Reece Devine is a quiet boy. The 10-year-old has a shy smile and isn’t the first one to speak up, but when you get him talking about his pets — a dog, guinea pig and parakeet — he lights up.
It’s from that love of animals that his business — Reece’s Homemade Doggie Treats — was born, and nearly four years later his small idea has turned into a demanding after-school activity for him and a full time gig for his mother, Maura Devine.
“He started wanting to make money to pay for video games, and now he pays the mortgage,” Maura Devine said, laughing in their North Scituate home. “It’s been a huge learning experience.”
Reece’s Homemade Doggie Treats makes and sells three flavors of all-natural dog treats at farmers markets and stores across the South Shore. Using only five ingredients — six in the bacon-peanut butter-pumpkin treats — the pair make snacks they say can please even the pickiest pooches.
“The best part is meeting all of the dogs at farmers markets,” Reece, a student at Cushing Elementary School, said.
The Devine’s family business started almost four years ago, when Reece was just 7 years old and on a mission to find treats that his aunt’s dog Lily, who was allergic to most commercial treats, could eat.
“That’s when Reece said ‘Well, we could make her something ourselves,’” Maura Devine said. “Then I got laid off and started walking and caring for dogs. So I was doing that, Reece and I were making these on the side, and then it started blowing up.”
At first, Reece made and sold most of the treats himself, but when demand started increasing — sometimes they need upwards of 1,200 treats per week for farmers markets and in-store sales — his mother stepped in. Now, Maura Devine makes most of the treats while Reece is in school, and he packages them and helps sell them at markets. When he’s home for the baking, he also helps cut them out into dog bones and such seasonal shapes as ghosts, witches hats and Christmas trees.
All of the treats’ ingredients are organic, and the company sells three signature flavors: peanut butter pumpkin, bacon peanut butter pumpkin and blueberry banana.
“I had one guy ask me what I used to flavor my dog treats and I said, ‘What?‘” Maura Devine said. “I didn’t get it at first and then I thought ‘Oh, to get the bacon flavor? I use bacon.’”
Maura and Reece spent their summer at three or four farmer’s markets per week and have a dozen stories about their favorite customers. Once, they say, a dog named Panda scarfed down their treats after his owner said he wouldn’t like them. Another time, a French bulldog named Champ pulled his mom through the Plymouth market directly to their table.
People are always saying ‘Oh, my dog doesn’t do treats’ or ‘My dog doesn’t like peanut butter,’ but they’re the ones who always like them the most,” Maura said. “We even take and keep pictures of all the dogs we meet.”
He may know the names of half the dogs in town — and they’d know his treats anywhere — but at the end of the day Reece’s love goes to one canine friend: Trixie, a whippet hound he and his mom adopted a year ago.
“She never gets tired of my treats,” he said.
The Devine’s have their operation down to a science, but Maura has a new trick up her sleeve. She said the company has partnered with Buzzards Bay hemp farm BayGrown to start selling treats infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, a chemical compound primarily derived from hemp plants. In addition to their usual wares, Reece’s Homemade will soon sell dog treats infused with two doses of CBD — a low dose to treat anxiety, joint stiffness and nervousness, and a higher dose to help with seizures and pain management.
“It’s been shown to have such benefits for dogs, even our dog has done well with it, and it seems like something we really should be doing,” she said.
Reece and Maura Devine sell their goods at a handful of local farmers markets, from their home, online and in a few local stores, including Wishbones Pet Boutique, Hingham Animal Clinic and the Fruit Center Marketplaces in Hingham and Milton. The treats are available in $8, $9 and $10 bundles.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.