The year is going to the dogs, for real.
On Feb. 16, it's the Chinese New Year - the Year of The Dog. The obvious food story would be to write about all the fantastic places to eat lucky Chinese foods like noodles, dumplings and spring rolls, or more tongue-in-cheek, where to get a great hot dog.
But what about the dogs in our life? Don’t they deserve good food, too?
We met up with co-owner/president Jackie Lovern and co-owner/vice president John Griveas to learn the tale or Fetch!, which started in 2012 with Lovern’s rescue pup, Sargent Pepperoni. Lovern wanted to make sure he was getting the best food, and a vet suggested she make her own dog treats.
After finding recipes online, she tweaked them and changed some ingredients.
“Instead of using something like canola oil, I changed it to salmon oil that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is also good for dogs,” Lovern said. After trial and error, she came up with recipes and a process.
Lovern originally baked for family and friends, then started selling treats at farmers markets. The treats are now available at retailers in New York City, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey in addition to the storefront in the Eastern Hills Mall (just outside BonTon), select area retailers and online.
“Dogs are big parts of people’s lives,” Griveas said. “For many millennials, dogs are their kids and they take care of them like they are their children.”
For this reason, Fetch! dog treats are what Griveas calls “human grade,” meaning you or I could eat them, too. (Fetch! treats have been tested by Cornell for food safety.)
“We are all taking better care of ourselves,” said Griveas. “We want the same for our dogs.”
Fetch! treats are all-natural and made from locally sourced products when possible. Miller’s Bakery in Medina supplies oat flower and a local apiary provides honey. Griveas said they grind their own peanuts for peanut butter to avoid things like xylitol, a natural sweetener found in peanut butters that is problematic for dogs. Fetch! treats also don’t include things like wheat, fillers or by-products.
Treats do include lots of elbow grease. Lovern and Griveas grind peanuts, and use a mixer to mix the dough, which is then rolled out by hand with a good old-fashioned rolling pin. The entire process may take two to three days including baking then dehydration, which increases shelf life and adds texture.
Fetch! signature treats include Peanut Butter Goodness, Carob Chip Delight and Scrumptious Pumpkin, along with single wrapped treats like dipped peanut butter bones, the Buffalo Proud treat, seasonal treats (like Valentine’s hearts) and special hot dog treat for Ted’s Hot Dogs (99 cents each).
The idea for Ted's came after Lovern and Griveas visited a Shake Burger in Manhattan that offered a dog treat on the menu. Lovern (who works in the Ted’s main office) recommended to owner Thecly Ortolani that Ted’s offer dog treats.
“Jackie is a true dog lover, and thought it was a natural for Ted’s to offer a treat for our canine friends,” said Ortolani. “We love to see our customers bring their dogs to Ted’s patios, so why not offer a treat for the dogs to enjoy? Jackie came up with the hot dog shape that mimics the logo on the side of our foot truck.”
“When our office was behind Niagara Falls Boulevard store, I loved to see customers sitting at a picnic table under the trees enjoying the setting with their dog. We even put a ‘doggy doo’ bag dispenser back there to encourage customers to enjoy a meal with their best friend,” said Ortolani, who notes that as people learn about the treats, the sales have increased.
Fetch! may soon have more requests from restaurants as the trend grows. In late October 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a measure that now allows restaurants with patios to permit leashed dogs, joining states like California, Florida and Maryland. (Only service dogs are permitted indoors.)
To keep up with the increasing demand for Fetch!, Lovern and Griveas said they will cut down to four farmers markets (Orchard Park, Elmwood-Bidwell, Williamsville and South Buffalo) this summer in order keep treats stocked at people food locations like Tops, Dash’s Markets and Feel Rite.
That might also mean more work for Sargent Pepperoni, who is chairman and quality control manager.
Lovern has since added Sweetie (director of goodness) to the company. “But Sarge is still the king of the house,” said Lovern.
Find Fetch! at these human food places: Tops Markets, Dash’s Markets, Feel Rite Fresh Markets, East Aurora Cooperative Market, 42 North Brewing, Ted’s Hot Dogs (all locations), Country Peddlers Market, Orchard Fresh, Lexington Co-Op Market and Farmers & Artisans.
For a complete list of retailers, or to order online, visit FetchMeATreat.com. Visit them on Facebook FetchDogTreats and on Twitter @FetchDogTreats.