For the Love of Dog

Your dog will never wake up one day and decide he doesn’t love you any more.

He’ll love you no matter your age or weight or mood on any given day. He’ll look at you adoringly when you come home from work, throw on your sweats, have a bean burrito for supper and the effects of said bean burrito start to kick in as you watch TV with him on the couch.

They are the embodiment of unconditional love, exemplary in their devotion. Just take a look at the internet. On any given day, you can see videos of soldiers returning home to dogs going ape shit in celebration at seeing the one they love after months or years apart. Then there are the videos of dogs chasing after the ambulance with their person inside. They wait for days or weeks outside the hospital doors for their dear one. (Warning, do not watch these videos in the morning before having to go to work. Puffy eyes are sure to ensue.) And what about Hachiko – the Japanese Akita? Even after the man he loved died unexpectedly at work, he continued to wait for him at the train station for nine years. How do I get someone to love me like that . . . . . with only two legs and, hopefully, better breath?

When my heat went out during a winter storm, my own dog made sure he laid on top of me all night to keep me warm. And on days when I am sick, he checks on me with snuffles to the face and a few licks, finally, lying down beside me to rest his chin on my legs and keep watch over me until I feel well again.

Dogs don’t just fill our hearts, they actually make them stronger. Studies have shown that people lucky enough to have a dog in their life enjoy lower blood pressure, reduced stress levels and are more fit and active. A new study has reaffirmed what dog lovers have long suspected. People who own a dog may live longer and be healthier because of their pooches. For people who live solo, owning a dog can cut their risk of death by 33% and their risk of cardiovascular related death by 36%.

Now that my beloved furball is getting older and starting to show signs of arthritis, his vet told me he’d have an easier time if he lost a few pounds (Wouldn’t we all?!) I started to examine not only the portion size of his food but the quality of it and came to the sad conclusion that I was letting him down.

When dogs first started hanging out with us, they ate what we ate; what we left behind. At the turn of the 20th century, coinciding with the industrial revolution and more urban lifestyles, fresh whole food diets were no longer the norm. People were eating more processed foods and there were lots of by products (waste) to get rid of and so, the idea of canned dog food was born.

Although each of the following ingredients is appalling, each can be lawfully used to make dog food:

  • Slaughterhouse waste (organs, heads, hooves, beaks, feet)
  • Bread and cereal rejects (cobs, stalks, mill sweepings)
  • Dying, diseased and disabled farm animals
  • Road kill (deer, skunks, and raccoons)
  • Contaminated grain middlings
  • Distiller fermentation waste
  • Spoiled supermarket food
  • Euthanized cats and dogs
  • Restaurant grease
  • Dead zoo animals

When tin and meat were rationed during World War II and pet food was classified as a “non-essential,” producers had to get creative. Something shelf-stable that could be sold in bags would come next and kibble came to be.

The same awful ingredients (crap, if we’re being honest) are cooked under extreme pressurized steam and high temperatures, mixed with high levels of carbohydrates (to promote uniformity) before being extruded through a machine to form the small shapes we recognize as kibble today. All of this basically destroys whatever nutritional value there may have been at the start. Food companies then spray flavoring and fats on the kibble to get the animals to eat it.

These foods are marketed, in the interest of profits, as healthier than whole, real foods. Is it any wonder their lives are shortened and such a large percentage wind up succumbing to some form of cancer?

We’ve all heard people say, “I wouldn’t feed that to my dog!” I wholeheartedly agree. These bundles of love who wait for us to come home each day with wet nose to window, doing the wiggly butt dance when we return, deserve so much better.

At the suggestion of my new vet, I bought a book called, “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide”. It’s chock full of information on nutrition and dozens of great recipes for your furry family members. Here’s the low-calorie, low-fat recipe I make for my sweet boy: Turkey, Rice and Veggie Mix

Also, check out this list of 20 fruits and veggies that are safe and healthy treats for your dog. It keeps things interesting for them while adding excellent nutrition:

When I love someone, four-legged or two, I cook for them. It really isn’t all that difficult and brings me great joy. I want him to live as long and as healthfully as possible. I owe him that. He deserves it.

I’ve been under the weather the last few days, but I rise from the couch and put the pot on with his food for the next week or so. It starts to simmer and I lie back down after setting the timer. He climbs up, gingerly, and snuggles in beside me, his eyes adoring on my face as he rests his chin on my torso and sighs.



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