METHUEN — Steve and Maryellen Loeschner are planning a party to celebrate their baby’s first birthday. They’ve got invitations, party hats, balloons, treat bags for his friends and an awesome cake.
They expect little Zeke to be so excited that he’ll drool, run around the room and put his paws up on the table. They’re just hoping he doesn’t get too excited and wet the rug.
Zeke is a black Lab. For the past year, the Loeschners have run the Canine Snack Shack, a dog bakery and boutique, out of their Hampshire Street home, doing most of their business through Internet and telephone orders, but hope to open a storefront in the near future.
An accountant and security systems expert by day respectively, Maryellen and Steve spend their nights and weekends baking cookies, cakes, cannolis, brownies, campfire treats (a s’mores-like confection) and other delectable treats that look as good as any you’d see in the best bakeries in Boston. However, these desserts are strictly for the four-legged, Frisbee-chasing set.
The business was inspired by their other “baby,” Shadow, who they adopted from the MSPCA when he was 6 months old. A dog with an international palate, he loved to eat Chinese ribs with hot mustard, so Maryellen came up with her own recipe for a dog-friendly sweet-and-sour riblet treat.
“Shadow would just lay on the floor in the kitchen, drooling, while I baked,” Maryellen recalled. “He knew that if he was really good and patient, he’d get a treat.”
Shadow died in May 2004 at age 11, a very full and happy customer.
Zeke now has inherited the sweetest job a dog could hope for — head of research and development for the Canine Snack Shack. Zeke’s salary is paid in cookies, preferably the milk-and-honey variety, another of Maryellen’s original recipes.
“Everything is made from regular food: flour, honey, vanilla, peanut butter,” Maryellen said. “It’s everything you’d eat, but no sugar.”
The frosting that delicately adorns the tasty-looking, heart-shaped Valentine cookies, cupcakes, and birthday cakes is made from yogurt chips, melted down and loaded into a piping bag for decorating ease.
Chocolate contains theobromine, which in sufficient amounts is toxic to dogs, causing symptoms as minor as digestive trouble to as serious as death. The Loeschners avoid any toxicity problems, while at the same time providing their hungry customers with a near-chocolate experience by using carob, a legume often used as a chocolate substitute.
Carob chips can be found propped up on top of minicannoli. Melted carob and yogurt chips are sandwiched between cookies to make every dog’s favorite campfire treat, and they are even used to flavor birthday-cake frosting.
The most popular treats are the honey and cinnamon flavored “snicker paws,” brownies and peanut butter cookies.
“The dogs really love the ribs; it must be the garlic,” Steve said. “People are a little hesitant, because we sell them in Chinese takeout containers, but the dogs go crazy for them.”
Birthday cakes come in two sizes: the 4-inch feeds two to three dogs and costs $10, and the 8-inch will serve five to eight dogs for $20.
Cakes can also be included in birthday party packages that include invitations, hats, candles, party favors, balloons, placecards, and a scarf and gift for the birthday dog. Free delivery within a 15-mile radius will be offered soon.
In addition to the edible products, the Loeschners also carry a wide range of doggie spa products, such as organic shampoo, aromatherapy misters and candles, dog bowls, collars, jewelry, treat jars, black tie and bridal scarfs and anything else you never knew you needed, but just have to have, for your canine friend.
For more information, visit www.caninesnackshack.com.
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