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Woman markets organic dog treats

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Sep. 18--MONTGOMERY -- Dogs, like humans, need to eat healthy foods, Cassie Arnold says.

That reality hit home for her when she was a teenager and the family dog was diagnosed with diabetes. The South Williamsport resident, who was raised in Montgomery, started looking at the ingredients in products being marketed for dogs. She discovered such things as animal byproducts, bone meal, preservatives, dyes and artificial flavoring.

They were things Arnold said she did not want to feed her dog. She no longer has to, at least when it comes to treats. In April, she launched Puppy Patch Bakery Inc. which makes organic gourmet dog treats and is about to expand into the same for cats.

The slogan: "Healthy From the First Bark."

Arnold, her father, George Heim Jr., and brother, George III, are involved in the business.

Artificial flavoring, chemicals and bone meal are absent from Puppy Patch products, said Arnold, who as vice president operates the company. Organic flour, eggs, cheese, apple juice and spring water are some of the ingredients.

"The only meal we use is cornmeal, and it is human grade," said Arnold, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Wilkes University. "If we won't eat it, we won't make it for your dogs."

Only a few businesses make organic dog treats, said Chris Richter, owner of Sam's Treats, which he started in Manchester, N.H., in April 2004.

"We're not out to take the Milk-Bone market away," he said.

The people who buy organic treats are likely to be those who are more into health food and consider their dog a member of the family, he said. Organic treats are more expensive than those that are mass-marketed, Richter said. For the most part, they are handmade, he said.

Sam's Treats can be found in 31 stores in New Hampshire, said Richter, who is looking at ways to get his products into Australia and Germany.

Organic is not something Milk-Bone customers have asked for, said Larry Baumann, a spokesman for the company. People have chosen Milk-Bone for their dogs based on its quality, he said.

Puppy Patch Bakery is an outgrowth of the self-service pet wash Heim opened in conjunction with a car wash in Montgomery.

"We wanted to vend cookies for the dogs that were being washed, but we were having difficulty finding treats in small packages," Arnold said.

"We knew a person [Jean Petney in Lititz] that had an organic cookie bakery, and we decided to buy her out and do it ourselves," Arnold said. "We bought all the equipment she had and brought it here. We reworked everything. We kept all of her original recipes, and we began to test some of our own."

Her dog was one of the test animals, she said.

All the treats could be eaten by humans, "but the dogs seem to like them better," Arnold said. "We have personally tasted each of the cookies we make."

That includes one that is being developed in the shape of a noodle and with beef broth.

She expects it will be on the market within a month.

"We wanted to go with organic meat broth so it was clean and healthy," she said.

Customer response to their new business has been surprising, Arnold said.

After fliers were sent to Petney's customers describing the products and new packaging, "the orders came flying in," she said. "We were shocked. We weren't expecting them to come in that quick."

Among the popular products are Nana Biscotti, Carob Chip Cookies, Pizza Bites and Peanut Butter Russells, Arnold said.

Puppy Patch Bakery, which is in the same building at 166 Broad St. that houses her father's Wind-Gap Knitwear Inc., is starting to develop cat treats, she said.

"The cats are a little harder because cats are very finicky," Arnold said.

"What one cat will eat, another cat won't touch."

Products under development are shrimp, chicken with catnip and the same beef noodle that will be available for dogs, she said.

Her next goal is to get products in supermarkets and pet stores, she said.


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