Fed up with their commutes to work for a video and electronics rental firm in Washington, Sandy Johnston and a co-worker, Bonnie Broome, went looking for a better way to make a living. Now, they are working in their own kitchens -- baking dog biscuits.
And whether those biscuits are dog-shaped, pig-shaped, bone-shaped, or braided into a wreath, says Ms. Johnston, who lives in Bayberry, the biscuits will have your pooch panting for more.
She and Ms. Broome, of Largo, estimate they have sold 100 pounds of dog treats at craft fairs and flea markets since they set up shop in October.
They came up with the idea at work one day while complaining about a morning of particularly bad traffic.
"It was a real nasty commute that day," recalled Ms. Johnston, who had heard radio reports about people starting bakeries and restaurants for dogs. "She looked at me and said, 'I wonder if there's an easier way to do this.' I said, 'I think there is.' "
That night, Ms. Johnston dug out an old dog biscuit recipe and began mixing the whole wheat flour, powdered milk and flavoring.
When the first batch was finished, she gave some to her golden Labrador retriever, Shadow, who liked them.
Ms. Broome gave a sample to her pastor's greyhound, a dog she had been warned was picky and had never eaten any of the dog biscuits the family had bought.
"To this day, that's the only biscuit he'll eat," said Ms. Broome. "I think that's where our first batch went."
Those two aren't the only dogs that like the multigrain treats flavored with peanut butter, cheese and carob.
Ms. Broome said her black Labrador retriever lies next to the oven in her kitchen while the biscuits are baking.
"When the buzzer goes off, she starts barking and running around," she said.
A dog at one craft show, who had been tasting samples of the biscuits during the day, later "just came running over, and he had his front feet on the table like, where are they?" Ms. Johnston said.
Even birds and humans have taken to the flavor of the biscuits, she said.
"A woman at one of the flea markets said, 'You know, if you roll these things out a little thinner and put some mustard on them, they'd make a great cracker,' " Ms. Johnston said, adding that she might try it as an hors d'oeuvre at her Christmas party.
To get into the holiday spirit, the women have made braided wreaths out of the biscuit dough, then decorated them with colorful bows. They also have 12-inch Christmas trees and artificial wreaths adorned with tiny animal-shaped biscuits.
The most popular of the shapes, they say, is that of a 4-inch-high sitting dog with a twist tie around its neck.
All flavors of the packaged biscuits sell for $5 a pound.
The Christmas biscuits range in price from $4 for the smallest braided all-biscuit wreath to $32.50 for a 14 inch artificial wreath decorated with biscuits of various flavors.