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Humane Society, businesses team up to give dogs a treat

At the Spicer Dairy Queen, a visit to the drive-up window means ice cream for the humans and a biscuit for any dog that happens to be riding along.

It doesn't take long for the dogs to figure this out, said Michelle Ramsey, a Dairy Queen employee who often works the drive-up window.

"We get a lot of regulars and a lot of regular dogs," she said. "The dogs are very excited. They know exactly what's coming out of that window."

Since the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County launched the "Give a Dog a Bone" program two years ago, hundreds of bone-shaped doggie biscuits have been handed out at local drive-up windows ranging from banks to coffeehouses to fast-food restaurants.

The idea came from Bobbie Bauman, animal care director at the Humane Society's shelter in Willmar.

She happened to visit a bank that handed out dog biscuits to its dog-owning customers, and wondered if the Humane Society could organize something similar.

"We thought it would be kind of fun," she said. "It was just one way to get our name out there too."

About 15 businesses now belong to the program.

Volunteers take care of wrapping the Humane Society's calling card around each biscuit and delivering them to the participating businesses.

Zach Steffl, 14, of New London, has been helping for the past year.

His dog, Bosco, a mixed breed, was adopted from the Humane Society shelter four years ago.

"I thought he was so cool. He goes all over the place with me," Zach said.

He and his mother, Roxy, work together to wrap biscuits and make the rounds of half a dozen banks and restaurants in New London and Spicer.

"We just call them up and ask if they need any," Zach said. "Then we'll just deliver them."

Youth groups often pitch in and help, Bauman said. The project also gets volunteer help from residents of the Rice Care Center in Willmar.

For Alex Broadwell, 10, and his 6-year-old brother, Cody, it's something they can do for the Humane Society, said their mother, Lyla Broadwell.

"They've always got a need for someone to wrap the bones," she said. "We figured this was something Alex could do by himself. He just loves helping out the animals."

The family -- whose dog, a Chihuahua-dachshund mix named Maggie, was adopted from the shelter -- has been involved with the project since December.

Last week, accompanied by Maggie, they delivered plastic buckets filled with dog biscuits to several Willmar businesses that hand them out at their drive-up windows.

One of their stops was at LuLu Bean's, where customers who pull up at the window can get coffee to go and a treat for their dog.

It's not just the dogs who enjoy it, said manager Dana Hendrickson.

"People specially bring in their dogs because they know their doggie can get a treat. People love their dogs," she said.

The dogs get pampered and the Humane Society gets some support and visibility, said Laure Swanson, owner of LuLu Bean's.

"We wanted to do this," she said. "It makes us animal-friendly, which we are. We all love animals here. We call each other from the window -- 'Come look at this one!' We want to be community-minded. We would do anything to help out the Humane Society."

LuLu Bean's was among the first businesses to join the program two years ago.

Canine traffic tends to slow down slightly in winter but plenty of biscuits are handed out just the same, Swanson said.

"We go through them quite quickly," she said. "It's worked quite well."

Bauman said there's room for more local businesses to join the "Give a Dog a Bone" program. "It's for anybody with a drive-up window," she said.

There's just one hitch: What about cats? Don't they get equal time?

"They don't go for a ride," Bauman said. "We need to think of something for the poor kittycats."