Ryder Newhouse loves baking.
And what he loves baking more than anything else is treats for Tommy, his unofficial therapy dog.
So when Connie MacDonald, co-owner of Fergie’s Doggie Delight Pet Bakery in Chilliwack, agreed to let Ryder spend part of the day in her shop making dog cookies as part of a school project, both Ryder and his grandparents were thrilled.
“I think she’s amazing,” said Lillian Newhouse, Ryder’s grandmother. “He’s going to fulfill what he likes to do which is bake, and the fact that he’s able to bring his dog… it hits two categories of what Ryder really enjoys which is baking and dogs.”
Ryder is 14 years old and has autism. He lives in Harrison with his grandparents Lillian and Maxwell Newhouse.
One day Ryder brought home a letter from Agassiz secondary school encouraging all Grade 9 students to participate in ‘Take Our Kids to Work Day’ on Friday, Dec. 10.
The Newhouses didn’t quite know what to do as there aren’t many workplaces that would be suitable for Ryder even though he has a good work ethic, Lillian said.
“He’s limited as to what he can actually do,” she said.
She recalled going to Fergie’s in downtown Chilliwack with Ryder in the summertime. When he walked through the door, Ryder told MacDonald how much he loved baking dog cookies.
“I said ‘You should come in here and we’ll make some dog cookies together,’” recalled MacDonald.
Nothing came of that offer for several months until Ryder brought home the school letter about Take Our Kids to Work Day. Lillian and Ryder returned to Fergie’s, wondering if MacDonald remembered them.
“I said ‘We’re in,’” MacDonald recalled. “Every child needs an opportunity. We wanted to offer him the experience.”
On Friday, Dec. 10, Ryder got that experience with help from MacDonald and co-owner Rose Bouthillier.
MacDonald went an extra step and also brought in a friend of hers, Ruby Rodier, who not only helps out occasionally at the bakery but also works with children as an art teacher and yoga instructor. She used to work as a daycare instructor and has experience working with children who have autism.
Rodier patiently helped Ryder as he rolled out dough, cut bone-shaped cookies into it, baked them, and finally packaged them up in containers labelled ‘Tommy’s Choice.’
Ryder said he enjoyed his time at Fergie’s that day.
Tommy was there too, ready for frequent hugs from Ryder, scratches under her chin… and to test the cookies, of course.
She’ll get more of the dog treats at home, but many of the cookies will actually be going to other dogs.
Ryder, who’s a newspaper carrier with the Agassiz-Harrison Observer, will be delivering the cookies to all of the dog owners on his route just in time for Christmas.