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Allison Fogarty’s Freeze-Dried Dog Treats Are a Delight

Meet the chef with Down syndrome who overcame multiple surgeries to launch her own all-natural dog treat company.

by Melissa Hart
May 2, 2022
A woman and a dog wearing matching green colors and smiling for a picture.
Photo: Pat Fogarty

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Allison Fogarty of Clermont, Florida got the idea for Doggie Delights by Allison — her all-natural canine treat company — during the two years she couldn’t eat or drink by mouth. Fogarty, now 30, was born with Down syndrome and suffered complications from Tracheoesophageal Fistula and a cleft larynx. While undergoing multiple surgeries that required a g-tube in her stomach, she found solace in cooking shows, specifically the Rachael Ray Show.

“Rachael Ray saved my life when I was sick,” Fogarty says. She tucks a strand of long red hair behind one ear and gestures enthusiastically with sparkling green fingernails. “I watched her shows all the time, and I wanted to be a chef just like her.” 

Doctors warned Fogarty’s parents that she wouldn’t live past age 11. Still, she persevered. Because of a floppy, or weak trachea, she had a trach tube in her neck the first 23 years of her life. I hated people staring at me,” she says. After her family relocated from Illinois to Florida, she joined the Entrepreneur Academy — part of Central Florida’s Down Syndrome Association. “I learned how to make your own business and build your dream, and I learned about money and how to sell things,” she explains.

With help from mentors and her mother who helps with social media and finances, Fogarty launched her business. In her signature lime-green chef’s jacket, she began to spend hours in the kitchen each day, whipping up batch after batch of the recipes she’d developed and baking them in silicone dog-bone-shaped molds. “I make six different flavors,” she says. “Chicken and rice, peanut butter, sweet potato, pumpkin, yogurt and berry, and salmon training treats.”

She uses only natural ingredients in her freeze-dried biscuits, which have a shelf life of six months. Initially, she sold dog treats locally — to neighbors with dogs, and at the farmer’s market. She adored meeting people and pets from her community. Her favorite dog was Moose, a brown and white farm dog who visited Fogarty’s booth at the farmer’s market every week. “Chocolate is brown and white,” Fogarty says, “So I renamed him Chocolate Mousse.”

A local grocery store began carrying Doggy Delights by Allison. And then, Rachael Ray called to invite Fogarty onto her show. In a three-minute clip which aired in August 2020, they made sweet potato dog treats. While Fogarty placed pureed sweet potato, all-natural peanut butter, and olive oil in the mixing bowl, Ray sampled a pre-baked treat and declared it delicious. “I met my hero,” Fogarty says.

Soon after her appearance on the Rachael Ray Show, online orders exploded, and Fogarty no longer had time to sell Doggy Delights at the farmer’s market. Some weeks, she receives bulk orders for 80 bags. “Lots of people asked me if I could ship my treats,” Fogarty explains. “That is why we freeze-dry them [for] customers from a lot of states.” She also delivers treats locally with help from her father, John. 

A large workspace off her kitchen holds a desk, shelves of dog biscuits in giant glass jars, and three freeze-driers which Fogarty named “Eenie,” “Miney,” and “Mo.” With Disney soundtracks or Lady Gaga on in the background, she packages the freeze-dried treats to send to dog owners around the country and includes a personalized letter to the canine recipient with every shipment. It reads: “I am so happy that your human loves you so much and spoils you with treats! I hope you enjoy your delicious and healthy biscuits, homemade with LOVE by me — Allison.”

By all accounts, Doggy Delights by Allison is a success. Still, there are days when Fogarty doesn’t feel well enough to work. She tires easily, and feels short of breath. “I go into my room and rest,” she says. “It’s easier for me to work from home because I can take a break and work the next day.”

When she’s not making dog treats, Fogarty goes out to eat, movie theaters, and bowling alleys with her boyfriend. In May, she works as both a vendor and a speaker at Family Café — an annual event in Florida providing opportunities for advocacy, networking, and collaboration between people with disabilities. In a presentation titled “Imagine Making Your Dreams Come True!” Fogarty shares her journey to becoming an entrepreneur and offers advice to people in the audience.

“You gotta think big to be big,” Fogarty says, quoting the musical Hairspray. “But make sure you love the work because if you’re successful, you have to do it all the time.” 

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Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon, where you can find her hiking and kayaking with her rescue-terrier, April.