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Petaluma girls’ canine bake sale benefits local animal shelter

Using cookie cutters shaped like Scottish terriers and dog bones, two Petaluma schoolgirls are earning money – and praise – while making treats for local dogs.

Lifelong friends and animal lovers Priya Leach and Emerson Lenz started baking wholesome dog biscuits a few weeks ago, so far earning $200 for North Bay Animal Services, a nonprofit Petaluma animal shelter. The biscuits feature whole wheat flour and peanut butter.

“Dogs really love them,” said Emerson, an Old Adobe School second grader who just turned 8. When people receive their orders, “They say ‘thank you’ and ‘you are really helping us and our dogs.’ ”

Priya, a first grader at McKinley School, said it’s “been fun and kind of hard” keeping up with their orders. The girls, under the guidance of Priya’s mom, Soha Leach, measure, mix, roll, cut and bake dough to create the biscuits, then package them, 10 per plastic baggie.

The girls have a suggested price of $5 per package, including delivery within the Petaluma area. They’ve announced their enterprise on a handmade poster board sign and on social media posts, where happy customers share that their dogs love the tasty treats.

Priya and Emerson live in the same neighborhood and have been friends “since before they even could talk,” said Soha Leach. “They just love animals and wanted to help in some way.”

After nearly a year of distance learning and the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, the fundraising effort “is more of an opportunity for the girls to be doing something useful,” she said. “It’s been a hit.”

Both girls have baking experience, each with their mothers and older sisters. Priya’s sisters are 10 and 13 and Emerson’s sister is 13.

Working together in the kitchen, and then counting, packing and delivering their biscuits has been fun and rewarding for the friends.

“The best part is probably that I get to spend time with my mom and friend and we get to donate to the dog shelter,” Priya said. Her family has a French bulldog named Zeus; Emerson’s family has a mixed breed rescue dog named Cali.

For Mark Scott, executive director of North Bay Animal Services, efforts like Emerson’s and Priya’s are greatly appreciated. While donations of every amount are helpful, particularly during the pandemic, “it’s more that they thought of the animals,” he said.

Scott said children and teens help in numerous ways, from making blankets to requesting donations and items like dog toys in place of personal gifts for their birthdays. Others host lemonade stands, but the pandemic has interrupted those efforts as well as larger fundraisers sponsored by the shelter.

“It makes it much more difficult,” he said. Fundraisers like the dog biscuit sales not only keep money coming into the shelter, but boost morale. “The kids have been amazing. It’s an inspiration to us all.”

Emerson, who also goes by Emmie, said the girls were excited when Priya’s mother found the dog biscuit recipe online. They’d brainstormed on ways to help animals awaiting adoption and agreed to use their baking skills to raise money. “We really liked that idea,” she said. Priya added that the girls love animals “because they’re cute and cuddly and funny.”

Soha Leach said the girls have developed manufacturing and marketing skills. Initially they were packing just three or four biscuits per bag, but quickly recognized the need for consistent packaging and settled on 10 biscuits per bag. They’ve been thinking “outside the box,” too, and also using math and people skills. They express gratitude with every delivery.

“It’s something fun for them to do,” Leach said, but as well, “It’s something they could do to help dogs.”

Sharing their compassion and desire to help animals has far-reaching impacts, Scott said. “It all helps, of course, but they don’t realize how much it warms our hearts.”

To place an order, text Soha Leach at 615-418-9239. Cash payments are accepted, or make a donation on Leach’s Venmo account profile at @Soha-Leach. All donations benefit North Bay Animal Services. Allow a week for delivery.

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