HUDSON — For one lucky Labrador retriever, working in a dog treat factory certainly has its perks.
Casey Jones, owned by Hudson residents Todd Rodgers and Ken Hassen, is a regular fixture at the Pine Road headquarters of his namesake company, Casey Jones Bones.
The two businessmen, along with Rodger's sister, LeAnn, and her husband, Ken Middlemiss, opened up shop in the Hudson industrial park in spring 2011, about three years after Hassen whipped up his first batch of natural canine cookies.
A former chemist, Hassen said he decided to make his own dog treats after realizing that some of the ingredients found in Casey's regular dog treats were ones that most of us would have trouble pronouncing.
"We've always been ingredient label readers," Hassen said. "You could be standing in a grocery store and saying 'what is that?'" Casey became hooked on the homemade goodies, and Hassen began baking up batches for friends and relatives.
By 2008, the new company was renting out space in a church basement, where cookie dough was rolled out with a wooden rolling pin. About a year later, the decision was made to name the company after the beloved family pet.
"We looked at our dog and just yelled out, 'That's it — Casey Jones Bones!" Hassen said with a laugh.
As demand for the product quickly spread, Casey Jones Bones outgrew its humble surroundings and the company moved to Hudson
These days the four company owners wear many hats, all assisting with baking, packaging, distribution and community relations.
Each one brings a specific set of skills to the table, as Rodgers is the former owner and manager of a storage facility, and the Middlemisses are former property managers.
While the latest technologies have made for a considerably speedier production process, the owners say they remain committed to producing all-natural dog cookies, using simple and healthy ingredients.
During a recent visit to the bakery, smells of freshly chopped mint and cranberries wafted through the hallways as all four workers were elbow deep in cookie dough. By mid-morning, 250 pounds of seasonal Cranberry Mint dog treats were baking in the industrial-sized convection oven.
Hassen said they decided to try baking a holiday cookie last fall and due to popular demand, opted to do so again this year.
"It was something else," he said. "People were stocking up on those treats because they knew they wouldn't be available for long."
Company officials are working on a spring or summer seasonal treat made out of blueberries, a natural antioxidant. Locally-sourced ingredients, such as New Hampshire maple syrup, is used whenever possible.
Other flavors include Carrot Ginger, Apple Cheddar, Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Banana. Casey Jones Bones also offers several varieties of wheat-free cookies for pets with allergies.
Products are hand-delivered to several dozen area pet and natural food stores. The company is also registered with Associated Buyers in Barrington, which is signing on new clients around New England and upstate New York.
When they're not baking or delivering, the folks at Casey Jones Bones make it a point to pay it forward.
The company regularly lends a hand to area animal shelters and charities, including For the Love of Dogs in Portsmouth, the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford and the Lucky Dog Thrift Shop in Nashua.
Next month, the Casey Jones Bones crew will participate in America's Pets annual Holiday Pajama Party, which will take place at the 142 Lowell Road store in Hudson on Dec. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Casey Jones himself often accompanies his owners to such charity events, where he is generously paid in treats.
"He's very, very fond of the peanut butter cookies," Hassen said.
For a complete list of products and participating retailers, go to caseyjonesbones.com or call 520-8770.