Karen Greenleaf-Smith honed her culinary talents catering parties for human friends. But, when one of those friends asked her to make food for a sick rescue dog, her cooking went in an entirely new direction. When people saw the Easter cookies Greenleaf-Smith later baked for that pup, she was inundated with so many requests for specialty dog treats that she decided to open a barkery.
Windham’s Gourmutt Beastro and Barkery was born. Out of the barkery, on the corner of Route 302 and White’s Bridge Road, Greenleaf-Smith sells a dizzying array of gourmet goodies for dogs – all made of human-grade ingredients with no preservatives, artificial ingredients or colors.
The bakery case holds dog-friendly donuts, cookies and frosted, precisely decorated pastries. The shelves contain cheese bites and peanut-butter bones, dehydrated sweet potatoes and Yappy Meals, a healthy faux hamburger, sweet potato fries and a rope toy.
Greenleaf-Smith lists all the ingredients in each product and says she is sensitive to the needs of dogs with dietary issues and food intolerances. She already sells gluten-free and dairy-free treats and plans by next winter to produce and sell a line of raw dog food – made from locally-produced organic meats and vegetables.
Greenleaf-Smith is cheerful and witty with an infectious smile. When she sits down and talks quietly with a visiting dog (she insists they come into the store), her passion is clear.
“Dogs are the canary in the coal mine. Our dogs are getting sick and I feel it’s because of what we’re feeding them. Not only is the food we’re feeding them unhealthy for them, but the human foods are unhealthy for them because they’re unhealthy for us,” she said.
So, she makes dog food out of human recipes tailored to meet canine nutritional needs. One such meal is braised pork with apples, sweet potatoes and ginger; this gluten-free dinner is gentle on sensitive digestive systems, while the ginger is soothing to those with gastric problems, she said. “If you add some mushrooms and onions, which dogs can’t have, it would be a human meal,” said Greenleaf-Smith.
“I’m an RN, so I understand the concept of food as medicine,” Greenleaf-Smith said. Born in Maine, she has lived in Philadelphia, Miami and New York and worked in surgical medicine, general medicine and with burn patients. She’s taught childbirth and infant nutrition. “Food is medicine, just like exercise is medicine. It was a very logical step to move from humans to dogs,” she said.
Greenleaf-Smith draws inspiration from dogs, because, she says, they deserve healthy, tasty products. “I love having them here, their personalities and hearing their stories,” she said.
A plate of free samples recently moved to a higher shelf – she laughs and says she learned the hard way that dogs have a penchant for shoplifting. Keeping samples out of reach also ensures dogs don’t eat treats their humans don’t want them to have, says Greenleaf-Smith.
For those dogs with dietary restrictions, Greenleaf-Smith works with veterinarians and nutritionists to develop custom foods. “I will charge no more than I do for the daily dog,” she said.
Her line of dog food will be made of fresh organic organ meats, such as heart and liver, along with organic vegetables. She also plans to sell bones from the same processing plant as a healthy chew.
“The days of us throwing stuff to the dog mindlessly while we take care of the family, I think those are gone,” she said.
Since Greenleaf-Smith is recovering from hand surgery, her staff, friends and her husband, Michael, are baking for her. “He’s actually an excellent cook and my dogs prefer his cooking to mine,” she says of Michael. Lakota, a 10 year-old Golden Retriever, and Scamper, a 3 year-old Lhasa, are Greenleaf-Smith’s dogs. Scamper, a picky eater, helps with recipe and product research and development along with some other canine friends.
“My dogs are my family and I will feed them like they are my family. My oldest daughter said, ‘I’m glad you had children before you had your dogs,’ and I said, ‘Kimberly, you have excellent instincts,’” she said, with a twinkling eye.
Find the Gourmutt Beastro and Barkery online at gourmuttbeastro.com or call 655-9663.