No Bones About It: This Dog Treat Program is a Hit
It’s official. The SAILOR (Social Academic Independent Living Occupation Recreation) program at Hendrick Hudson High School has gone to the dogs.
For the second year in a row, students enrolled in the district's program for students with special needs have operated a homemade dog treat business. Since its launch in the fall of 2018, SAILOR students have baked, packaged, sold and distributed thousands of treats to school district staff.
According to SAILOR teacher Christina Feal, sales have doubled each year and show no sign of slowing down.
The original idea for the business was simple enough. The students planned to sell their homemade, seasonally- and holiday-themed treats to district staff four times per school year. But running an actual business is not simple at all, demanding a wide range of skills, both social and academic. The SAILOR students have proven they’ve got what it takes.
The students named the business “Dogs Can Just Enjoy,” and they handle every aspect of operations, from researching recipes, purchasing ingredients and baking the treats to processing orders, managing inventory and coordinating deliveries.
“When we first started discussing the idea of creating a business, the class considered what they could manage that wouldn’t interfere with school,” said Feal. “The goal was to come up with something that was sustainable and expandable.”
The treats have a simple ingredient list: pumpkin, eggs, flour, peanut butter, cinnamon and salt, and, so far, feedback has been extremely positive. High school science teacher Alan Zollner said his Bichon/Lhasa Apso mix Peppy “just loves the SAILOR treats.” Communications Specialist Karen Hoffman said her Bassett mix Bruno “literally inhaled his first bag.” And Administrative Assistant Diane Tandy’s Australian Shepherd Maggie and Pit Bull Tuck “absolutely love them. Whenever I come into the house with these treats, they automatically sit down and put up their paws!”
Feal’s said her dog Ramona, who works alongside her as the program’s therapy dog, couldn’t agree more. Ramona provided the inspiration for the business, and she continues to serve as the students’ most enthusiastic taste tester.
For now, the treats are offered around Halloween, the winter holidays, Valentines Day and in the spring. The students advertise upcoming sales via email and flyers and process orders using Google Forms. Revenue goes back into the business for inventory and also funds community-based experiences for the students.
Everyone in the SAILOR program is involved in the enterprise in some manner. Jolie said that her favorite part of the process is making and baking the treats, as well as bagging and delivering them. Her classmate Emma said she liked rolling out the dough and cutting it into shapes, such as bones and pumpkins for Halloween.
Feal believes that the business is helping her students make important strides, both inside and outside of the classroom. “Tasks such as counting out treats for each package help with math skills, and interacting with customers strengthens social skills,” she explained. “The business gives them a sense of pride and independence, as well as a meaningful way to give back to their school community.”
It seems clear that when they came up with their idea for a sustainable business with growth potential, Hendrick Hudson’s SAILOR students were barking up the right tree.