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Furry friends

Cabot High Schoolers expand K9 Cracker business

By Kayla Baugh

This article was published September 14, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.

students-robert-lewis-from-left-olivia-dixon-and-shelley-moore-mix-a-batch-of-k9-crackers-in-their-community-based-instruction-class-at-cabot-high-school-dixon-said-her-favorite-part-of-making-the-dog-treats-is-mixing-the-ingredients-while-lewis-said-he-enjoys-bagging-the-crackers-and-feeding-them-to-his-furry-friends

Students Robert Lewis, from left, Olivia Dixon and Shelley Moore mix a batch of K9 Crackers in their community-based instruction class at Cabot High School. Dixon said her favorite part of making the dog treats is mixing the ingredients, while Lewis said he enjoys bagging the crackers and feeding them to his furry friends.

Students at Cabot High School are making more than a grade in one class — they’re making something special for their furry friends.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors in a community-based instruction class are mixing, baking and bagging K9 Crackers for dogs in the community.

Shelley Moore, special-education teacher at Cabot High School, said she chose to make dog treats because it’s an activity for the students that crosses all of the domains in her curriculum.

Life skills are taught in the community-based instruction class, she said, with the goal of teaching students with special needs to live and work independently.

“When I transferred to the high school from elementary for the 2013-14 school year, I was looking for opportunities to help my students transition into the community,” she said.

Moore said that with the support of the administration, the project took off with only the basic ingredients she purchased on her weekly family grocery trip.

In addition to the dog treats, Moore said, the K9 Crackers business will offer new products in October — ice cream and birthday cupcakes for dogs.

The cupcakes will be made with applesauce and honey, she said, and the ice cream will be made from yogurt, bananas and peanut butter.

“We are very excited about this new adventure,” she said.

The dog treats were originally made with peanut butter, skim milk, baking powder and whole-wheat flour, she said.

However, because of someone’s peanut allergy in the school, she said, the recipe was changed to use sunflower butter.

As K9 Crackers started bringing in money, Moore said, she was able to purchase pot holders, cookie cutters, measuring cups and baking sheets for the business.

A commercial-size mixer was donated, she said.

“This was a lifesaver for us because it was taking an hour for the kids to mix and knead all the dough. We were able to produce the treats much more quickly and efficiently. This has continued, and we are in our fifth year,” she said.

Moore said this is more than just a project for the students — it’s their job.

“Every student excels in different areas of the business, and [they all do] their part. They must follow directions, follow a recipe, shop for supplies, make grocery lists, measure, mix, roll, cut, bake, bag, tag, deliver, collect money, make change and interact with others,” she said.

Students in the class typically cook on Tuesdays and Thursdays, depending on how many orders they have, she said, and treats are sold in two sizes.

Moore said a small bag contains 20 to 25 treats for $2, and a large bag holds around 150 treats for $10.

Multiple First Security Bank branches throughout central Arkansas purchase and pass out the treats in their drive-thrus, she said.

“They are such a huge supporter of things made in Arkansas, and we have been very fortunate to be their choice for dog treats,” she said.

In addition to buying supplies, the proceeds from sales go toward taking the students out for prom at the end of each school year. Staff members take the students to get their pictures made before prom, take them to a dine-in restaurant and to prom, she said.

“Their parents do not have to worry about cost and know that they are experiencing prom like their peers,” she said.

Moore said the CBI class visits a store once a week and goes out every Friday to eat in town.

“We just do some different things to learn how to use money. We sometimes do scavenger hunts in the store to find items and teach them to read the signs,” she said.

Students also have jobs assigned to them, such as folding laundry or helping out in the school cafeteria to learn life skills, she said.

Moore said the class is hands-on, and she hopes students leave as independent as they can be.

Olivia Dixon, a student in community-based instruction, said her favorite thing about making the treats is mixing the ingredients. Student Robert Lewis said his favorite part of the project is bagging the treats and actually feeding them to dogs.

Patty Holetz, a paraprofessional at Cabot High School, described the students who make K9 Crackers as kind, caring and loving.

“They love knowing that the treats they make are going to be given to people’s most-loved family members — their pets. [The students] work hard, and they take pride in their work,” she said.

Holetz said the program is unique and echoed Moore that the class teaches students hands-on skills they can use in the future, both at home and at work.

“The job is very important for the students. It teaches them to work well with others, to take pride in a job well done, to follow directions and [to learn] the importance of completing the job assigned to them,” she said.

“We strive to help our students to be able to work in the community after graduation and to become more independent in their homes.”

Orders can be placed by emailing Moore at shelley.moore@cps.k12.ar.us, calling Cabot High School at (501) 843-3562, ext. 1164, or visiting CHSK9Crackers on Facebook.

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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