Coffee heat rising

In the Company of Dogs


Cassie and I awoke to a spectacular dawn, the outside air in the 70s. So beautiful was it that nothing would do but what we had to race outside for a long walk around the neighborhood and park. It was a cool and lovely morning, a few foggy-looking clouds floating in the distance, very San Diego.

Recently I made the happy discovery that Cassie does not have to be on a lead. She wants to stick close to the human, she comes when called and stops when asked, she never darts into the street, and she rarely chases birds or cats. When it’s quiet and there’s little traffic, when we’re out early enough or late enough to dodge the other dog-walkers, we can brazenly flout the law and stroll around as friends, not as slave and mistress.

In my lifetime I’ve had only one other dog who could be trusted off the leash, Greta the Genius German Shepherd. She was an amazing dog, a dog that attained true Greatness (she saved my son’s life, rescued me from a rapist, and unlike Anna the Ger-Shep, who only thought she could understand English, Greta indeed did understand human conversation).

Walking with a dog is a very different experience from walking a dog on a leash. It’s the difference between walking with a companion and wrangling an animal, as one does in riding a horse. When you have a dog that you can trust in this way, you begin to understand why people insist on letting their pets off the leash in the city park, come Hell or high water. It really does add a great deal of pleasure to the dog-human relationship.

Rosy-faced lovebird

While we were strolling around, we spotted a pair of small parrots or lorikeets flying free. They looked very much like this bird. Could’ve been a little larger, but the coloration was very similar.

Well, of course one thinks either “dead birds! What ninny brought these creatures here in the first place and then let them escape?” or “invasive species! Say good-bye to the mockingbirds, towhees, doves, quail, and every other native species around here!”

It’s probably not likely that the pair will survive for long. But one never knows. In fact, the low desert once was home to vast numbers of parrots. The thick-billed parrot inhabited the Sonoran desert and extended from central Mexico all across southern Arizona and up onto the Mogollon Rim. They were exterminated in Arizona and northern Mexico, largely by hunters. South of the border they were shot for food; north of the border, for the hell of it. Between the overhunting and the habitat destruction, they almost went extinct.

Some years ago, a few ambitious environmentalists tried to reintroduce the thick-bill to southern Arizona, an effort that ended in a Fail. Entrenched predators (humans included) quickly picked them off. At any rate, once upon a time the Sonoran desert hosted parrots, and so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that escaped birds could establish themselves and form feral populations. The rosy-faced lovebird, if that’s what we saw, is an arid-land native, hailing from Namibia, a far harsher environment than ours.

Because the corgi holds its head upright and its eyes are toward the front, Cassie seems to see into the air and overhead better than many other dogs. She notices birds and loves to chase them around. She definitely noticed the two parrots, whose call stood out from the busy birdsong that made for our background music, and watched with interest as they flew around the African sumac and palm trees.

Click on me...

We ambled into the rich folks’ territory and paid a visit to the estate-sized lot that used to harbor a gaggle of peacocks.  The human who owns the place has so many trees and giant shrubs growing, it’s dark and shady as a grotto beyond the wall. Alas, he’s never replaced the birds that were picked off by the coyotes, probably much to the neighbors’ relief. Peacocks make a loud and ridiculous noise, a sound many people find grating.

I rather like the crow of a peacock. More flamboyant than a rooster’s, it brings to mind exotic locales like Myanmar and India.

And I do love the sound of an ordinary rooster’s crowing. Because the neighborhood still has several horse properties, some people do have flocks of chickens—you’re allowed to keep a cock if you own a horse property, which the county and city regard as agricultural land. So if Cassie and I get out early enough, we can hear the proud and arrogant call of the master of a henhouse, trumpeting up the sun as the Indians drum it down at sunset.

The rooster conjures up some exotic locales for me, too. When I was a little girl, long before the ongoing rounds of war in Lebanon began, we spent one of my father’s short leaves at their friends’ home in Beirut.

You can’t imagine how beautiful Beirut was, a gem on the Mediterranean, where the beaches were made not of sand but of tiny, smooth, jewel-like stones. My father spent his short leaves either in Bahrein, which at the time was comparable to…oh, say Tijuana or Nogales, or in Beirut, a truly magnificent place. Once we stayed in a hotel. But the visit that stays with me came when we took up two weeks’ residence with my former third-grade teacher and her new husband, one of the geologists who had been with Aramco since before World War II. This pair lived in the city, not in some American ghetto, and their friends were Lebanese of all social classes.

One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is awaking in the early violet pre-dawn to the sound of donkeys’ hooves clip-clopping up the cobbled street in front of the house. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, the sun snuck up on the morning and told the roosters it was time to wake the world. A symphony of cocks’ crows arose in the distance, quite a bracing and refreshing sound. It made me, a rather sad and withdrawn child, want to get up and greet the day.

Well. So, from the former peacock orchard it was on to the park, which by the time we got there was overrun by dog lovers. I’m not an aficionado of dog parks—which our park is not, even though people from surrounding neighborhoods bring their animals every Saturday and Sunday morning and let them run loose. So, Cassie was on the leash most of the time, unless we were pretty much out of the way of large frolicking descendants of wolves masquerading as foolish humans’ “babies.” Some of these people—oh, let’s generalize and say all of the ninnies—make “self-centered” a religion. One old buzzard, with a big black chow whose fur had been shaved into a poodle cut (no joke!), saw me and Cassie making for our favorite bench and unabashedly hurried to get there first and plop himself down on it.

As soon as we walked past, he got up and left, having shown that he could do it. He probably drives like that, too.

By then Cassie was getting thirsty. After she finished off the water in the mug I was carrying and then consumed half a refill from the plugged-up park drinking fountain, we decided to head home. The sun had already been up too long, too many humans were abroad, and we were hungry.



Peach-faced lovebird, Peter Békési, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Indian peacock, BS Thurner Hof, GNU Free Documentation License.

This essay is not an endorsement of letting your dog run free or walking your dog off the leash. Both of these put your dog, other people’s pets and children, and you at risk. In general, your dog should be on a lead whenever it is outside your home or your yard.

Spectacular ending to a difficult day

dcp_2265Unbelievably gorgeous Arizona sunset this evening. The air is crisp—almost cold—as a rain front is ambling in from the west. A buttermilk sky floating in ahead of the storm turned first hot gold and then deep red against a turquoise backdrop. Very nice: A-minus, God.

Today piled atop yesterday to create 48 hours from Hell. At four in the morning, the dog threw up all over the bed. I’d run out of meat last night and so cooked her a couple of eggs…you can imagine what a mess that made. But try not to! By the time I got out of bed and got her off the bed and pulled the soiled blankets off (the heat has been off to save money toward the expected RIF, and so four blankets and throws were stacked on the sheets), we had yellow, stinking barf all over me, all over the floor, all over the throw rug, all over the bed, all over the bureau drawer. Fortunately it didn’t get on the pillows and didn’t soak through to the mattress, but I had to launder every stitch of bedding.

Since I don’t have any other blankets or sheets, that was the end of sleeping, after a five-hour nap.

The washer ran from four in the morning to about noon. So did the dog: she kept right on barfing, even though she had nothing left in her to throw up. After about the dozenth woof, I called the vet.

The issue here is that a day before Thanksgiving she got ahold of some sort of plastic–what it was and where she found it remains a mystery. Whatever, she chewed it up into tiny sharp pieces and swallowed a fair amount of it. This put her at risk of an obstruction or a perforated intestine.

Over the phone at the time, the vet advised me to feed her some vaseline, which works like mineral oil to…uhm…grease the works, as it were. We managed to get through the holidays without incident, but the vet also had said to watch for vomiting. Here, we had vomiting. With a vengeance.

Meanwhile, I have 200 typeset pages of medieval and renaissance research to index by tomorrow. Wuz supposed to have read a chunk of it yesterday, but as you may realize, that did not happen, partly because I was so exhausted and so harried I couldn’t function.

After the 9:00 a.m. junket to Borders to pick up the lost AMEX card, it was off to the vet at 12:30, marking pages and cleaning up barf around those trips.

A set of X-rays showed the dog has something in her gut near the caecum. What, the vet did not know. She advised watchful waiting. Gave the dog an antiemetic shot, advised me to give her Pepcid AC to try to cut down the barfing of yellow bile, and said to ease up on feeding her. That’ll be $225.

So much for trying to live on $300 this week. Well, I wasn’t going to make it anyway, but now I’ll have to raid savings to make ends meet. How on earth do I imagine I’m going to live on a gross income that’s $880 a month less than I net today?????

Managed to get through 52 pages before I fell asleep. Woke from a nap with the same headache I’ve been enjoying nonstop for the past two weeks. Do wish it would go away.
There are a lot of things one wishes would go away.

Perusing the daily news, I about had cardiac arrest when I read this story. If I may be permitted to say so: God Damn It! A cherubic eight-year-old child dies because some moron hands him a loaded freaking Uzi. No ordinary moron, mind you: a freaking chief of police!

As a screaming left-wing liberal who happens to take the Constitution literally and so believes that law-abiding citizens do indeed have a right to bear arms, I am so enraged by this stupidity that I can barely breathe. What in the name of heaven could these people have been thinking?

  1. An eight-year-old is a child. Spell it: c-h-i-l-d!
  2. An Uzi has a recoil. That’s r-e-c-o-i-l.
  3. If you don’t know what that means, try k-i-c-k-b-a-c-k.
  4. An Uzi is designed for soldiers in combat, not small children at play.
  5. A boy will get just as big a thrill out of shooting a .22 as anything else, and a .22 will let him learn how to handle a gun safely and hit a target accurately.

But apparently “handle a gun safely” was not on the agenda at this fun event. w00t! Full auto rock & roll!

Forty-eight hours from Hell.


* sigh *

Wish I earned four times what a senior editor makes, as young Fabulously Broke is doing as an independent IT guru. If I did…well, then I would.


Last night I learned that the person I hoped would take care of Cassie the Corgie in October, when I’d planned to go to a reunion of my dearest college friends, can’t do it. That leaves me with no babysitter for the dog, and so that means I can’t go. Darn it. I was really looking forward to getting together with these women, only one of whom I’ve seen at all since we graduated from the university forty-two years ago.

Besides the fact that I can’t afford to put the pooch up at a kennel or at the vet’s, I’ve developed a real flinch reflex about that strategy. During my adult life, I’ve had seven dogs and seven cats. For twenty years I was married to a man who loved to travel and who could afford to board the dog while we were in transit. Not once, EVER, have I boarded a pet (dog or cat) and brought it home healthy. Every single time, the animal has come back from the vet’s or the kennel with some ailment or parasite infestation: kennel cough, enteritis, ear mites, ticks, fleas…you name it. What this means is that after you’ve paid the vet to put the dog up for several days, you then get to pay the vet to treat the dog for whatever it picked up at the vet’s kennel! And I really can’t afford to pony up another $100 to get Cassie well on top of the boarding fee, the $100 my car will burn in driving to Sedona, the cost of eating out four days, and the cost of a gift for the hostess. If I earned IT guru money, I could afford to have a petsitter come to the house. Because Cassie won’t use a dog door and won’t go out and do her thing unless you go out and stand there with her, such a person would have to show up twice each day to feed her and then come back and let her out another four times. Or so. We won’t be doing that.

Oh well. I’ve lived forty-two years without seeing old friends. Guess I can manage to get through however many years remain without it.

Then there’s yesterday’s bêtise: I stupidly bought a beautiful little table on megasale at Pier One. It was already marked off a substantial amount. Then I got another 20% discount for taking the floor model.

And then I let the sales dude load it in my car. If I’d done it myself, I would have done it right. The thing fell over at the first turn I made, splitting the pretty painted top. This might have been OK, because the broken part is in a corner and doesn’t show much. Or it wouldn’t, if the table fit in the place I planned to put it. But it doesn’t. It’s two inches too wide! And because I took the extra discount, I can’t take it back.

So now I have a $170 Goodwill item. Bad stupidity!

Yesterday another of my little stupidities came home to roost: I’d agreed to accept a guest post on the uses and misuses of the one-em dash for The Copyeditor’s Desk. This magnum opus arrived yesterday morning. Duh! WordPress won’t do a one-em dash! So now I’ve got a very fine essay full of examples requiring a character that doesn’t exist, as far as I can tell, in the blog’s publishing software.

Then I realized, along about 11:30 last night, that I’d forgotten to go by La Maya’s house and pick up the newspaper, they being out of town. They’ve probably been burgled by now.

Well, I’d better get up, feed the dog, and see what new disasters I can commit.

Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine…

Cassie the Corgi decided the crack of dawn was too late to start the day, and so began campaigning to spring to life at ten to five. Gronk! After wringing her out and finding myself still being importuned to get up, I put her on the bed, in hopes that would quiet her down. You don’t put a dog on the bed when you do that. You put a 23-pound puffball of fur on the bed — one that wriggles. So…we’ll be washing the bedding this morning, among other activities.

Precious few blossoms are clinging to vines here at the tail end of summer. When the power went out the other day, it shut down the irrigation timer, and so quite a few of the blossoming critters in my yard are parched. The weather has been surprisingly balmy this year: only a few 115-degree days. We’re supposed to have a heat wave this weekend, with temperatures predicted at around 110, although just now it’s quite lovely outside.

Thank goodness we get an “extra” paycheck this month! Last week’sfurniture-buying exploitoverspent my Diddle-It-Away savings by about $200. Truth is, the money could come out of ordinary cash flow, but that maneuver would engross this month’s payment into the Renovation Loan paydown fund. A couple hundred bucks out of the paycheck of the 29th will do no harm.

I vacillate between taking the $9,500 now accrued in the paydown fund and applying it to principal right now and keeping it in savings to double as emergency fund cash. One thing to be said for paying it toward principal right this minute is that it will keep me from spending it on anything else. Another thing, of course, is that it will cause a much larger chunk of the regular monthly payment to go toward principal, which would be good. On the other hand, with the economy as iffy as it is and the university busily laying off its employees, I hesitate to let those dollars out of my hands.

This is gunna be a hectic weekend. I’ve got to hand over an indexing project to my sidekick for proofreading no later than Tuesday noon; at the moment two chapters and an endless series of narrative endnotes remain to be marked up, and then I have to type, format, and organize the entries. That job alone will take at least an entire day. The author is paying us a premium to do a rush job, so in fact we each will earn more than enough to pay the extra $200 needed to cover the entire furniture adventure. But horrors! It requires me to (shudder!)work! Meanwhile, food needs to be purchased, laundry laundered, floors and furniture cleaned, pool tended to, yard plants rescued….where will the time come from?

TheHealth & Wealth rafflehas had its first two drawings. So far the organizers have not awarded me the million work-free dollars to which I feel I am entitled. One more drawing is slated for September 26. Surely at that time the money will be deposited to my checking account.

And so, to work.

Dog Hilarity: The wacky things people do for their pets

OK, OK, I know: it’s not nice to laugh at other people’s foibles, especially when you have your own foibles. But oh, it’s hard to resist.

The weather having cooled into the 80s at dawn, I settled into the backyard lawn chair with tea and the Times Sunday magazine, a cherished weekend ritual. My dog, having developed a limp, milked it for all it was worth while chasing after me to make sure I did not escape her eyesight. What should greet me but a cover story titled “Pet Pharm.” You think I overspend on my dogs? As nothing. Collectively, Americans are forking over millions of dollars on psychoactive drugs for their pets.

We make the animals nuts by forcing them into distinctly noncanine, nonfeline, nonavian living quarters and behaviors, and then we medicate them because they’re nuts.

Dog and Human Nuttiness

Here’s a guy whose German shepherd has developed a neurotic fixation on him: it has an “overpowering need to be near people, especially Allan. If they put Max outside, he quickly relieved himself and then rushed back indoors; he raced into rooms that Allan was about to occupy; he rested his head against the bathroom door during his master’s ablutions.”

Sounds familiar. Little does Allan know that if he adopted Max out, Max would instantly develop a similar fixation on the next human, much as one Cassie the Corgi has done. Hm. Maybe Cassie needs a few doses of Eli Lilly’s chewable Prozac that tastes like beef. Max goes a little further than Cassie does, though: he throws a fit if Allan hugs his wife, and he chases his tail obsessively, hour after hour. To address these neuroses, Max is being put on a tricyclic antidepressant commonly used in human psychiatric care.

Some of the nonsense humans will put up with defies belief: “Doug noticed that his cat would attack if he smelled strange, so he would take a shower after coming home and then change into his khaki pants lined with ballistic nylon.

Doug, Doug, Doug. Can you spell “put to sleep”?

Follow the Money Trail…

This amazing behavior—on the humans’ part, that is—redounds hugely to Big Pharma’s benefit. The rich get richer and the adoring pet owners get poorer. According to the Times, surveys by a pet products manufacturing group show that 77% of dog owners and 52% of cat owners gave their animals some sort of medication in 2006, both up about 25 percentage points from 2004—that’s a 25% jump in just two years! (My late Ger-shep may have accounted for most of that.) Eli Lilly has created a special “companion animal” division, and Pfizer’s Animal Health has seen its revenues grow 57% since 2003, to nearly a billion dollars. In 2005, according to marketing research firm Ipsos, in 2005 Americans spent at least $15 million on behavior modification drugs for their pets.

The trend thrives on a cast of mind dubbed “humanization,” whereby pet-lovers come to see their animals as little furry four-legged people. The cat becomes a member of the family for whom we would do no less than we would do for our children. The pet industry, of which Big Pharma owns a substantial portion, exploits this sentimentality to separate humans from cash.

Is this good for pets? Maybe. Some of them get to live a little longer than they might have, had their tendencies to rip up the furniture and bite passers-by gone unchecked. They may live on in a drug-induced stupor; they may live on in neurotic or even psychotic misery. I’m not sure that’s good for a dog or a cat.

Is it good for the humans? I doubt it. Forgive my lack of empathy, but I do not believe that calculated exploitation of your emotions is good for you. Au contraire.

My take

Cassie the Corgi does have a few bats in her doggy belfry, no question of that. She never lets the human out of her sight. She sticks to me like a burr in a hound dog’s coat. She will not eat unless I stay nearby. She will not go outside to do her doggy business unless I accompany her and stand there until she’s done.

This could be a problem, come rain and frost. Just now, it’s OK, but I’m not very interested in standing in the rain or freezing my toes on a 30-degree night while I wait for a dog to decide to pee.

Unlike many dogs with separation anxiety, she doesn’t chew or rip up the furniture. But she is afraid of loud noises—the sound of distant July 4th fireworks nearly put her into a frenzy, and a passing thunderstorm alarmed her significantly. The other night a violent monsoon firehosed the house; the sound of heavy rainfall made her nervous, too.

This is not normal dog behavior. Whether it’s inbred or the result of something her previous humans did is irrelevant: a healthy dog does not behave this way.

Am I going to give her doggy Prozac or canine clomipramine? Not a chance! If she can’t adjust to normal life, she can’t adjust. Since she’s not aggressive or destructive, she’ll just be a wacky little dog.

But I can tell you for certain: anyone who goes around in bullet-proof long johns to protect himself from his demented cat is crazier than the cat is! Anyone who puts a dog on psychoactive meds instead of putting it down after it delivered a serious bite to its owner over a cheese plate (as one couple interviewed for the Times piece did) has got more holes in his head than an entire wheel of Swiss cheese.

A dog that is dangerous is a dog that is dangerous. Same is true of cats: although cats are smaller, they can do some serious harm. Dogs and cats are carnivores. Predators. They are built to inflict terminal damage—videlicet, the French woman who had her face ripped off by her pet dog.

No amount of mind-altering drugs will change that basic truth.

Dog Food: The costs and benefits of making your own

 Cassie, the Little Dog, turns up her dainty nose at Science Diet’s best lamb and rice kibble. Won’t touch packaged doggy treats. Doesn’t think much of ultrapremium canned food, either, though she’ll gag down a few bites. After three days of hunger strike, she’d already lost about two pounds—a lot when you weigh 23 pounds.

At first I thought she was off her feed because of the stress of being dumped in the Humane Society shelter, a place as wild as a nineteenth-century madhouse, then yanked out by a strange woman, fussed over by the woman’s friends and relatives, dragged to two vets, sickened by bordetella, and dosed up with antibiotics and cough medicine. Concerned because she was eating almost nothing, last night I fixed her a dish of the same kind of food I cooked for Anna and Walt during the last year’s Chinese pet food scare: half a piece of steak grilled for my own dinner, a few spoonsful of boiled rice, some spinach, and some peas.

She inhaled the stuff and begged for more.

Makin’ It

Hot dang! Dollars to donuts, this dog has been eating real food. That would explain her perfect coat and teeth in such excellent condition it surprised both vets. It also would explain why she didn’t get the doggywobbles despite the stress and the changing food. When dogs eat real food, their tastes are catholic and versatile, and diversity in their diet does not trigger gastritis and diarrhea. Possibly her humans fed her the BARF diet: raw meat and bones. This is somewhat risky, given that pathogens are pathogens, whether they’re attacking people or dogs, and raw meat is full of pathogens. BARF is probably the most popular of the do-it-yourself dog feeding projects, though, and so chances are good this is what she ate.

A little undergraduate coursework in microbiology has left me unwilling to ingest raw meat or to feed it to a domestic mammal. So my idea of homemade dog food is a combination of meat cooked rare to medium (well-done for poultry or pork), starch, and veggies. If you cook your own meals rather than eating out all the time, it’s no problem to put a little extra on the stove for the dog.

Why Feed Dogs Real Food?

Commercial dog food, whether kibble, semi-moist, or canned, is not food. It’s no more food than is junk food for humans. The fact that you can swallow something doesn’t make it food. For a dog to spend its entire life eating kibble is about like a person starting in on hot dogs and dry packaged cereal in infancy and having nothing else to eat for the rest of his or her life. Think of that.

Dogs are not evolved to eat bizarre chemicals. Dogs have lived with humans and have eaten what humans eat for thousands and thousands of years. Commercial packaged or canned dog food came into being in the early part of the 20th century. DNA testing suggests dogs moved into human camps about 15,000 years ago. But in a scant 60 years, we’ve allowed merchandisers and a compliant veterinary industry to convince us that dogs can’t survive on “people food.” Really: does this make sense? If dogs can’t thrive on real food, how did they manage to survive for the 14,940 years before manufacturers started peddling fake food for dogs?

When I switched Anna and Walter over to real food during the 2007 scare, the improvement in their vigor and health was striking. Both 12 years old at the time, they each were showing signs of age. Before long, their coats looked great, they had more energy, their dog breath disappeared. Their dog mounds became more compact and normal-looking, and instead of having to collect upwards of a dozen giant mounds a day, I found myself picking up only a couple. It was clear as day that both dogs thrived when no kibble crossed their bristly lips.

Feeding two 90-pound dogs, however, meant cranking 28 pounds a week out of my kitchen. It wasn’t hard, but it could be messy, especially if I tried to cook an entire week’s worth in a single day. When, after several months, Walt started to lose weight drastically, I thought he wasn’t getting enough nutrition and switched both animals back to commercial food. This assumption was wrong: he was wasting away with an aggressive cancer, which soon ended his life. By then, though, Anna was obediently eating Trader Joe’s kibble, and so I took the path of least resistance and kept her on it.

To feed real food to this little dog, though, would be pretty easy. According to the instructions on the 13.5-ounce can of premium dog food I brought home, she should have about one can a day-less than a pound. By my own rule of thumb-daily ration = 2% of body weight-she should have about a half-pound of real food each day. That’s a little scanty, though a full pound may be a little much. It’s easy to schlep her to a vet’s office to be weighed, and that’s how you figure out how much to feed: follow the animal’s weight for a while and adjust the ration accordingly. The amount I made Sunday evening, which started with a cup of rice to which, after it was cooked, were added meat and a few vegetables, fed her for three meals.

After her second little feast, Cassie perked up considerably. She’s been tearing down the hall after her toys and boldly exploring the house and yard. The cough has subsided and she evidently feels much better.

So…how much does this cost?

Well, I’ll have to admit that preparing real food for two dogs as big as small horses was not cheap: a dog the size of a German shepherd or a male greyhound requires 14 pounds of food a week, of which five to seven pounds should be high-quality meat. Kibble doped with a small amount of meat or broth (the only way you can get a dog to eat that stuff) costs significantly less.

However, a home-made diet for a small dog like Cassie is cost-effective. In the first place, one will save a lot on vet bills if one is not forcing the animal to eat feed that is suspect at best and toxic at worst. But in the second place, the small amount such a dog eats costs no more than the best quality dog food you can get.

One can of Precise chicken dog food set me back $2.99; it will feed Cassie for just one day. A small bag of Science Diet and a bag of inedible dog treats rang up a $16 bill at PetSmart.

I returned the PetSmart foodoid—one thing you have to give to that outfit is that they will take back opened packages of dry dog food if your dog won’t eat it—collecting my sixteen bucks. Then I headed for Sprouts, where for $7.88 I got a package of hamburger (on sale for $1.99 a pound), a package of chicken, a bag of bulk converted rice, and some veggies.

Okay. That’s half of what I paid for the Science Diet and dog treats, all of which was going from the package to the dog bowl to the garbage. No matter what I put on the kibble, the dog flat wouldn’t eat it, and of course whatever I put on it quickly spoiled in the summer heat. So any money spent on the stuff effectively was tossed into the trash.

The hamburger, rice, and vegetables produced four days’ worth of Cassie food: that’s eight generous servings. For around five or six bucks, since the rice and veggies will go a lot further than that and I still have the chicken to convert into more dog food.

Once she’s over the kennel cough, I can occasionally substitute cottage cheese for meat, which will cut that cost, as will buying cheaper cuts of meat and having them ground or picking up meat at a better price elsewhere (at Safeway hamburger was selling for $1.70 a pound, but I learned of this after I was done driving through 112-degree heat). So, I expect I can feed her for a week for something between eight and ten bucks.

While this is high compared to dry dog food-which, bear in mind, isn’t food-it’s cheap compared to three dollars a can! One can whose ingredients resemble what I would cook lasts the dog for one day: that would be $21 a week, plus 8.3% tax. In Arizona, I pay no sales tax on human food.

From an early FaM post on making your own dog food:

How do you make dog food?

It’s pretty easy. Remember, over the past 15,000 years, dogs have evolved to eat what people eat. Like their wild ancestors, they’re nonobligate carnivores: this means they’re primarily meat-eaters but also can and do eat a fair amount of vegetable matter. Wolves have been observed scarfing berries and fruit, and you no doubt have watched your own dog munch things like cauliflower and popcorn.

The trick is to feed real food. By that I mean things that would be real food for humans, too: not junk food.

Real meat.

Real vegetables.

Unadulterated sources of starch.

Not junk food. Not hot dogs or leftover Big Macs or ice cream or pizza or peanut butter or any thing that comes in a can or a plastic microwavable package or as a mix to which you just add water. That leaves the entire world of real food:

Meat. Fresh or frozen veggies. Brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, yams, even real potatoes. Cottage cheese, yoghurt, and eggs are OK, too.

What’s not OK to feed dogs, in addition to junk food, are the following items:

  • 1. Onions (toxic; onion causes a life-threatening form of anemia in dogs)
  • 2. Garlic (ditto, no matter what people say about adding it for flavoring)
  • 3. Chocolate (poisonous to dogs)
  • 4. Corn (one of the most common allergens in dogs)
  • 5. Avocado
  • 6. Raw egg white (cooked is OK)
  • 7. Raw salmon (cooked is OK)
  • 8. Grapes
  • 9. Added sugar
  • 10. Added salt

About 30% to 40% of each portion should consist of high-quality protein: meat, eggs, or cheese. The rest of the ingredients should be divided about fifty-fifty between a source of starch (such as rice, oatmeal, potato, or sweet potato) and a wide variety of vegetables. Each serving should ideally contain both a green and a yellow or orange vegetable. Dogs can eat almost any vegetable except plants in the onion family (onions, leeks, chives, shallots, garlic), corn, and avocado.

Cook but do not overcook the meat; only chicken and pork should be well-done all the way through. Cook the starch; if the veggies are frozen, add them to the hot freshly cooked starch item to defrost them and cool the grain or potato. Mix in the meat. If the meat is a solid piece baked or grilled (as opposed to ground meat), cut it into small pieces before adding it to the rest of the food. Add a little olive oil or lard for coat quality and calories. Toss in a doggy vitamin-available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s—and you have dog food that more than exceeds ideal.

Take it easy with fish. Like corn, fish is a common dog allergen. And take note that this diet is for dogs only, not for cats, which are obligatory carnivores.

If you cook like that for your dog, the pooch likely will be eating better than you do.

Veterinary bills will drop to almost nil. Ear infections—often a manifestation of food allergies—will subside or disappear. Backyard cleanup will be hugely easier. Your dog’s coat and teeth will be healthier. And the dog will love you.

Ultimately, this is highly cost-effective. If your dog is healthier, any extra amount you spend on purchasing real food is recouped many times over in savings on the most costly item of pet ownership: veterinary bills. And if your dog lives longer, obviously you will spend less on pets, because over the long term you will have to buy fewer of them.

2 Comments left on iWeb site


Do you really need to take her to a vet to weigh her?You could put her in a box and weigh her on a human scale.

I wonder why people who had evidently been taking such good care of her left her.

Wednesday, June 18, 200803:55 PM


One of my eccentricities is that I don’t own a scale. Throughout my life, my weight has been very stable, never varying more than a pound or two from a set point, and so a scale is redundant and something else for me to find a place for.

Also it’s easier to get a dog on a scale with a large platform, such as veterinarians have. Vets generally allow you to walk in and weigh your dog for free.

The whole issue of why Cassie’s humans dumped her at a shelter gets curiouser and curiouser. It’s now developing that she DOESN’T bark much. She may yap for couple of minutes after I leave, but she quickly settles down. No matter when I come back—whether it’s just five or ten minutes later or several hours later—she’s quiet.

It’s clear she was a child’s pet. At the moment, my neighbor’s nieces and nephews are playing in the pool next door. When Cassie went outside, she heard their voices and SO wanted to get over there and play with them. In their paperwork, the previous owners said they had a seven-year-old daughter. So that means they got rid of their little girl’s little dog. It almost sounds abusive, doesn’t it?

The only thing I can figure is maybe they lost their home and were too embarrassed to discuss that with strangers, so they made up an excuse instead of admitting to a catastrophic financial crisis. There’s apparently more to the story than “dog barks.”

Wednesday, June 18, 200804:40 PM