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Madi Belanger displays a couple of her “pup cakes,” special cupcakes for dogs, which have drawn the interest of her dog, Zena.

Madi Belanger is all about finding solutions.

The Missouri Valley College senior, who also plays on the Vikings women’s basketball team, is majoring in business finance and plans to pursue a master’s degree in strategic management.

“Problem solving is my thing,” she said. “I am called the mom of my basketball team because I am always thinking about everyone else, I am always thinking ahead, I’ve got things planned out as best as I can.”

Recently Belanger faced a bothersome issue and her solution is paying off for her and for other pet owners in the area.

She ordered a birthday cake for her dog, Zena, through Amazon and was less than pleased with the purchase.

“It was probably the worst idea I have ever had in my life,” she said. “We spent $30 on a cake that … could probably feed two dogs and it was extremely hard, like a hockey puck. It couldn’t even be cut.”

Belanger fused her frustration over the cake and her passion for helping animals to create M & Z Pup Boutique, with her first product being “pup cakes,” small cupcakes for dogs. She launched the business just about a month ago and already has turned out about 10 orders.

The cakes are made from “dog-friendly ingredients,” she said, including whole wheat flour, unsweetened applesauce, old fashioned oats, eggs and carrots. She also uses canned pumpkin, not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling. The frosting is primarily peanut butter and cream cheese.

Belanger’s passion for animals and their welfare has been a constant in her life.

“I think I was born with it,” she said. While trick-or-treating as a child, she always would ask if there was a dog in the house and if she could pet it.

Her parents divorced when she was young and she and her mother lived in a domestic violence shelter for a time. When they moved into a home of their own, Belanger, then about 12 years old, would walk dogs in her neighborhood three times a week for $5. She saved about $400 and, after constant pleading, her mother relented and let her buy a dog from Wayside Waifs. That dog, Boone, was with Belanger for 10 years, until he had to be put down just weeks ago due to a brain tumor.

“He was my absolute lifesaver through that whole process. Through any and every life obstacle I had, I came home and it was all about my dog,” she said. “We did training, we did agility, and from then on I immersed myself in rescue.”

With all the responsibilities of college and the basketball team, Belanger can’t immerse herself in being a full-time pet rescue and foster provider. She does transport dogs to help them land in new homes. Recently she found a stray that was tied to a trash bin; she took it in, cleaned it up and found it a home.

“I do what I can while I am in school but I can’t wait to do more,” she said.

One of those things she can do is provide healthy, tasty treats for dogs. She takes orders through messages to the M & Z Pup Boutique Facebook page. It only takes her about 90 minutes to complete an order. Belanger enjoys sewing, so she plans to add dog clothes and possibly other items in the coming months.

Belanger offers a plea to anyone who is struggling with their dog.

“Don’t give up on your pets just because of one thing,” she said. “They take time, they take training and they take patience. Eventually they will be that amazing dog you wished for.”

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