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Chicken soup for dog-lovers

Anna H. Banana is looking a little peppier today, after having been off her feed for quite a while. The other day it occurred to me that if chicken soup is Jewish penicillin for people, maybe it would perk up another mammalian species. So I took a few chicken thighs out of the freezer, which I happened to have in lifetime-supply quantities thanks to a bargain purchase, tossed them in a saucepan and covered with water, and added a little salt and a little sugar, and simmered.

Sugar and salt, because she was so peakèd she wasn’t even drinking much water. Suspecting she was getting dehydrated, I wanted to slip her a dose of electrolytes. The beauty of chicken thighs for making a small amount of broth is that they have only one large bone. Getting the cooked meat off is easy—no dodging splintery little bones and sinews.

After an hour or so, I dipped a couple of cups of broth and meat into the dog bowl, stirred in a few ice cubes to cool it to a temperature on the high side of lukewarm, and served it up to the aged Queen of the Galaxy.

She inhaled the stuff! After a couple more meals like that, she began to eat her regular food again, especially if it was made soupy by the addition of lots of broth.

Discovery: Dogs like chicken soup.

Discovery: Dogs like their food warm. Try zapping a little dog food (not kibble) in the micro until it’s warm but not hot. Works.

Discovery: Dogs that hate kibble will eat it if it’s floating in broth.

Normally I don’t feed her much kibble, but if I’m broke or under the weather myself so that I can’t buy or prepare two pounds of food a day for Her Dogship, we don’t have much choice. She’s a lot more likely to eat it if it’s drowned in chicken, lamb, or beef broth.

Chicken broth is easy to make, with thighs, legs, or wings or with bones and carcasses from several meals stashed in the freezer until you’re ready to cook. Just cover them with water, bring to a boil, and turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Pour the cooked broth through a strainer to remove bones. Just now a big pot with three carcasses and bones saved from cut-rate beef roasts that were converted into hamburger is bubbling away on the stove. You can sometimes get lamb necks on sale—dogs really like lamb. There’s only one caveat, and it’s important:

Do not add onions!

Onions are toxic to dogs. Onions themselves are especially bad, but all members of the onion family (garlic, shallots, little green onions, chives) can do the job on your dog. They cause a kind of anemia that can kill the animal—I can testify to this, because I put some onions in meat I was feeding and almost did in two ninety-pound dogs. The smaller the dog, the more vulnerable it is to onion toxicity. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to dose your dog’s food with canned chicken or beef broth, which almost always contains onion.

To make a tastier broth for human purposes, brown some chopped onion, celery, and carrot (any or all) in another pan. Add some garlic if desired and then dip a portion of the broth into the pan. Simmer for an hour or more. Strain into a clean bowl, pressing juices out of vegetables. Et voilà! Dog joy and chicken soup for humans from one set of bones.

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