News: Guest Posts
Turkey trimmings you and your dog can enjoy
Thanksgiving has long centered on sharing a delicious meal with family, friends and those who mean the most to us. It is a time when we give thanks for the companions in our lives for which we are the most grateful. When the list of favorite friends comes to mind, dog lovers automatically include their four-legged companions. And what better way to show our appreciation for our pets’ devotion than with turkey and the fixins?
Preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal that is satisfying, delicious and digestible for most everyone (canine companions included) is easier than you might think. My family will be sharing a little of several dishes, including turkey, with our chocolate Lab and our neighbor’s Lab. A dog’s digestive system is similar to ours, with some variation. For the purpose of preparing this meal, think of your pet as a lactose intolerant celiac with high blood pressure (i.e., needs to watch his or her salt intake) and with allergies to onion and garlic.
If your companions’ routine diet doesn’t include human food, please keep a few things in mind.
Sharing a meal with your pet for the first time is a lot like taking your mother to a new ethnic restaurant—a little goes a long way. When introducing any new food into your dogs’ system for the first time, do not exceed more than 25 percent of his or her normal total food intake. For example, if your dog regularly eats 4 cups of dog food per day, on Thanksgiving, he or she would get 3 cups of dog food and one cup of assorted Thanksgiving dinner.
If you wouldn’t eat something, don’t give it to your pet. Ladling rich gravy over dog food only promotes overeating and is upsetting to the digestive system. Most dog foods are already coated with fat for palatability. Adding extra gravy isn’t necessary. Adding gravy to commercial kibble is the equivalent of pouring ranch dressing over potato chips.
Keep cooked bones out of your dog’s serving. They can splinter and cause injury.
► Check in with Heidi Biesterveld’s posts on The Bark blog for the next four days for planning suggestions and recipes for a happy dog-friendly Thanksgiving.
News: Guest Posts
Feeding Hazel a plant-based diet
My dog Hazel is vegan. Most likely, your eyes just rolled or your heart stopped beating. You probably understand and respect my choice to be vegan but really, do I have to drag my dog into this? Well, here’s the thing: Dogs, unlike cats, are not obligate carnivores. They’re not dependent on meat-specific protein, and can easily digest the majority of vegetables and grains. That, combined with the fact that I don’t support horrific factory farming, means feeding my dog a veggie diet is the only way to go. Plus, did you know that Bramble, a 27-year-old vegan Border Collie, was in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest living dog? Veggie Power!
Brief tangent: A 27-year-old Border Collie is probably like, the smartest dog ever. I mean, Border Collies are already ridiculously intelligent, and then combined with the knowledge of the ages? Bramble is basically Doggie Yoda.
There are lots of vegan dog foods on the market. Regardless of the brand you choose, look for taurine and l-carnitine in the list of ingredients; these amino acids are crucial for keeping your dog’s heart healthy and strong. If you’re super industrious or have lots of free time courtesy of this fantastic job market, you might want to make your own food. I did this a few times last year and my kitchen still hasn’t fully recovered.
That said, I have faith in you. There are lots of recipes online, and my personal favorite is available via Asians for Humans, Animals, and Nature (warning, it’s a PDF). If you’re going this route, I highly recommend adding a vitamin- and mineral-rich supplement, such as VegePet.
As for Hazel, she eats V-Dog. She absolutely loves it. Seriously, you’ve never seen a dog go this nuts for dinner. That might be just because she loves food; our walks are often spent playing tug-of-war with some delicacy she found in a gutter. But really, she devours her bowl in 10 seconds flat, and then begs for more. Hazel’s been vegan for about three years and her vet consistently remarks on her good health. Her coat is shiny, her weight is perfect, and her breath isn’t super stinky. I mean, it’s still kind-of stinky, she IS a dog.
News: Guest Posts
Is your local restaurant handing out meat scraps?
One of the many things I love about living in New York City with a dog is that the dog can help you discover new things about your neighborhood. Even if you’ve lived in said neighborhood for several years.This week I discovered the wonder of all wonders: I found out that our neighborhood steak house, which has been there for at least forty years, gives away free food to dogs! There I was: Crossing a certain Lower East Side street with my dog Chloe, who trotted at my side on a tight heel, when we came across another woman with a dog. “Do you live around here?” she asked. (People with dogs in the city often get asked this question, for it is assumed we know our neighborhoods inside-out, because of our four walks per day.) “Yes,” I said. “Can I assist you in some way?” “Oh no,” she said. “I just wanted to let you know that S_____ (and here she named the famous steak house) is giving out scraps for all the dogs.” She held up a plastic bag, bulging with what looked like red meat. Both my dog and hers moved toward the bag with interest. “Tonight they have roast chicken, spare ribs, and steak—both cooked and raw.” “You’re kidding!” I said. I’m always excited at the chance to give my dog a special meal. She’s a real foodie. Most New Yorkers are. “How could I not have known about this? I’ve been walking past this restaurant for years.” “Well, it’s not exactly advertised,” she said. “Just stand outside the kitchen for a while, and make sure they see the dog. They’ll know what to do.” I laughed. It was like a drug deal. But I was willing to stand on a dark street corner and look suspicious if it would benefit my dog. I won’t go into details about the exchange of goods. Suffice to say I stood in the appropriate spot, got the attention of the appropriate person, and soon a wonderfully kind dishwasher brought out a bag of bounty: tender roast chicken, large strips of steak cooked rare, even a marrow bone, dripping with blood. Yuck to the latter. But no one looks twice if you walk down New York City streets dripping blood … all in a day’s work. My dog pranced joyously at my side all the way home. I don’t think I should tell you the name of the restaurant because I’m not sure if what they are doing is legal or not. I mean, it should be legal—who would stand in the way of feeding hungry dogs? But New York City is tight with its rules. I once had the brilliant idea of organizing some sort of food-collection service that would collect all the tons of perfectly good food that gets thrown away on a daily basis in America’s eight-billion restaurants…and bring all this it all to the local animal shelter, to feed all those poor neglected pups. I’m talking mostly about the meat that gets thrown away. But few dogs would say no to some french-fried potatoes or sautéed green beans. Brilliant, right? It’s like a grand-scale doggie bag? Well, we all know what happens when we mention our brilliant ideas to crotchety relatives. “Why the hell would you want to do that?” my naysayer said. (She had the same response to my Brilliant Idea of creating a nursing home that was also an animal shelter, thereby giving the seniors a chance to care for the four-legged juniors.) “Who the hell would want to live there?” the crotchety relative said. Anyway, back to the doggie bags. I immediately told my dog-loving neighbor about the amazing generosity of our local steak house, and told her how she was supposed to stand near a certain door and wait until the dishwasher appeared. But she said she would feel “weird” taking handouts like that. “It’s not like my dog is starving and needs free food,” she said. I could see her point, I guess … that weird phobia some people have about appearing even the least bit needy. But my feeling was that anyone who accepted these gifts of doggie bags would actually be helping the planet. I mean, think of all those chickens and cows and pigs who died in order to feed the masses of bankers and supermodels who came to this restaurant in droves, only to leave half their meals untouched? Yes, now is the time to admit I am vegetarian, but we are not here to discuss that. Nor are we here to discuss the conundrum of being a vegetarian who feeds raw meat to a carnivorous dog. I just want to point out that if you bring half a chicken home to your dog after a big night out at your local barbecue joint; well, you’ll be saving half a chicken. Fewer animals will “go to waste.” I reckon that the equivalent of twenty chickens get thrown away per night at this restaurant. And the equivalent of two whole cows. Enough said. It would be interesting to know what your local restaurants do with their scrap meats, and if they’d be willing/able to come up with some form of informal surplus doggie-bag policy. I know it’s more complicated than I could possibly imagine, but I like to think that in every restaurant kitchen there is a kind, conscientious person who is willing/able to take the time to set aside a few tasty morsels for our furry friends? Every little bit helps. Especially if those little bits are doggie-licious. And don’t let those dog-food manufacturers tell you that changing a dog’s diet is ill-advised. They just want you to keep buying their brand. Who doesn’t love a little variety in his/her diet? On Chloe’s menu tonight: beef tenderloin with baby new potatoes and a tiny side order of grilled swordfish. And I didn’t even have to cook!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Chinese include dog on the menu
I used to have a roommate from New Zealand and we literally had to eat breakfast separately because my peanut butter-on-toast was as nauseating to him as his vegemite-on-toast was to me. We found each other’s response to what we viewed as such ordinary food a bit amusing.
Sometimes cultural differences about food can be more serious and cause real clashes. For example, a recent news article reveals that the on-board menu for Chinese astronauts includes dog meat. Dogs are raised for their meat in Huajiang province, and many Chinese people consider this a healthy and savory meal. Some responses to the story of astronauts eating dog meat expressed the view that this is no big deal and just a matter of cultural differences and other expressed outrage at the idea of people eating dog meat.
I must say that in my cultural realm, dogs are companions only and not food, so I would not want to eat dog. The idea, for me personally, makes me very uncomfortable. However, I have eaten cow meat countless times with the full knowledge that for members of the Hindu religion, the cow is sacred and as such, is not used for meat. Furthermore, when I lived in Venezuela, I ate meat of unknown origin on several occasions when people invited me into their homes, so that I am pretty sure I’ve consumed both capybara and rat. It makes me a bit uneasy, but I went with a “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” model for my behavior in these situations, which I usually find to be the most polite course of action when I’m in another country.
Dogs mean different things to different cultures and what sounds appealing as food also varies culturally. How do you feel about Chinese astronauts eating dog? What have you eaten lately that you think someone from another culture might find revolting?
News: Guest Posts
Recipe: Quick and easy bonbons for dogs.
Are you worried your dogs feel left out every time a little goblin, sheik or princess grabs a handful of candy from your Halloween sweets bowl? They are. Don’t try explaining that candy is bad, even dangerous, for them. Instead, provide a delicious alternative.
Pet nutritionist and founder of The Honest Kitchen, Lucy Postins, has concocted an All Hallows Eve treat, made with pumpkin and beef, for our furry friends. Lucy’s Halloween BonBons are quick and easy to make, and use common ingredients found in most kitchens. ("Most kitchens" with a gluten- and grain-free focus, that is.)
The good news, says Postins, is quinoa and buckwheat are not true grains and are tolerated by many grain-allergic pets. She also points out that quinoa flour has a strong taste and aroma that most pets, but not all pets, love. If you’re cooking for a fussy pup, she suggests the buckwheat alternative.
LUCY'S HALLOWEEN BONBONS
Mix equal parts of Force and pumpkin in a bowl. Add the beef, egg and quinoa or buckwheat flour, Mix until well blended.
Shape the dough into balls and place it on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly golden on the outside, but soft in the middle.
Cool, and call in the hounds.
*You can order a sample of Force dog food directly from The Honest Kitchen.
Nothing says love like homemade gifts
Nothing says love like homemade gifts, and if we asked dogs what’s on their wish list, we bet they’d say, “Treats, please.” When it comes to wrapping those treats, think creative reuse and extend the gift potential.Here are ideas to get you started.
Mix It Up
Remember: Chocolate is off limits to dogs. Never substitute cocoa for the carob.
How to Do It
WRAP IT UP
Wellness: Healthy Living
TREAT them both right
You want to give your dog the best. You want to give your child the best, too. No one advocates feeding your child dog food. But how about giving both of them … salmon steak?
Sharing food with your dog seems radical, but it’s merely a return to the way dogs were fed for millennia. The human-animal bond developed partly because dogs and humans could eat the same foods, and the act of sharing reinforced this intimate connection.
Shared food isn’t novel compared with “dog food,” which was invented only 150 years ago when Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cake hit the market. With this biscuit, dog food distinct from human food was created. After World War I, canned horsemeat joined biscuits as dog food, and after World War II, better living through chemistry brought on the golden age of processing: kibble for dogs, TV dinners and Tang for kids.
Nowadays, few of us would feed our kids a 1950s classic like baked ham slice slathered in mustard and garnished with maraschino cherries, a triumph of color over taste. Nor would we feed our dogs a mid-century meal of Gaines-Burgers, a triumph of marketing over nutrition. Instead, we are rediscovering the benefits of unprocessed, home-prepped, whole foods for our kids and dogs.
Michael Pollan’s best-selling In Defense of Food warns us not to eat anything our great-grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food. A complementary principle applies: Don’t feed your dog anything your great-grandmother’s dog wouldn’t recognize as food. What they would both recognize is the same: simply food, not a “Food, Inc.” assemblage of processed factory ingredients.
The best food for dogs and kids is organic, whether meat, produce or whole grains. Too expensive? You can still prepare healthy, sharable meals. Look for sales in your market’s meat section. Chicken and beef can be cheaper per pound than kibble, canned food or packaged treats, and their nutritional value far exceeds that of dog food, whose first ingredients often include by-products and nutrient-poor, agricultural-grade grains. Dog food gives you less for more; shared food gives you more for less. Read unit prices!
Shared food is as fast as “fast food,” as convenient as “convenience food.” Give your kid and your dog carrots instead of potato chips and dog biscuits. Think freshness and simplicity, not complexity and trendiness. A dietary dividend: Kids are more likely to try new foods if the dog’s enjoying them.
Enrich your perspective on shared food with the TREATS system. Named for what dogs and kids both enjoy, TREATS stands for:
Taste over Image
Eat Local, Fresh, Organic
Always Flavor It Yourself
Tooth or Dare
Taste over Image: Don’t buy the succulent-looking chicken plumped with saltwater, pumped with antibiotics and fed pesticide-laced corn. Buy organic or at least “natural” chicken. It tastes better and needs no artificial enhancement.
Read Labels: The packaging depicts a cornucopia of ripe fruits and vegetables, but what’s really inside? Only the manufacturer knows for sure, but you can learn a lot by reading labels. Note the number and incomprehensibility of ingredients in processed food. A whole food has one ingredient: a banana contains banana.
Eat Organic, Seasonal, Local: Patronize a farmers’ market or farm stand. Be brave—if the First Lady can commandeer a plot of White House lawn, you can grow a victory garden. At least set up a window box and grow herbs to …
Always Flavor It Yourself: Don’t buy foods with salt or sugar added. Let your child and dog discover the real taste of food. Experiment with spices like cinnamon, ginger and anise.
Tooth or Dare: Fight dental decay and gum disease; don’t buy kid- and dog-targeted commercial foods. Children’s cereals “might as well be cookies,” says Marion Nestle in What to Eat. Give your kid and dog an apple to share. Dog food doesn’t promote dental health, and it often contains sugar (as does canine toothpaste!). In the wild, canids’ teeth stay clean through a diet consisting primarily of meat and bones. (With their wolf-like dentition, dogs are classified taxonomically as carnivores, which does not preclude opportunistically eating vegetation, including digestible vegetables.)
Sporting Life: Encourage your kid and dog to play together. Childhood and canine obesity are major health problems. An active lifestyle is as important as a healthful diet with portion control.
Here’s the real treat: When your kid and dog enjoy a shared meal, they’re celebrating the human-animal bond all over again. Bone appetit!
Yield: Approximately 32 cups, which feeds a medium-size dog for 8 days at 4 cups per day.
Yield: approximately 6 cups, which feeds a medium-sized dog for about 1.5 days at 4 cups per day.
(Use caution if your pup has not been exposed to dairy.)
Yield: 8 cups, which feeds a medium-sized dog for about 2 days at 4 cups per day.
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