Raw Food – for the Dogs and Me

    I think my Italian Greyhounds eat better than I do.

    I had just moved back to Minneapolis in 1999 and saw an ad in the grocery store for two Italian Greyhounds (miniatures) available for adoption. I just knew they were for me! Their owner had to go to live in a hospice. They were an 11-year-old female, Molly, and her half brother, 9-year-old Derrick. They were skittish and very frightened, much like me at the time. Quickly they became my children. Within a few months, Derrick became a bit overweight and Molly a bit underweight. The veterinarian recommends a lithe body to protect their long, sinewy legs.

    I had heard about the BARF diet – biologically appropriate raw food plan. The idea of lots of raw meat seemed to bring up the bacteria question. I wondered how differently they should eat than me. Five nights a week, I whip up a Caesar salad, and when making the dressing use several cloves of garlic and a fair bit of extra virgin olive oil. One night I offered them leftover salad. They seemed to eat it right up. As time went on, they would grow anxious for human dinner to finish so they could have their share. Eventually, I began to add ground up flax seed, carrots, broccoli and other vegetables into the Caesar salad. The dogs never seemed to grow tired of their nightly salad and now remain at a healthy weight all year long, with silky coats and bright eyes.

    It wasn’t what my cooking teacher had in mind, but somewhere along the way I began cooking "dog soup" two times a week just for the greyhounds. It consists of any hormone-free meat browned, bones removed, cut up and returned with water to the pot. This is cooked with brown rice, quinoa, lentils, steel-cut oats or whatever is on hand and simmered until pretty tender, then cooled. When it is cool and just before the first serving, I add ground up varied raw vegetables. Each morning they get a dish of this. They stand at attention for this in the morning!

    I cook this happily and with love, because it seems to do them so much good. I was happy to drop off a container of "dog soup" each week last summer with the beloved neighbor dog, Doris, to coax her to eat while she struggled with a renal challenge. Her owner, Karen, said Doris lived longer because the varied flavor helped encourage her to eat. It was a blessing to share.

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