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Homemade dog treats business thriving

Posted: September 29, 2013 - 12:12am
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Bags of Ruby Snacks, natural dog treats, are ready for distribution Friday, Sept, 2013, in the kitchen of Fairbanks, Alaska, business owner Kristen Sullivan. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)  SAM HARREL
SAM HARREL
Bags of Ruby Snacks, natural dog treats, are ready for distribution Friday, Sept, 2013, in the kitchen of Fairbanks, Alaska, business owner Kristen Sullivan. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)

FAIRBANKS — Kristen Sullivan didn’t think homemade dog biscuits would take over her life when she made her first batch in 2009.

As she remembers it, she began experimenting with baking dog treats when it was 40 below outside her small cabin off Goldhill Road. She named the snacks after her dog Ruby, who later died when she was hit by a car. Early batches were based on ingredients Sullivan researched on the web.

“It’s just evolved into what it is because they’re really good,” Sullivan said. “People (at the farmers market) have always popped them in their mouth since the first day I started. Even if I had it marked for dogs.”

The snacks are intended for canine, not human consumption, but it’s not difficult to imagine why people get confused with flavors like sockeye parsley and blueberry mint.

Making the snacks from local ingredients including salmon, blueberry and barley increasingly has become Sullivan’s ambition. Today, she said the snacks are from 75 percent local ingredients. The remaining 25 percent, including peanut butter and flax seeds, would not be easy to find in Alaska, she said.

The biscuits still are made in a home kitchen, though on a larger scale. Sullivan and a friend can make more than 100 pounds of Ruby Snacks in 48 hours. Since 2011, it’s been a part-time commercial enterprise that’s grown with increasing wholesale orders from dog mushers and Fairbanks-area retail stores.

In August, Sullivan quit her day job at the Northern Environmental Center to work in the biscuit business full time. Her friend Torry Kitts, who came up from Austin, Texas, to help with the business, is hoping to launch a branch of the business next year in Texas.

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