When we think of people who use their professional skills to help animals, our minds conjure up images of veterinarians in white coats and dog trainers leading large packs, but the truth is, you don’t have to be in the animal industry to use your professional chops to help pets.
Greg Connally, a baker and pastry chef from Kansas City, Missouri, is proving that professionals in all industries can figure out a way to lend a hand to dogs in need.
A passionate pastry chef, he is used to serving up exquisite baked goods to human patrons at the Ameristar Casino and Hotel in Kansas City. Recently, after being inspired by his rescue dog Oliver, Connally has also been whipping up cookies that can be consumed by the dogs at Wayside Waifs, the animal rescue organization that brought Oliver into his life.
“It’s a way to show appreciation,” says Connally. “I really appreciate what they did with Oliver.”
Connally credits Wayside Waifs with not only saving four-year-old Oliver from a high-kill shelter, but also with rehabilitating the resource-guarding Basset Hound–Lab, and making him adoptable. “He was homeless and, they think, probably abused when he came to them,” explains Connally.
“They really took faith in Oliver and saw potential in him,” says the pastry chef, who was particularly impressed with the work of a trainer who spent several days inside a kennel with the then-adolescent dog, teaching him to trust humans. “They worked with him to make him more social. I think he was there at Wayside Waifs for about six months.”
After substantial rehabilitation, Oliver was able to move to a foster home, where he he lived with two women who continued to work to improve his behavior. As Oliver was improving in foster care, Connally, his partner Steve, and their Dachshund, Chloe, were mourning a death in their family.
“We lost one of our dogs, an older dog,” says Connally. They eventually began looking at adoptable pets on the Wayside Waifs website. When he saw a video of Oliver playing with a ball, he wanted to meet the adorable dog. “He pretty much stole my heart as soon as I saw the video.”
Soon after seeing the video, Connally and his partner set up a meet-and-greet with Oliver, who they had been warned favored women over men. “Right away, I called him and he came right up to me,” says Connally. “We introduced him and Chloe, and they got along great.”
Oliver seemed to be the perfect fit for their family, but Connally knew the adorable dog had special challenges. “He definitely had some resource guarding tendencies, so we read up about it.”
Confident they could help Oliver with his resource guarding, Connally and his partner completed Oliver’s adoption and brought the formerly homeless dog into his forever home. Wayside Waif wayside recommended a dog behaviorist, who made a visit and recommended a few tips for getting Oliver socialized with other dogs.
Although Connally and his partner had both studied resource guarding, some of Oliver’s behaviors were especially hard to deal with.
“It was a challenge at first,” explains Connally. “He wanted to resource guard the couch. He didn’t want anyone else on the couch, and of course that wasn’t going to work for us.”
Recognizing that Oliver is a rescue dog with difficult past helped Connally to understand why the dog’s urge to guard resources was so strong.
“I think when he was homeless and on the street, he really had to protect whatever food he had or whatever shelter he had.” The couple worked patiently to help Oliver learn to trust and to share the couch with the rest of his family. “He’s a special guy, and we’re glad we got him.”
Near the end of 2014, Connally realized that his skills as a baker were one way he could give back to the organization that gave Oliver not only a second chance, but also the rehabilitation he needed to be able to live with a family. Connally tested a recipe for cookies that can be eaten by humans and dogs, and then he got busy.
Using the commercial kitchen at work, Connally whipped up dozens and dozens of the paw-shaped treats, along with a gingerbread house for the holiday season. Connally made so many cookies, his coworkers had to help him bring the treats to Wayside Waifs.
The cookies are made with dog-safe ingredients such as peanut butter and banana, and they were a big hit with both the staff and the shelter residents. Connally says the eggs in the cookies are good for dog’s coats, while the oats can be good for their skin. Oliver, who has now been with his forever family for more than a year, is a big fan of the cookies.
This special treat made in the honor of a very special dog proves that we all have talents to tap if we wish to give back to shelter animals — and to the humans who care for them in their time of need.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.