waggies produces vet-approved treats without preservatives. Flavor varieties like peanut butter, chicken and sweet potato are available in both bone-shaped biscuits and "WaggieBits" kibble. These pup-approved goodies are available for purchase at about 45 retail locations throughout Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania; plus treats, clothing and gift items are sold through Waggies online shop.
3. Gracie’s Doggie Delights
Gracie Jagler of Watertown, Wisconsin launched her company, Gracie’s Doggie Delights, in 2016. Gracie, who has Down syndrome, was just 19 years old when her career took off. The key to her almost immediate success was tapping into her passion: her love of dogs. Serving as treat testers, Gracie’s three rescue schnauzers playfully participate in operations at Gracie’s Doggie Delights, which has become a collaborative business venture for the whole family -- with Gracie at the helm, of course.
Because Gracie’s Doggie Delights are simply made – using just one ingredient (freeze dried USDA inspected meat) – the company’s products have been praised by veterinarians. For example, Dr. Amy Hudson of Johnson Creek Veterinary Care proclaims, “I choose Gracie’s treats because of the natural, limited and high-quality ingredients. I particularly love the benefits of organ meat, such as liver and hearts, for the health of my patients. Gracie's Doggie Delights makes it fun and easy to give your pet a power-packed, high nutrition treat that your dog will thank you for.” Similarly, Dr. Debbie Reynolds of Veterinary Home Health Care shares, “Our patients love Gracie’s treats and we love providing them with a high-quality product with no fillers or artificial ingredients. With so many pets suffering from food allergies and sensitivities, knowing there is only one ingredient in each treat reassures our clients that their pet can enjoy Gracie’s treats with no ill-effects.”
Mutt owners on the hunt for healthy treats can explore Gracie’s diverse online selection of pet snacks, such as Beef Liver Delights, Chicken Heart Delight, Turkey Gizzard Delights, Cheese Curd Delights and many others. And Gracie’s offers pet shampoo, collapsible water bowls, paw balm and more.
4. arcBARKS Dog Treat Company
The Arc of Greensboro is a nonprofit committed to identifying and securing life-long opportunities for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of Arc’s most successful endeavors launched in 2011, when parent Pat Clapp, whose son David has Down syndrome, established arcBARKS Dog Treat Company with the help of Ruth Edwards, who then served as Executive Director of The Arc of Greensboro. arcBARKS specifically aims to provide vocational training for individuals with disabilities.
arcBARKS claims their treats are infused with an extra “special” ingredient that really makes a dog’s tail wag: love! Peanut butter and pumpkin are the stand-out ingredients in arcBARKS’ products, which are sold via an online store, in addition to tons of retail locations nationwide. For hefty, hungry hounds, opt for the Big Bone, a large 8x3.5 treat handmade with flour, oats, freshly ground peanut butter, oil and water (oh, and a heaping of that love we noted). Also, arcBARKS now offers convenient monthly subscription boxes, which includes two to four packages of treats, a dog bandana and early access to new products. If you’re not a pet owner but still want to support the work of arcBARKS, monetary donations are accepted.
5. Purely Patrick
Born prematurely, Patrick Lewis has cerebral palsy and is blind. Yet, he has a clear vision for his company, Purely Patrick. Patrick specializes in homemade gourmet goods, which he prepares using assistive technology. “I use a pouring device that is activated by a switch that I control,” he says; adding, “I have the help of my mother and two job coaches to ensure the measurements of my products are correct.”
Purely Patrick sells at craft fairs and farmers markets in Vermont, in addition to online. His dog treat creation lets home bakers sink their paws (whoops, we mean hands) into the baking process. The dry dog treat ingredients (either wheat or rice-based) come stacked in a bottle, along with a cookie cutter. Purely Patrick also prepares specialty bird seed, as well as people food including an array of soups, cookies and breads.
Kudos to these pooch-perfect businesses! AmeriDisability wishes all dog lovers a special tail-wagging National Dog Day.
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Feature image credit: arcBARKS