Spokane Journal of Business

Dog Delicious: Cuisine for Canines

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Dog Delicious: Cuisine for Canines
-—Staff photo by Chey Scott
Lonny and Jeanne Kelp were inspired to start Dog Delicious because of health issues they saw in doggy day-care clients' pets.

A newly established Spokane business is producing its own line of dog food that's made with what the business's owners contend are human-quality ingredients.

Dog lovers and business owners Lonny and Jeanne Kelp opened Dog Delicious LLC, a canine-only deli and bakery located at 726 E. Sprague, at the beginning of this year. The Kelps also own Jeanne's Doggie Daycare & Pet Hotel, which is located next door at 720 E. Sprague, and a Spokane Valley outlet of the pet day care and boarding facility, at 17809 E. Appleway.

Lonny Kelp says all of the ingredients in the items on Dog Delicious' menu are free of preservatives, artificial flavors, and food colorings. The beef in the doggy restaurant's dishes is USDA certified, and Kelp says the business buys most of its ingredients from Inland Northwest ranchers and farmers.

"There's no sugar or spices in the food," Kelp says. "For years, we've been told that human food isn't good for dogs—and it's not—but the way we fix ours, it is."

He asserts that because the dishes and treats are made with high-quality ingredients, humans could eat the food that's sold at Dog Delicious.

"It's all healthy enough for people to eat—in some cases it might be healthier than some things humans eat—but it's really bland," Kelp says. "We have customers that come through all the time who might try one of the dishes."

Ingredients in the dog food that's prepared fresh daily at Dog Delicious include whole-wheat flour and pasta, brown rice, cheese, milk, eggs, olive oil, sweet potatoes, carrots, fresh fruit, and peanut butter, Kelp says.

Dog Delicious' menu includes the business's trademarked Paw-Burger, which is a beef patty enclosed inside a paw-print shaped pocket of whole-wheat bread. Kelp says that item is one of the most popular so far. One Paw-Burger sells for $2.25, and customers also have the option to buy three of the burgers for $5, he says.

With punned names that play off their canine clientele, other items at Dog Delicious include muttaroni-and-cheese and paw-sghetti, which both are made with paw- and bone-shaped whole-wheat pasta. Those two dishes, along with several others on the company's menu, are sold by the cup, and range in price from $1.80 for one cup to $5 for four cups.

Dog Delicious' menu also features biscuits and grrravy, pizza, chicken and rice, mutt-loaf, liver stew, and chicken noodle soup—all specially created for dogs.

Jeanne Kelp says the business recently started offering customers the option to purchase the doggy pasta dishes in the form of a Paw-Pocket, which is similar to Dog Delicious' Paw-Burger, but with the pasta in place of the beef patty.

Customers at the Kelp's Spokane Valley location of their doggy day care and pet boarding facility also can buy the frozen Paw-Pockets from a case freezer there, she adds.

The Kelps say customers at Dog Delicious also can order custom-made doggy birthday cakes and treats, such as a banana carrot cake with cream cheese frosting that can be decorated with a personalized message.

Lonny Kelp says the recommended feeding amount for a dog that's regularly eating Dog Delicious' food is 1 1/2 cups twice a day.

"We tell customers to start with that and see how the dog does, and so far everyone who has done that is seeing good results," he asserts.

The Kelps estimate that a customer who chooses to feed their dog only the food that's made and sold at Dog Delicious would spend between $20 and $30 a month more than the average cost of buying bags of high-quality dog food in kibble form. High-quality commercial food could cost around $85 for a 50-pound bag, the Kelps say.

They assert that in the long run, though, that extra monthly expense could result in lower veterinary care costs for a pet owner, because the fresh, chemical- and filler-free ingredients used in the company's dog foods are better for some dogs that have health problems or food-related allergies.

The Kelps' inspiration for Dog Delicious stemmed from the health issues they had seen in some of their boarding and day care facility client's pets.

The couple has operated its doggy day care business for about nine years, and Lonny Kelp says that a couple of years into their operation of the day care and boarding facility, they'd noticed that nearly half of their clients' dogs had some kind of allergy or health issue.

He says he and his wife were curious as to what could be causing some of those symptoms and conditions. He adds that many of their clients' pets required daily medication and regular veterinary checkups due to the animals' conditions.

About six years ago, Kelp says, his wife started her own research into the matter and stumbled upon information that confirmed their suspicions that some of the artificial ingredients and vitamins that are added to some commercial dog foods can cause adverse health symptoms in certain dogs.

"Many foods have preservatives that aren't good for dogs and artificial vitamins that contribute to medical problems that dogs can have," Kelp maintains.

As Jeanne Kelp continued her research into what's found in some dog food products, she also came across recipes and information on making homemade, fresh dog food.

Lonny Kelp contends that many of the dog owners who've started feeding their canines food from Dog Delicious have seen noticeable improvements in their dogs' overall health or weight.

He says the business has several customers who come in daily to purchase fresh food for their pets, as well as customers who purchase a week- or month-long supply of food, which can be frozen until needed.

Customers who order a long-term supply of Dog Delicious' food receive their order with the food packaged in portion-sized bags that's freshly prepared before being frozen. Kelp says the food typically is good for around five days after being thawed or bought fresh.

All of the business's products are cooked and baked in a rented commercial kitchen space in Spokane, and Kelp says he and his wife would like eventually to operate out of a space where the food could be prepared and sold at the same location.

Another goal is to open additional locations of Dog Delicious throughout the Inland Northwest, and the Kelps haven't ruled out creating a franchise model for the business.

Dog Delicious is located in a 1,000-square-foot leased space, and Kelp says that in addition to himself and Jeanne, the business employs five people. While the couple's dog day care and pet boarding facility is located next door to Dog Delicious, Lonny Kelp says the businesses are legally separate entities and don't share employees.

Jeanne's Doggie Daycare employs about 15 people combined at both of the business's locations, he says.

Jeanne Kelp says that each day, the day care watches between 35 and 55 dogs at each location, in addition to the pets that are being boarded there. All of the business's pet boarding spots—22 at the East Sprague location and 29 in Spokane Valley—usually fill up on weekends and around holidays, she adds.

Jeanne's Doggie Daycare also offers dog socialization and pet grooming services. The Kelps add that their pet boarding services include a separate cat boarding area.

Some of the Kelps' day care and boarding customers also feed their pets food from Dog Delicious, the couple says.

"We have them drop their dogs off, and we take the food over to the dogs and feed them the fresh food," says Lonny Kelp.

Most of the day care clients who don't use Dog Delicious' products feed their dogs before dropping their pet off, or after picking them up, Jeanne Kelp adds.

Boarding clients have the option of bringing a supply of food for their dogs, or having the business's employees feed their pets food from Dog Delicious.

Lonny Kelp estimates that since Dog Delicious opened in early January of this year, the business is averaging about 10 to 15 orders a day.

A website for Dog Delicious is in the works, and Kelp says customers will be able to place and pay for orders online.

He says Dog Delicious already has picked up a few out-of-town customers who place orders for long-term supplies of the food that's shipped to them.

Lonny and Jeanne Kelp have six canine companions of their own, including a St. Bernard, a pug, two dachshunds, and two Pekingese.

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