Baking day is a lot like Christmas for Smokey.
The black Labrador mix is the official taste-tester for Cold Nose Bakery – her human mom's online café for doggy treats.
She's the stand-in for Amber Hazelwood's true costumers. And like the others, she doesn't pay: Their people pick up the tab.
Smokey gets to try out the apple muffins, the pumpkin chews, the bow-wow bones and the doggy doughnuts.
It's a big responsibility, taste-testing. After all, most of the Cold Nose clients have some sort of allergy. That, or they're just spoiled pups whose humans cater to their every whim, even in a bad economy.
Hazelwood, a paralegal by day, started making doggy treats about 15 years ago when she realized her sheltie — Shetland sheepdog — was allergic to "everything under the sun. She couldn't take wheat gluten."
The Brandon woman began converting her own baking recipes into doggy recipes for little Kansas, who loved them. Before long, her friends were requesting treats for their dogs with various allergies.
Even in tough financial times, there will always be people who either need specialty treats to reward their allergic dogs, or people who just love to give their dogs the best, Hazelwood said.
She recently created a website for her side home-based business, to get information out faster on what she has to offer and what the goodies cost. Her "What's Baking" corner lets clients know the latest treats available. Everything is sold by weight.
"Essentially, I take my own recipes and use them," minus all things bad for pups, Hazelwood said.
"People like to buy for holidays and special events and for dogs with allergies. I've run into gluten allergies, even protein allergies," Hazelwood said.
A friend of hers whose dog suffered from a protein allergy, had to buy prescribed food, and the dog got virtually no treats, she said.
Sheriff, Denise Overton's Doberman mix, loved Hazelwood's treats.
"For all his life, the only thing he could have was baby carrots. He absolutely loved Amber's treats, though. I actually even tried a couple, myself, and they weren't bad," Overton said.
Hazelwood also makes and sells sweet potato chews as an alternative to rawhide bones.
"I try to keep the products completely free of dyes and preservatives," she said.
Some have to be refrigerated, while others will last for several months if stored in air-tight containers.
Everything can be ordered online, but Hazelwood would eventually like a brick-and-mortar store.
"Ultimately, I'd like to open a doggy bistro," she said.
To learn more, visit www.coldnosebakery.com.