SUGAR, SPICE, AND EVERYTHING NICE
How this dog-loving entrepreneur went from RUFF beginnings to sweet success
By Katy Cable
Heavenly aromas are wafting through the air in this suburban neighborhood just north of San Diego. The epicenter is a bustling kitchen with an oven full of mouth-watering hot cocoa, churro, and raspberry flavors of sugar cookies. While those are baking, finishing touches are being intricately applied to the faces of a batch of rainbow-sprinkled Pug unicorn cookies and a 3-foot-tall Alice in Wonderland cake. Each masterpiece is so adorable, it’s almost a crime that they will soon be devoured.
Every square inch of the kitchen countertops is cluttered with mixing bowls, cake-decorating tools, and a rainbow of sprinkles, frostings, and fondant. 3 adorable, exuberant pug puppies are constantly underfoot, fighting for crumbs falling from the workspace.
Welcome to a day in the life of the amazing, Crystal Aquino, owner and sole proprietor of Divine K-9 treats. But don’t let the name fool you. While Divine K-9 treats do make tantalizing dog delicacies, Aquino’s specialty is baking sweet creations for humans. -Especially those who adore their pets.
But Crystal’s life wasn’t always sugar and spice and everything nice. I would’ve guessed a woman with this kind of passion, talent, and creativity must have come from a long line of family mentors. I pictured her as a little girl standing on a footstool to reach the kitchen counter. She and her mother wear matching aprons as she is taught how to bake treasured recipes that have been in the family for generations.
The reality couldn’t have been farther from the truth. When it comes to her childhood, she got more than a baker’s dozen of neglect, abuse, and trauma.
It began with a difficult birth by forceps which left Crystal with severe, painful hip problems. At just six years old she spent over 18 months in the hospital and endured more than 50 surgeries to try and correct her hips. Ironically, the hospital was actually a preferred safe haven compared to her hellish home life. It was an upbringing so horrific she would rather try and forget.