LEWISTON — Anne Tolman was just looking for a way to save money.

Her border collies, Frankie and Sadie, could demolish a box of dog biscuits every month. They could eat a supply of frozen ice cream-like treats in minutes. The biscuits and treats were expensive, but Tolman didn’t want to stop giving them.

“We were treat poor,” she said. “I looked online and said, ‘There’s got to be some way.'”

She found a recipe to replicate the frozen treats, then recipes to make dog biscuits. Determined to make the food healthy, she swapped oil for applesauce, used whole wheat flour and pureed her own fresh beef liver.

Frankie and Sadie loved them.

And soon, so did the dogs of neighbors. And the dogs of family members. And the dogs of co-workers. Tolman gave away the treats.

“Somewhere along the line someone said, ‘You should be selling these,'” she said.

Two years later, Tolman’s Doggie Delights sells the homemade, all-natural, preservative-free, bone-shaped dog biscuits in 10 flavors, including bacon, banana, liver, mint, peanut butter and veggie.

“Dogs are just like people. They have different taste palates,” she said.

An administrative assistant at the Central Maine Conditioning Clinic by day, Tolman bakes the biscuits at night and on weekends, pureeing real bacon for the bacon biscuits or mixing in organic mint and parsley for the mint treats.

She sells Doggie Delights most often at craft fairs and dog-related events for around $3 a for a bag of 20 or 30 , but she also sells online and has a dedicated clientele that regularly orders $20 worth at a time.

At least one customer’s dog refuses to eat any other brand of biscuits. So do Frankie and Sadie — as Tolman discovered when she found a box of name-brand biscuits in the back of the cupboard one day and tried to give them one.

But since Frankie and Sadie are the company’s official taste testers, their refusal to take any other treats isn’t a problem. They get to try new flavors and eat any misshapen biscuits from every Doggie Delights batch. Liver is their favorite.

“They have no complaints. None at all,” Tolman said.

Because the biscuits contain human-grade ingredients — like bananas, eggs and skim milk — they’re not just liked by dogs.

“My husband tried all of them except liver,” Tolman said.

Doggie Delights sells small and medium biscuits, and it’s planning a mini version. Tolman will make large and jumbo biscuits on request and will also alter her recipe if a dog has allergies or doesn’t like something in her mix. She doesn’t sell the frozen treats, but does sometimes give them away when she’s at an event.

What started off as a way to save money turned into a labor of love. Recently, it’s become something more.

Tolman’s husband died suddenly in early February. Doggie Delights has helped her fill some quiet hours.  

“This is what I love to do,” she said. “This is what I need to keep going.”

Tolman hopes Doggie Delights might one day grow large enough to become her primary job. Until then, she plans to keep baking one batch at a time.

“I think dogs need to have healthy stuff, too,” she said. “You read the back of the box of any treats and there are words you can’t pronounce. I don’t want to put that in my body. I don’t want to put it in theirs.”

Have an idea for a pet feature? Contact Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or e-mail her at [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.