A Canyon Country couple’s canine culinary acuity has created a company.
The new venture, Pet Me Happy Treats, is a labor of love for the husband-and-wife team of Stephen K. and Nadine Peeples.
Their first product, available online and at local pet shops, is Artisan Dog Treats with Oregon Blueberries.
“I saw a news report that Americans spend $64 billion a year on their pets,” he said. “That got my attention. While music and journalism were my passions for more than 40 years, animals were my first passion from the time I was a toddler. So in a way, I’m circling back.”
Retired after a 40-year career in journalism and the music business, including several years with The Signal, Stephen K. Peeples was looking for a new opportunity.
As health conscious dog lovers, he and his wife were alarmed by some of the ingredients they found in commercial pet treats, and decided to create something better.
Starting in the summer of 2015 in their Canyon Country kitchen, they started downloading and tweaking all-natural recipes for dog treats.
“We started with peanut butter, but it was a mess production-wise,” he said. Then the baker they work with suggested blueberries.
“Artisan Dog Treats contain real Oregon blueberries, which are loaded with antioxidants and immunity-boosting Vitamin C,” and have the same health benefits for dogs as they do for people, Peeples said.
He noted that the treats have all natural ingredients, contain no wheat, corn, soy (which can be inflammatory), no chemical additives, artificial preservatives, or by-products, and are artisan-baked in Los Angeles County.
“They’re not frozen or freeze-dried, and Oregon blueberries are known to be fatter and sweeter than those from other places.”
Each cookie-shaped treat is about one inch in diameter and a quarter-inch thick with a crunchy texture to promote strong teeth and gums.
Since focus groups don’t work with dogs, the Peepleses found another way to market test the product.
They tested the treats with friends’ dogs, neighbors’ dogs, and at dog-training sessions.
“In the pet business, the term for when a treat is a hit is that ‘it feeds well,’” Peeples said. “That means that when dogs are presented with the treats, 95 percent gobble them up and the other 5 percent circle around them first, then eat them.”
The next step was to follow up with dogs’ humans, to make sure the treats caused no digestive repercussions. The verdict, Peeples said: “No farts, no digestive issues.”
The treats have also won the approval of Lennon, Pet Me Happy’s official mascot.
A corgi-chihuahua-terrier blend with some other breeds also likely in the mix, Lennon is a rescue dog the couple adopted last Oct. 9, the 76th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth.
Proponents of pet adoption, they found Lennon at the 16th Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair at Hart Park.
They encourage anyone considering adoption to consider stopping by one of the county’s six animal shelters, because “those animals are the closest to the end.” The nearest shelter is on Charlie Canyon Road in Castaic.
Pet Me Happy’s blueberry-flavored treats (soon to be joined by a cranberry version) are available online and locally at Canyon Pet Center on Soledad Canyon Road, Happy Pets Veterinary Center on Newhall Ranch Road, and Shelter Hope Pet Shop at Valencia Town Center.
Shelter Hope will host a product-launching ribbon-cutting ceremony with the SCV Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, July 11 at 5:30 p.m.
“The entire industry is starting to move in this direction,” toward healthier pet snacks, Peeples said. “As a small mom-and-pop operation, I think we’re a bit ahead of the curve,” noting that industry giants are launching divisions featuring natural products.
Would the Peepleses entertain an offer from one of those industry giants, should it come along? “If that were to happen, we’d certainly take a close look,” Stephen K. Peeples said. “My mama didn’t raise a fool.”