Sunday, February 27, 2011

Someone's in the Kitchen with Fido

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.
“Don’t ever feed human food to your dog!” It has always amused me when I read or hear that advice. Rubbish, I say! What, for goodness sake, did dogs eat in previous centuries before the advent of manufactured food in cans and bags?
Of course we hope that the family meal is not “shared” with your dog. No one likes a begging dog or one who perches at the table or eats from the counters. Dining in the same room with a canine can be equally unappetizing. My grandson Colin refuses to eat his breakfast while listening to our four-legged friend slurp hers. I don’t blame him because her manners are atrocious!

However, a well-balanced meal of “people food” can be healthy and even beneficial for your pet.

When my beautiful Boxer came to live with me in 2005, she was a sickly, skinny creature less than four months old. Had I known … famous last words, of course … that Boxer Colitis is deadly I might not have taken on such a tragic project. She very nearly died on me several times. Unfortunately, veterinarians at Tufts Animal Hospital suggested expensive procedures that promised nothing more than successful or unsuccessful canine research for the institution.

As a single, working woman I had several disadvantages. I simply couldn’t afford more of the costly hospitalizations at Tufts nor did I have the luxury of spending 24 hours a day trying to nurse her to health.

She was as cute-as-a-button. My Boxer pup had won me over as her champion within a few short weeks. I simply knew that I could not have her euthanized and so I took a radical approach. I enlisted the help of a terrific holistic vet, a caring and loving doggie daycare enterprise (Happy Tails in Franklin) and the kitchen in my own home.

It was obvious that the expensive, “scientifically-engineered” canned food was hindering my puppy’s improvement. Desperately, I turned to my grocery stores and their produce bins, meat counter and dairy aisles. I began with a simple diet of cooked rice, sweet potatoes and ground beef. Over the weeks and months I slowly added scrambled eggs, oatmeal and barley. Our holistic vet suggested the additions of yogurt and cottage cheese for calcium.

In the end it took more than two years and a proverbial village of humans to save this lovely animal. She simply wouldn’t have survived without a crew of over twenty dedicated staff at the doggie day care and with the caring veterinary professionals and their help. That village soon included my husband–to-be and his grandson who love our four-footed friend as much as I do. She greets our grandson on his way in the door each day and she is the buddy who craves playtime with my husband each night. Her tail wags crazily as I make her breakfast each morning and she is our delight.

So … if you are thinking I’m a bit crazy to cook for my dog you need to know that I’m not alone. Others have done the same and have even written the book, so to speak.

”Real Food for Dogs: 50 Vet-Approved Recipes to Please the Canine Gastronome” has an irresistible cover and cute illustrations but it also has some great recipes. Arden Moore is not a veterinarian but he includes plenty of food that stocks everyone’s shelves and refrigerators.

“Throw Me a Bone: 50 Healthy, Canine-Taste-Tested Recipes for Snacks, Meals and Treats” is rather surprisingly written by canine Cooper Gillespie as told to his companion, Susan Orleans. (Orlean is the celebrated author of the “Orchid Thief.”)

“Grrrrowlicious Food for Hungry Dogs” by Jamie Young includes recipes for Cheese and Bacon Cookies, Meatballs and Fried Rice. Young asserts that you’ll be stealing food from your dog’s dish!

In “The Everything Cooking for Dogs Book: 150 Quick and Healthy Recipes Your Dog Will Love” Lisa Fortunato promises recipes without salt, sugar, trans fats or preservatives. In actuality, none of those bad things appear in any dog food recipes. Health abounds and we can all take lessons from these cookbooks.

If you’re looking for treats you might try Stephanie Mehanna’s “PupSnacks: 35 Delicious and Healthy Recipes to Bark Home About”. Throwing a birthday bash for your pet? Check out “The Good Treats Cookbook for Dogs: 50 Home-Cooked Treats for Special Occasions Plus Everything You Need to Know to Throw a Dog Party!” by Barbara Burg. Involve the kids in the fun with “Cool Pet Treats: Easy Recipes for Kids to Bake” by Pam Price.

You don’t have dogs in your family? Well Andi Brown’s “The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats” and “The Natural Pet Food Cookbook: Healthful Recipes for Dogs and Cats” by Wendy Nan Rees include the felines along with the canines.

If you’re not convinced that homemade food can help your pet be sure to read Mark Poveromo’s “To Your Dog’s Health!: Canine Nutrition and Recent Trends With the Pet Food Industry”, Michael Fox’s “Not Fit For a Dog!: The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food” or Marion Nestle’s “Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog.”

Over the course of this sweet dog’s first two years, her digestive tract was healed of Colitis. Today, she is nearly six years old and she is the picture of health. We spend a mere hour each week cooking up her special recipe and store it in our refrigerator to use three times a day. We add a handful of quality dry dog food at dinnertime for “crunch”. Oh, and we always add a few special snacks for a special dog.

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog for these titles or for placing requests for books, please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,