wOrdless wednesday

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 19

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'VE BEEN EXPERIMENTING with new flavors and "finishes" for my treats. I needed a different flavor to dip into the yogurt so I found a basic banana treat recipe but it had some ingredients I wasn't crazy about. I made some changes and Gracie loved it. I'd ordered some yogurt icing mix from an online company that queried "Are you tired of melting yogurt chips?" I couldn't say yes, since I'd never melted any but this promised, "Just add water- One pound will coat 200 treats." That sounded good, costwise but must have done something wrong because that one pound only covered about 90 treats, so I'm going to try yogurt chips... or Nestle's white chips. I called them and they explained their white chips aren't white chocolate. Speaking of chocolate- the drizzle is carob. Gracie thinks it's chocolate. and I'm not telling her any different. I think they look good though. Sold out of the ten trial packages (of five each) that I took to the market.

The Dog Days of Summer...already?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Here in western Washington, everyone knows not to expect summer weather until after the (usually rainy or overcast) fourth of July.
It has been beyond bizarre this year. Our June was our August. Incredible. We came within six minutes of breaking the most-consecutive-days-without-rain record (30 days) - and a light sprinkle shot us down. Veggies are shooting up and the people are flocking to our local Farmer's Market...and to my everlasting gratitude, they bring their dogs. I set out big bowls of water at my booth and have to replenish frequently. Lots of thirsty pups.
However, some folks are not sure our market welcomes dogs. My greeting to each passerby is "Do you have a dog at home? Can I send you home with a doggie bag of our samples?" After a couple of replies of "Our dog is in the car" I encouraged them to "PLEASE go get him! We LOVE dogs here"
(I had to fight the urge to smack 'em upside the head) It's common sense, people! You wouldn't leave a pint of Chunky Monkey in the car for 5 minutes and here you are strolling through the market for an hour with Sparky locked in your SUV oven? "Windows are down" my aunt fanny. Go get that dog NOW!

On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a shaded car is 90 degrees, while the inside of a car parked in the sun can reach 160 degrees in minutes. Animals can succumb to heatstroke in just 15 minutes.

That first Saturday I loaned all the leashes (including our late Howie's treasured Mariners leash) that I use in a display for my Dog Duty Pouch- (yep, it's just what you think it is -but that's a whole other blog). So Monday morning I called my favorite vet's office and asked if I could buy some of the loaner leashes that they have on hand and when I told them why I wanted them they were so supportive. (We LOVE Fidalgo Animal Medical Center!) I made a sign to hang on the booth post and hung the rainbow colored leashes right on the sign so folks would know they were there & easily accessible. I'm happy to say people are taking advantage of the offer and actually returning them. They were inexpensive so losing them wouldn't be so bad.

Moving On...2008

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Probably the best part of BCDT has been meeting the all the different dogs and their owners.
So many different personalities..and that includes the owners too.

Early on, I started taking pictures of the dogs that came to sample our treats. The first was Sadie, of course, with her nose in the sample bowl. The photos were just too cute to not share so I came up with a way to display them at my Farmer's Market booth every week. I mounted them on a yard wide acrylic dog-bone shaped place mat that I'd run across. Thankfully I bought lots of them because by now we have three tiers of pictures. I've had to rotate in new pictures because not a week goes by without some photo op presenting itself. What started as a way to share some great pictures has actually become a focal point for my booth. Dog lovers or not, everyone who comes close to my booth stops to look at the gallery of "Satisfied Customers". The reactions are always the same: chuckles, laughs, guffaws... all kinds of happy noises especially when someone recognizes their own dog.
I love it.


and there's always someone who has to test the "all human grade" ingredients for the entertainment of his friends.This young man was a Chinese exchange student and spoke very little english but he got the point across. He just grabbed a biscuit, popped it between his teeth and gave it the double thumbs up. Perfect Photo Op!


The only thing predictable about life is the unpredictability...

................................On May 27, 2007, after a six week battle , we lost Pat to pneumonia and life will never be the same. After 42 years together we changed to me. People keep telling me the sorrow never goes away but does become easier to live with. I believe the first part.

We laid his ashes on the waters he loved. Like those waters, Time moves on whether you're ready or not. You just keep moving with it. No choices there.

My favorite picture of Pat and Gracie shows them working hard at the Oak Harbor Public Market.

Got through the early days with the help of my best friend, Barbara, who put her life and family on hold and flew up from New Orleans to stay with me for a month. Her TLC got me through those first foggy days. She was my angel.

Local dogs went without our treats until August when I went back to the Farmer's Market. Not easily done. Small town and Pat grew up here. He knew everybody, so I got lots of hugs from market goers for many weeks to come. Sometime it hurt. Sometime it helped. Get busy and stay busy was the best advice I heard... so I did.

Pat's Memorial Rock at Cap Sante Boat Haven
There is a quotation by Mark Twain at the bottom of the plaque that reads:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."

In The Beginning...2006

I have to start this blog somewhere so I'm turning the clock back to 2006 when Pat and I got the idea to start our business. Starting as of today would leave too many holes in our story and events would have no point of reference. So, we jump into the WayBack Machine...

Blue Collar Dog Treats, L.L.C. started with GRACIE, our Red Heeler.

I'd been reading about the questionable ingredients in manufactured dog treats and decided it would be healthier for her if I baked treats myself. After researching & tweaking recipes I hit on a recipe she was wild about. I made a batch for 2005 Christmas gifts for friends with dogs. Then came the phone calls with requests for more, more, more. My husband Pat and I talked about it - maybe we had something here. Maybe we could start a dog treat business. We agreed we just couldn't do the currently popular "gourmet dog treats" thing. Just too foo-foo for the dogs we knew. "What's the opposite of gourmet dog treats?" I asked him. He didn't miss a beat. "Blue Collar Dog Treats" he answered and that was that.

By May I had fine-tuned my recipe, developed a production system, copyrighted my packaging,

and I was ready for the Anacortes Farmer's Market.

Sales were S-L-O-W.
Folks loved the colorful booth and raved about the clever packaging (blush) but they weren't quite sure why they should even consider buying these particular treats when they could buy a 10 lb bag of treats at Costco or WalMart for a couple of bucks and then...

...they saw the dogs
Sadie was the first. She showed everyone just how good these treats are and we realized they could actually sell themselves. Giving out samples did the trick. We frequently heard " My dog is too picky" or "He doesn't like dog treats". We 'd offer the dog a treat right on the spot and more often than not the dog wolfed it down and wanted another, please. Some dogs were distracted by the riot of dog, people and food smells at the market so we sent them home with a little doggy bag of our samples. At the next market, we'd see those owners again, saying their dogs had polished off the samples and they were there to get more. (2009 Note: Since May of 2006, we've handed out thousands of samples and let the treats sell themselves.)

When our grandson Mitchell joined me at the Saturday market he proved to be quite a salesman. Customers frequently commented on his knowledge of the products and ingredients. For only being ten years old, he showed amazing poise working with the public.

We soon added the Oak Harbor Public Market to our schedule and were invited to various Gift and Holiday Shows.

Everything was looking good but things were about to change in a way we could never have imagined.