SPRING HILL — "It smells so good, I could eat it."
Jodi Parresol hears that comment repeatedly as new customers step through the door at Dog Gone Healthy (& Cats Too!), a shop catering to the jaw-crunching delights of humans' best friends.
Behind the serving counter, Parresol bakes up all-natural pet treats and chews in a commercial-size kitchen, an outgrowth of the home-based endeavor she launched five years ago with sales at the weekly Hernando County Farmers Market.
She is celebrating her first anniversary in a bricks-and-mortar storefront in Kass Circle.
The welcoming aroma wafts from the natural human-grade ingredients that are baking, primarily beef, chicken, turkey and venison, along with her not-so-secret inclusion of special-effect herbs.
"There's nothing here," she gestures, "that you wouldn't put on your table. I treat this as I would a restaurant for humans."
In testament, Parresol, 43, said she's handed off sweet potato chews to her teething grandchildren. And her husband, Eric Parresol, snacks on the peanut butter-banana and chicken treats.
Her concern for the health of the couple's own three dogs, an arthritic Doberman and two rescued pit bulls, prompted her to do online research of the pet food industry.
"I learned a lot of things I wasn't happy with," she said with a grimace.
She followed with a course offered by Petcurean University, an all-natural pet food company in Canada, where the law requires human-grade ingredients.
"I spend more time researching than baking," Parresol said.
Her studies have led to a product line that ranges through snacks for freshening breath, repelling fleas and ticks, calming behavior, reducing inflammation and alleviating allergies, as well as for just plain tasty treating.
Parresol explained: Mint and parsley freshen breath as well as treat sour stomach causing bad breath. Brewer's yeast and garlic deter fleas and ticks. Ginger takes the edge off anxiety brought on by thunderstorms and fireworks. Turmeric reduces inflammation. An assortment of grain-free treats appeals to dogs with grain allergies.
Healthy chewing options include chicken jerky and the popular sweet potato slabs, which she bakes and dries in 150-pound batches.
Deer and elk antlers from Utah provide hard chomping with healthy mineral content: calcium, zinc, potassium and magnesium.
The bestseller is a chicken and peanut butter treat. Coming on strong is Parresol's new creation — apple and cheddar bites. Both are flavor combinations that appeal to customers' own taste buds, she figures.
For pure indulgence, Parresol has come up with three pet-tasty-yet-nourishing ice creams — peanut butter-banana, beef stew and chicken pot pie — often consumed practically on the spot, on the frontage of the restaurant next door.
As for ice cream and other canine and feline foods, the pet chef has tweaked a number of existing recipes while developing about half on her own, through trial and taste test.
Appealing to felines has proven the greatest challenge.
"Cats are so finicky," Parresol explained.
For instance, from one particular recipe, she cut two different shapes. Her test cats ate one shape, yet disdained the other.
Of 12 recipes Parresol has sampled, only one has survived feline tasting and consumer demand — a treat composed of dehydrated liver and gizzard.
Rounding out the shop's offering are some locally or USA-made pet toys, as well as climbing apparatus and scratching pads for cats, collars and leashes for dogs and pet-promoting T-shirts for humans.
Pets are welcome in the shop, but only on leashes. After all, pet edibles are within a hungry mouth's reach.
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.