BUSHWICK — Michael Haltenberger has gotten used to strangers staring at him while he eats bacon and egg sandwiches in the morning.
That’s because he splits the breakfast sandwich with Guapo, his 8-month-old Chihuahua, Shiba Inu and hound mix.
“Most people think it’s adorable,” Haltenberger said. “Dog owners are the ones that say something sometimes.”
Haltenberger, a comparative religion professor at Hunter College, grew up sharing his food with dogs. When he was a kid, the family dogs always got the plate when he was done eating.
Now he and his roommate, Suzanne Davison, want to spread their joy of inter-species dining to the masses.
The pair designed their own safe-for-human-consumption doggie treats and have set up a Kickstarter campaign to buy ingredients, develop different flavors and design its packaging and label.
They hope to raise $4,300. Everyone that contributes to the campaign will get a recipe card to make their own treats.
Haltenberger started eating store-bought dog snacks when he got Guapo — whose name is Spanish for handsome — from the North Shore Animal League in March.
“If you read the label you can see they are made from regular ingredients,” he said of the processed dog snacks. “But when you eat them they are sort of tasteless.”
Haltenberger, who has been baking since he was a kid, used to cook up banana bread and biscotti for a local coffee shop on Bedford Avenue and 11th Street. He decided it was time to make his own snacks.
He and Davison started out with dog-safe ingredients found in traditional treats such as rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch and oats. Then they added different flavors like dehydrated berries and fruit, and herbs like mint or parsley for fresh breath.
After baking a prototype, the duo took them down to the dog run at Maria Hernandez Park on Irving Avenue and Starr Street and began giving out samples.
When Haltenberger and Davison noticed how much people liked eating the treats and sharing them with their dogs, they were motivated to make more.
Apart from strengthening the bond between man and dog, sharing food is also a lot cheaper than buying separate snacks for you and for fido, Haltenberger said.
He usually feeds Guapo healthy human food that's also good for dogs, such as chicken with carrots or string beans and rice, and even frozen Brussels sprouts.
“Sharing food is one of the most important ways that humans bond,” he said. “Why not include our pets? A snack shared with a friend or stranger can break down boundaries.”