• Invitation Oxford

Homemade Dog Treats

Updated: Jun 1, 2019

Recipe by Janet McCarty | Photographed by Joe Worthem


Cotton's Sweet Potato Cranberry Dog Treats

Photographed by Joe Worthem

Not too long ago, like so many others, Janet McCarty lost her business in the economic downturn of 2009. Since then, she has journeyed from financial and emotional devastation to starting a new and successful business that has impacted the lives of others in many positive ways. And it all came about because of a little one-pound miracle dog — Cotton.


“After losing my real estate business in the market crash, I lost all hope for my future,” McCarty said. “I fell into this depression that seemed to swallow me whole. Cotton changed that. As I focused on her survival, I realized that I could survive too.”


McCarty had rescued the tiny, malnourished pup and nursed her back to health. Cotton had so many allergies, McCarty began making her food and treats using local produce including blueberries from Pontotoc Ridge and apples from Cherry Creek Orchards in Pontotoc, sweet potatoes from Vardaman, and squash from Bost Farm in Water Valley. She began selling the treats at farmer’s markets for 50 cents apiece.


Then McCarty won a $10,000 prize in the University of Mississippi’s Gillespie Business Plan Competition and $10,000 in the Advocare Challenge with the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. She used the money to start Cotton’s Cafe, a natural and locally sourced dog treat company. Whole Foods quickly became a client.


But McCarty felt strongly that her company couldn’t just be a vehicle for making money. She saw it as an opportunity to give others a second chance, too, and she made it a point to hire workers with criminal backgrounds.


“They were good people who made some bad choices,” McCarty said. “They were some of the hardest workers I have ever met in my life. I watched many of them go on to bigger and better things. But I was better for it too.”


The success of the company and McCarty's altruistic approach has led to numerous speaking engagements, including a TED Talk and speeches at local schools, about helping yourself and others, and achieving goals and dreams.


In December 2018, McCarty had the opportunity to pass the torch to another company. Selling the business will allow her continue to reach out to others, encourage them, and help them to know they are not alone.


Photographed by Joe Worthem

Cotton's Sweet Potato Cranberry Dog Treats

4½ cups flour

2½ cups oats

¼ cup dried parsley

1 cup baked sweet potato,

(about two medium-sized potatoes)

5 ounces peanut butter

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

¾ cup water

¼ cup pure cranberry juice

2 teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. Bake sweet potatoes for approximately 45 minutes. Remove skins, or grind sweet potatoes along with the skins. In a large bowl, mix together flour, oats and parsley. In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients. (Hint: heat up peanut butter in measuring cup to measure.) Combine wet and dry ingredients, and mix with an electric mixer on low speed for approximately 10 minutes. Mixture is ready when it is no longer sticking to the bowl. (If it’s too sticky, just add a little more flour.) Roll dough to one-fourth inch thick and cut into desired shapes — doggie bones and hearts are the best! Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and hard to the touch, to ensure they will keep for a couple of months. Allow to cool and store in your favorite cookie jar.

Oxford, Mississippi | United States

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