AS PUBLISHED IN GRANDEUR MAGAZINE.COM
Mimi sits patiently on the floor, her bushy black tail with its white tip looking like a paintbrush as it swishes back and forth in anticipation.
“Touchdown,” says Frank Menchero signaling to the canine to leap up with her two front paws and do a double high five with her owner. Mimi is not really excited about a touchdown, but about what comes after the high fives. It’s a chicken crunch strip — her very favorite treat.
Mimi’s owners Frank and Kathleen Menchero, of Naples, own Top Dog Kitchen, which makes homemade all-natural dog treats.
“Top Dog Kitchen started 13 years ago out of our teeny tiny kitchen in Aventura, Florida,” Kathleen says.
Kathleen had been working as a director of production for a skin care company when she decided to start her new business. The idea came from a previous dog of hers.
“We were living in Atlanta and one of our dogs got severely bitten by a copperhead,” she explains. “This was way back when holistic things were not popular. We had a vet that helped holistically. Sadly the infection was so bad from that snake that he died anyway. But I started learning about it. Back in 2005 there was a couple in New Jersey that started Three Dog Bakery and they inspired me because finally someone was doing something. I thought if they can do it, I can do it. I absolutely wanted to provide super pure, minimum ingredient treats.”
Mimi’s favorite, chicken crunch strips, is their No. 2 bestseller. No. 1 is chicken breast jerky.
“All of the baked treats are still done in our kitchen here,” Kathleen says as she points to the kitchen in her Naples home.
The dehydration items are done at a USDA-inspected and approved facility. Their items are sold online and in 37 local shops and vet clinics.
For two years the couple had a shop in Naples near Davis Boulevard, where they produced their treats. Mimi would come to the shop with them each day.
“When she went to work, she was the door greeter,” Kathleen says. “Everybody loved having her there. She was just a happy camper to be in the shop and meeting other dogs. It was social hour.”
Now at age 11, Mimi is more like a retiree. She might occasionally wander into the kitchen when the treats are being made, but she is happiest sitting on a cushioned black and white chair by the sliding glass doors.
The border collie/Australian shepherd mix came from a shelter near San Francisco. Kathleen and Frank had been living there when they adopted the then-8-month-old puppy.
“She was a wild child,” Kathleen says as she describes the puppy days.
Now Mimi is much more mellow. She likes to lay in the sun on the lanai, letting her black coat get nice and hot. Her orange and white spotted legs, whitish and pale orange neck and white tipped tail give her a unique look. Yet even at age 11, there are glimpses of playfulness. The dog has a basket full of toys including her two favorites: Sunshine Cubby, which is a little lion, and Funky Monkey.
“As soon as my eyes open, she jumps on the bed and gets Sunshine Cubby, and she licks me and plays with her toys on the bed,” Kathleen says as she described her dog’s morning routine.
After breakfast, Frank walks the dog.
“Then she likes to sit on the lanai in the sun,” Frank says. “In the nice weather she likes to sleep on the couch on the lanai.”
There is also a lot of playtime for the canine.
“We will go to the gym every day, and when we come back, she will greet us by barking and then bringing us toys,” Frank describes. “She will lay on her back and throw her toy in the air. She exhibits that she is a very happy dog.”
In the evening Mimi enjoys running on the golf course that is just beyond the lanai.
“She is like a 4-year-old,” Kathleen says. “She goes for a nice dog run at night on the golf course. She loves it.”
Mimi, who weighs 40 pounds, never eats like a typical dog. “She eats no kibble,” Kathleen says. “I cook everything. I roast chicken breasts for her. I make frozen cut green beans that I heat up for her”.
Mimi is slowly getting used to being an only pet. Her companion Matisse died recently at age 12.
“They were like boyfriend and girlfriend,” Kathleen says. “They would kiss, hold paws, just sleep together. They were two bookends. It was adorable.”
Now Mimi cuddles with her Funky Monkey toy. On a recent afternoon, she grabbed the toy from a basket and leaped up on the bed for a cuddle and a nap. That didn’t last long. When Frank started saying “touchdown,” the dog was ready to play.
“He’s (Frank) a Dolphins guy, and I am a Green Bay Packers fan,” Kathleen says. “Mimi likes the Packers.”
Frank isn’t so sure about that.
“As long as she gets a treat out of the deal, she’s happy,” Frank says. “She is just a fan of the treats.”