What started as a test-the-waters product at a small Bellingham, Washington dog show fair can now be bought at more than 5000 pet product retailers.

Friends and Nepali natives Suman Shrestha and Nishes Shrestha founded the Himalayan Corporation when they discovered how much dogs love munching on the traditional hard Nepali yak cheese, chhurpi. Despite a dog’s obsession with the taste, cheese isn’t normally good for canines because most lack the enzymes to digest lactose. Suman and Nishes did extensive research on this and figured out how to create a cheesy chew for dogs with the fat and lactose removed.

The friends now run their successful company out of Mukilteo, Washington, but about 3000 farmers back in Nepal raise the yaks and make the cheese. After the farmers milk the yaks, the curds are separated from the whey. Curds are then wrapped in burlap sacks and pressed to push out any moisture. After pressing, the curds resemble big, clay bricks, and they are cut into strips ready to hang in a smoke tent for about three months, giving the cheese a chance to harden. The lactose and fat are removed during the smoking process, said digital marketer and trade show specialist Brandon Barney, but those details are the company’s trade secret.

The original dog chew spawned the creation of several other treats, including Yaky Nuggets, Yaky Puffs, Yaky Yams, and Yaky Charms, among others. With a slew of products onevery pet store shelf imaginable, the company is still looking to grow.

The founders turned to popular reality show Shark Tank to seek out a celebrity investor in an episode that aired in early February. After giving a pitch and asking for a $750,000 loan for a five percent stake in the company, a few celebrity investors came back with counter offers, but with higher stakes. The Himalayan Corporation founders knew what the company was worth, and decided to decline all offers in the end.

Since the Himalayan Dog Chew came out in early 2008, the cheesy treat has satisfied dogs and their owners. Barney travels to trade shows and expositions all over North America to talk about what he calls “dog stuff.”

The Himalayan Corporation was honored with a handful of awards this year. In March, Barney attended Global Pet Expo in Orlando. The company’s Yaky Tops received third place in the natural pet category of the new product showcase, and the corporation won second place for its point purchase display. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year so far was the corporation’s win for pet treat of the year from the Glycemic Research Institute, Barney said.

“They’re really picky about who they decide to award, if they give an award at all,” Barney said.

Barney’s own dogs — a 9-year-old retriever/spaniel mix named Eva and an 18-month-old border collie/pit bill mix named Arrow — can both frequently be seen chowing down on their own Himalayan Dog Chews right at Barney’s feet.

In July, Barney will travel to his next trade show, ready to test out some new products and to share his love of dog stuff.

"They’re really picky about who they decide to award, if they give an award at all."