Gracie is now 13 years old!

For nine years she's eaten REAL, HOMEMADE FOOD, NOT commercial dog food. This blog shows how easy it is to be a DOGGIE CHEF and how healthy a home-fed dog can be.

December 21, 2010

Hamburger Breakfast 12-21-10

Gracie's Breakfast:

Small hamburger, made with 85% lean ground beef

Oatmeal cooked in milk and water

Whole wheat bread

Sweet Potato

And this is what the above meal looked like when I gave it to Gracie; after I'd mixed it up:



December 16, 2010

12-16-10 Winter, Age 11

When the seasons change, I like to take a picture of Gracie by this flowering pear tree in our yard.





























Gracie has a snowy nose because she was more interested in finding her tennis ball in the snow than posing for a picture!
















Click the following links to see Gracie in this spot in:

December 14, 2010

Snow Dog!

Gracie didn't get any outdoor playtime yesterday because we had a huge snowstorm. The weather was calmer when we went out this morning, but still blustery. My outdoor thermometer read 20 degrees F but it's under cover. The blowing wind made the temperature feel a lot colder. Gracie didn't mind at all. She ran, jumped, pounced and behaved nothing like a senior dog going on 12 years old. She's always loved playing in the snow and she always wants to stay out much longer than I do!
Here's Gracie during our kickball game this morning:






November 30, 2010

This & That Breakfast 11-30-10

A kitchen project at our house is making cooking a lot more challenging this week. I have to admit I bought Gracie a box of Milk-Bone dog biscuits yesterday because it's been a while since I made her Homemade Doggie Chef Biscuits.

Leftovers provided a "This & That" meal for Gracie:
Ground beef, cooked in corn oil, with salt, pepper, parsley, basil and rosemary
Sardines
Whole wheat bread
Oatmeal, cooked in milk
Grated, cooked carrot
Bone meal powder

November 25, 2010

11-19-10 Autumn, Age 11

In 1913 American poet Alfred Joyce Kilmer wrote, "I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree..."

I would add, "or a dog..."

Although I took these photos of Gracie Nov. 19, I'm posting them today, Nov. 25, 2010, which happens to be Thanksgiving Day where we live.

When life's troubles get in my way I try to remember the things I can be thankful for. Gracie is definitely at the top of my list. She's the physical presence of love, loyalty and fun.

And in my eyes she rivals the most colorful autumn trees to represent nature's beauty.




[Taking Gracie's picture by this tree as the seasons change has become a tradition for us (see her photos from autumn 2009 and spring 2010).]




November 16, 2010

Ricotta Cheese For Extra Protein And Calcium


This week I discovered Lamagna Ricotta Cheese -- a good food supplement to add to Gracie's meals for extra protein and calcium.

Gracie likes it. I like its simple ingredient list: whole milk, skim milk, vinegar and salt.  And it doesn't contain a lot of salt like the cottage cheese I sometimes feed Gracie. One Gracie-sized serving contains 27.5 milligrams of sodium, or 1 percent of a human's recommended daily value for sodium (based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet).

One Gracie-sized serving of Lamagna Ricotta Cheese contains:

Protein: 3.5 grams
Calcium: 7.5 percent of a human's recommended daily value for calcium (based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet).
Sodium: 27.5 milligrams, or 1 percent of a human's recommended daily value for sodium (based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet).
Sugar: 1.5 grams (which seems like a lot for a Gracie-sized serving)

I wish Lamagna Ricotta Cheese contained less sugar. However, it does contain less sugar than one of the two yogurts I regularly feed Gracie (click here to find out what they are) and more protein and calcium than both of them.

It doesn't contain less sugar than the cottage cheese I sometimes feed Gracie but it contains significantly less sodium, the same amount of protein and more than three times as much calcium as the cottage cheese!. From now on, instead of using cottage cheese in some of Gracie's meals I'll use Lamagna Ricotta Cheese. I think it's a good dairy supplement to add to Gracie's meals a few times each week.

November 9, 2010

Egg Breakfast 11-9-10


1 sunnyside up egg, fried in corn oil

Whole wheat bread

Steel cut oats, cooked in milk

Fresh spinach

Bone meal Powder

November 2, 2010

Is Homemade Dog Food Cheaper...continued from my last post

Since my last blog post I started recording the prices of the ingredients I use to make Gracie's Doggie Chef meals. I wanted to figure out how much a Doggie Chef meal actually costs.

I also started recording the prices of some commercial dog foods, the recommended feeding amounts for a dog of Gracie's weight and how much these commercial dog food meals would cost.

I'm still in the process of collecting and organizing the data but I do have some results to share today:

ONE DOGGIE CHEF MEAL (pictured above):
Roast chicken, cooked with corn oil
Whole wheat bread
Brown rice
Green peas
Yogurt
Corn oil
Bone meal powder
Doggie Chef Meal Cost: Approximately $1.23


COMMERCIAL DOG FOOD COST COMPARISON:

One meal of California Natural Lamb Meal & Rice dry kibble
Cost: Approximately $1.41

One meal of Alpo Prime Cuts canned dog food
Cost: Approximately $2.10

One meal of Dad's Economets Beef Flavor Two Tasty Pieces dry kibble
Cost: Approximately $.54 cents


How I Figured Out the Cost of the Above Doggie Chef Chicken Meal:

One, 5.23 lb, whole chicken, at $.99 per pound cost $5.18.
After cooking, it yielded about 8 meat servings for Gracie (when amounts and figures weren't exact, I estimated and rounded up, in favor of costing more) or $.65 cents per meal.

Gracie's store bought whole wheat bread cost $2.09 per loaf and yields 19 slices. One slice costs $.11 cents and equals 1 meal serving.

A bag of brown rice cost $.68 per pound, or $.34 per cup, uncooked. One cup, uncooked, yields 10 meal servings when cooked. Cost: $.03 - $.04 cents per meal serving.

A 1-pound bag of frozen, baby sweet peas cost $2.20. When I serve Gracie peas I use about 15 peas, or less, per meal. There are too many peas in the bag to count so I  estimated a minimum of 22 servings (22, 15-pea servings;) in the bag (yet I'm sure the bag contains more servings), so $.10 cents per meal for peas.

When I feed Gracie yogurt, she usually eats Greek yogurt. It costs $4.99, from the local grocery store, for 16 ounces (or 2 cups). I usually include about 2 tablespoons in a Doggie Chef meal. Since 1/4 cup = 4 tablespoons, or 2 meal servings, I figure the whole container = 16 meal servings for $4.99. $4.99 divided by 16 = about $.31 cents per meal serving.

A few times a week I add corn oil to Gracie's meals. I can't remember how much my 48 ounce bottle of corn oil costs but I'll overestimate and say it cost $4.00. 8 fluid ounces = 48 teaspoons. So 48 fluid ounces = 288 teaspoons. Which equals 576, 1/2 teaspoons, which is about the serving size I give Gracie. The corn oil costs less than $.01 cent per meal serving.

A few times a week I add bone meal powder to Gracie's meals. One, 8-ounce bottle of KAL Bone Meal Powder cost about $8.50. The bottle lasts longer than a year and Gracie gets bone meal powder only a few times a week. I figure it costs less than $.07 cents per meal serving.

I was pleased to learn the Doggie Chef meal pictured above cost less than a meal of California Naturals dry dog food, or a meal of Alpo canned dog food. Of course, time is money. It does take extra time to prepare Doggie Chef meals for Gracie. Yet I consider it an enjoyable hobby. In a future blog post I'll share the cost of other Doggie Chef meals and other commercial dog food meals.

October 26, 2010

Is Homemade Dog Food Cheaper Than Commercial Dog Food?

Is homemade dog food cheaper than commercial dog food?
[See my next post for an actual cost comparison]

It depends what type of commercial dog food you're comparing it to. Also, to make a fair comparison, it's important to consider the amount of food used. Real food is a lot more nutrient-dense than commercial dog food. With real food, you get more for your money.

When considering the cost of dog food, keep in mind the cost of veterinary care and medicine when dogs are ill or plagued with chronic health problems. I'm certain homemade dog food improves and prolongs a dog's health better than commercial dog food.

I'm pretty sure Gracie's homemade food costs more than the commercial dog food available at my local grocery store. I'm going to work on comparing the price of Doggie Chef meals to commercial dog food meals. Hopefully I'll have some information to share in my next blog post.

Homemade dog food doesn't have to cost a lot more than commercial dog food. Sometimes it can even cost less.

Meat and fish are the most expensive components in Gracie's meals. Yet I don't feed Gracie fish that frequently and I usually purchase meat for her when it's on sale. A large freezer is especially helpful, as meat often costs even less when purchased in bulk. Oatmeal; brown rice; homemade wheat bread; peas; carrots and sweet potatoes cost little, per serving, for the nutrients they provide.

I didn't become a Doggie Chef to save money. I think of the cost as an investment. Gracie earns every penny I spend on her food. She's a contributing family member and more like a working dog than a pet dog.

Gracie is an excellent watchdog who protects our home and family. She's a devoted, fun companion whose loyalty is often unmatched; even by friends and relatives.
And, although it feels a little ridiculous to say this; Gracie, like all pet dogs, is the embodiment of love. I know I'm not alone in this opinion of my dog. Throughout the ages great poets and painters have immortalized their beloved dogs because they share this feeling. Ancient Egyptian royalty mummified their dogs and shared their tombs with them. I'm guessing they felt the same way about their dogs as I do about mine.

As soon as I can collect and organize the information, I'll do a post comparing how much it costs to feed Gracie versus how much it would cost to feed her commercial dog food.

Instead of wondering if homemade dog food is cheaper than commercial dog food, it makes more sense to wonder if it's worth the cost. Is it worth the extra time required to prepare the food? Is it worth the health benefits? Is it worth a hungry dog's pleasure?

Definitely.

October 19, 2010

A Dog Under A Dogwood Tree

As you can tell by her tense, patient expression; Gracie was NOT interested in posing for pictures on this beautiful autumn day. All she wanted to do was play ball in the sunshine. So that's what we did for a while.
"Going gray" is part of the normal aging process but it's kind of weird to watch it happen to your dog. Maybe it's because a dog's life span is so much shorter than a person's and the "going gray" happens more quickly.

In the bright sunshine you can see how white Gracie's muzzle has become. For now, most of the white is on her "chin," just under her mouth.  Gracie's beautiful brown eyes remain clear and alert. And just look at her shiny coat and great muscle tone!
All those Doggie Chef meals have paid off.

There she goes, leaping for a tennis ball and looking wild-eyed. No matter how fast it's moving or bouncing, Gracie always keeps her eyes on the ball until she gets it. Focus and perseverance. Some of the many life lessons a dog will teach us if we watch closely enough.

October 12, 2010

10-12-10 Doggie Chef Meatloaf


We had a few cold, dark autumn days this past week. It was perfect weather for making Doggie Chef Meatloaf. I made a huge one and froze thick slices for future meals. The meatloaf baked in the oven for about 90 minutes, which warmed up the house nicely. Gracie caught the scent about 20 minutes into baking time. I think she knew something good was cooking! For instructions on how I make Doggie Chef Meatloaf, click here.

Here's what Gracie had for dinner:

Doggie Chef Meatloaf (made with lean ground beef, oats, grated fresh carrots; see link above for other ingredients)

Whole Wheat Bread

Cottage Cheese, low-fat

Green Peas, cooked

October 5, 2010

SOME Chinese Takeout 10-5-10


You're probably asking yourself, "What kind of Doggie Chef feeds a beloved pooch Chinese takeout?" Please note this post's title is, "SOME Chinese Takeout." And look carefully at Gracie's bowl of food pictured above. Most of her meal is homemade fare: chicken and brown rice (there's more brown rice concealed under the fried rice you see pictured).

Yes, I did share my dinner with Gracie this past weekend when I had Chinese takeout. Takeout and any kind of fast food is nothing I want to feed my dog (or myself) on a regular basis. Yet occasionally I enjoy it very much. Gracie can see and sense my enjoyment and it's only natural for her to want to be part of the fun. And it's only natural for me to want to share with her. I'm sure Gracie thought last weekend's Chinese takeout smelled irresistible. I knew if I didn't give her some she'd watch me eat with sad, hopeful eyes while droplets of drool fell from her mouth. So I incorporated some Chinese takeout into Gracie's dinner for the evening. To home-cooked chicken and brown rice I added some pork fried rice, some chopped broccoli, a few bean sprouts and two sesame shrimp with most of their battered coatings removed.

I don't bring takeout or fast food home very often. Yet when I do, Gracie gets a bite of whatever it is. In the past she's eaten some of my burgers, french fries, pizza, and a bit of meat, vegetables and rice from Mexican takeout. From Chinese takeout Gracie's eaten fried rice and some meat, vegetables or seafood.

I want to make it clear that Gracie eats takeout and fast food VERY RARELY. She turned 11 years old this year and most of her meals are comprised of home-cooked, whole foods. And when I share takeout or fast food with her, I don't give her much.

There's no way I could sit and eat a meal in front of my best friend without offering a morsel.  I share my food with Gracie because it wouldn't taste as good to me if I didn't.


September 29, 2010

Vaccinations --- Pfizer's Porphyromonas Vaccine For Periodontal Disease

Last spring I received a newsletter from Gracie's veterinary office. One article is written from the viewpoint of a dog named Harry. The dog recounts his experience with periodontal disease. The article reads, in part:

"...when the infection spread from my mouth to my internal organs I spent days in intensive care and was so sick I could barely wag my tail... I could have prevented it by brushing and flossing but I don't have any thumbs so now I rely on my family to protect my health by having my teeth and periodontal tissues professionally cleaned on a regular basis...My dental health is maintained by the use of Pfizer's porphyromonas vaccine to help prevent periodontal bacteria. I now feel great and plan on telling all my friends about regular dental care."

Should anxious pet owners run out and buy yet another vaccination for their dogs? Of course periodontal disease is a serious issue, but do most dogs really need to get a vaccine to prevent it?

The Merck Veterinary Manual online states, "Mechanical control, in the form of toothbrushing and diets designed to remove tartar and calculus from teeth, can be used proactively to prevent periodontal disease."

Regular toothbrushing is really all it takes to prevent periodontal disease in most dogs.

I try to brush Gracie's teeth once or twice a week. Click here to see my post about Doggie Dental Care. Too often I've been lazy about doing it. Occasionally I've gone as long as two weeks without brushing her teeth. Even so, her vet has commented on how well her teeth and gums look. Her teeth aren't perfectly white and tartar-free, but they're healthy.
In most dogs, periodontal disease can be prevented with a little owner effort and common sense.

Pet dogs already receive too many vaccines. Most dog owners don't even think to ask questions or say, "No thank you," when their veterinary office staff tells them it's time for another vaccination.

According to the ASPCA's (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals) website, the American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Task Force published a revised version of canine vaccination guidelines in 2006. The ASPCA's website states,
"The guidelines divide vaccines into three categories—core, non-core and not recommended.
Core vaccines are considered vital to all dogs based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans. Canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies are considered core vaccines by the Task Force.
Non-core vaccines are given depending on the dog’s exposure risk. These include vaccines against Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria."
No mention is made about any "not recommended" vaccines.

I've read several sources describing core, non-core and not recommended vaccines for dogs and they're not always the same!
The most enlightening information I've read about canine vaccinations is in the 1999 book, "The Nature of Animal Healing," by Martin Goldstein, DVM. Click here to read my review of this book.

Better yet, click here for a link to Google Books where you can read most of Chapter Four, "The Dubious Legacy of Vaccines." It's worth reading if you're concerned about vaccinating your dog.

I'm sure Pfizer's porphyromonas vaccine is totally unnecessary for most dogs. Gracie won't be getting it any time soon.

September 21, 2010

Chicken Organ Meats Dinner 9-21-10


Chicken heart, liver, gizzard and neck meat; cooked in corn oil

White rice

Whole wheat bread

Fat-free yogurt

September 14, 2010

When There's No Time For Homemade Dog Biscuits

It's been several weeks since I've made Homemade Doggie Chef Biscuits (click here for the recipe). Time constraints and some warm weather days prevented me from baking a batch. Yet Gracie expects a crunchy treat after breakfast and dinner, and when she comes in from her afternoon backyard break.
When there's no time to bake Doggie Chef Biscuits, or when the weather is too hot to bake, I try to substitute one of the treats pictured above. The treats shown are, clockwise from the top: sliced French baguette bread (dried out in a paper bag for a few days until crunchy); plain, rye crackers; and Melba round crackers.



September 7, 2010

Gracie's STILL full of energy!

I had a lot of fun taking action photos of Gracie in the yard this past weekend. Well into her 11th year, Gracie is still full of vitality. She's ALWAYS ready to play. Even the very hot days we had this summer didn't seem to dampen her desire to play outside.

I'm certain her good health at this age is due to the homemade meals she's eaten every day for so many years. I hope these photos of my strong, active 11-year-old dog will help others see the benefits of being a Doggie Chef. It's truly rewarding to feed a beloved pet homemade meals!






































August 31, 2010

Heartgard Plus --- Are So Many Doses Necessary?

Last week I was supposed to give Gracie her last (fourth) Heartgard Plus chewable for the spring-summer season (Click here to read my June 1, 2010 post about Gracie's heartworm prevention regimen this year). I didn't give it to her.

I don't like the idea of over medicating my 11-year-old dog. Right now mosquito activity around here isn't as bad as it was earlier this summer. I think and hope that three Heartgard Plus chewables this season are enough protection for Gracie from heartworm. If the chewables had been plain Heartgard I probably would have given her the fourth chewable. Yet this year my vet gave me Heartgard Plus. The additional chemicals in Heartgard Plus (to treat ascarid and hookworm infections) make me more hesitant to use it.

Do dogs really need all the vaccinations and preventive medications veterinarians suggest? I doubt it. Yet it's scary to take matters into your own hands and risk your pets safety based on doubt. If I decide to give Gracie heartworm preventive next year,  I'll be sure to get plain Heartgard for her; the kind just for heartworm prevention.

Canned Herring Dinner 8-31-10


Canned herring

Whole wheat bread

Fresh spinach leaves

August 24, 2010

Sure Fit Slipcovers --- Pet Covers

When we first adopted Gracie we decided she wouldn't be allowed on any of the furniture. Not on the couch. Not on our bed. Well, that didn't last long.

As we fell in love with her, and she with us, we wanted to be close to each other all the time. One of the great pleasures in life is cuddling up with a beloved dog. Especially while watching TV or reading in bed. And it's so cozy to lay your feet next to a warm, furry dog on a cold winter's night!

Now Gracie's allowed to sit on the couch whenever she wants to. At first I covered the couch with throws or old blankets to protect it from dirt and odors. The throws and blankets never stayed on properly and always looked terrible. I soon discovered Sure Fit slipcovers. They looked a little better but were a bit of a pain to put on. The slipcovers made of stretchy material took the most work to put on but they looked much neater.

I recently visited the Sure Fit website and learned they now sell Pet Throw Covers for sofas. I bought one because it was described on the website as, "100 percent cotton." It was on sale, plus they offered a 15 percent promotional discount. After I sat on it I realized it's not, "100 percent cotton." I called the company and was told it's a cotton front only. The backing is a synthetic material. I couldn't return it because I'd already washed it.

Unfortunately, the pet Throw Cover doesn't fully cover the part of the sofa Gracie likes to sit on most --- the end. It's not quite long enough. In order to protect that part of the sofa I have to make sure there's a pillow there for Gracie to lean on. Yet even with the pillow in place, part of the couch remains exposed. Here's a photo of Gracie testing out the new Pet Throw:

Another downside to the Sofa Pet Throw Cover is that it looks very rumpled when anyone --- dog or human --- sits on it. It might work for you if your dog prefers lounging in the middle of your sofa only. 
I think I'll try covering my sofa with a blanket again. Or maybe two --- one for the arms and seat and one for the back. That might provide more coverage and look neater. I'll use the Pet Throw Cover in my car when I take Gracie for a ride.

**** August 30, 2010 POST EDIT & UPDATE: After using the Sure Fit Sofa Pet Throw Cover for a while I don't recommend it. As soon as you sit on it, the back and sides slip down and the sofa back and arms become uncovered. The bottom section bunches up easily too. It's no better looking than an old blanket and you'll get better coverage from a blanket. And after only a few washings, the synthetic threads from the backing poked through the cotton front. I'll stick to covering my sofa with a blanket or quilt.

August 17, 2010

Car Rides!

Gracie loves a car ride --- except when we end up at the vet's office!

I've taken Gracie on short car rides ever since I adopted her. Through the years she's accompanied us on a few long car trips without any problems. She'd much rather spend a lot of time in the car with us than be left home without us.

Years ago I tried using a dog seat belt on Gracie but it seemed uncomfortable for her.  Now I take my chances and let Gracie sit/lie on the car's back seat. I cover the seat with an old quilt or blanket. For longer car rides I wedge pillows on the floor between the back and front seats, to create a floor of pillows as high as the back seat (or sometimes a little higher). My hope is the pillows will prevent injuries if I stop short and she's thrown forward.

I don't take Gracie on car rides in the summertime unless it's absolutely necessary. If I must, I always use the air conditioning and never leave her alone in the car. We had a few cooler days this past week so I let Gracie accompany me on an evening ride through a few drive-throughs (bank, library, post office). Even on a cooler summer evening I wouldn't leave Gracie in the car to go into a store. With the windows open the temperature inside the car could still get too warm for a dog.

I know many people leave their car windows wide open so their dogs can hang their heads out in the wind as they drive. It looks cute and the dogs permitted to do this seem like they're in seventh heaven, but I never thought it was a good idea for my dog. I keep all the car windows closed if we're on the highway. When we're off the highway I open the two back windows a bit so Gracie can take in the new smells around her as we drive. I never open the windows wide enough for her to stick her entire head out.

A car ride --- even a short one --- provides a change of scenery and plenty of intellectual stimulation for a dog. There's not much a dog wants more than to spend time with his people (or his person). Riding around with you is usually a lot better for your dog than than staying at home alone, wondering where you are and when you're coming back.

Above Photo: Gracie patiently waiting for me to stop taking pictures so we can begin our car ride. "Let's go already, please!"

August 10, 2010

Ground Beef & Veggie Mix Breakfast 8-10-10


Ground beef cooked in extra-virgin olive oil (with dried rosemary, basil and a dash of salt)

Green peas and grated, peeled carrot (cooked with the ground beef)

Homemade wheat bread

Yogurt

August 3, 2010

Conquer Your Fears And Be A Doggie Chef!

This post is for all wanna-be Doggie Chefs who are afraid to start feeding their dogs themselves.

You can do it!

You don’t have to be a veterinarian, or an animal nutritionist. You don’t have to have a college degree. You don’t even have to be a good cook.

This week I started reading a newly published book called, “Feed Your Pet Right,” by Marion Nestle and Malden C. Nesheim. Both are human nutrition experts and Nesheim is also an animal nutrition expert.

For the most part I’m focusing on the section of the book called, “Alternatives to Commercial Pet Feeding.” Specifically the chapter called, “The Home Cooked.”

In this chapter the authors say they view cooking for pets no more difficult than cooking for yourself or your family. Here’s something else they say that really caught my attention:

“Isn’t it just amazing that most Americans --- and for that matter, most people in the world --- manage to survive and do pretty well without eating AAFCO-approved, complete-and-balanced diets every day?”

It’s so true! Think about it: What did you eat the past few days?

How many people’s diets strictly adhere to any type of dietary recommendations for optimum nutrition? Yet so many of us survive and thrive.

Christie Keith, whose column, “Your Whole Pet,” can be read on SFGate.com., home of the San Francisco Chronicle, has some words that might encourage fearful, wanna-be Doggie Chefs. In the May/June 2007 issue of “The Bark” magazine Keith is quoted saying:
“There is a lot of wiggle room in formulating a diet for your dog. Canines are, overall, rather forgiving nutritionally.”

Keith interviewed Nestle and Nesheim about their book and wrote a column about it called, “Talking About Pet Food at Chez Panisse.” Nestle and Nesheim told Keith how pet food nutrition experts often insist it’s too difficult for pet owners to feed home-prepared diets.

Nesheim, who used to teach animal nutrition to veterinary students at Cornell University states, “There's a quote we give in the book from the AVMA [American Veterinary Medical Association]. They go on and on about how you shouldn't cook for your pet, because after all, the commercial pet food foods are made by Ph.D. nutritionists. As Ph.D. nutritionists, we got a big kick out of that. You don't need a Ph.D. to cook for yourself, and if you can cook for your family, you can cook for your pet."

None of this means you shouldn’t worry at all about feeding your dog homemade dog food. Yet, have courage to trust yourself. Chances are if you’re opened minded enough to be wary of commercial dog food, you have enough common sense to learn and figure out how to best feed your dog.

Years ago I was so afraid to start feeding Gracie homemade dog food. Gracie turns 11 this year. She looks great, is full of energy and I’ve never regretted becoming her Doggie Chef.

July 27, 2010

Playing "Fetch The Basketball"

The recent heat wave hasn't slowed Gracie down much, to my surprise. She's been eager to go outside and play. I've carefully limited her outdoor play time on very hot days, trying to get it done in the early morning or late evening hours when temperatures are cooler.

Here is a video clip of Gracie during play time last week:

video

July 20, 2010

Ground Beef Dinner 7-20-10


Seasoned (parsley, rosemary, dash of salt) ground beef cooked in corn oil

White rice

Whole wheat bread

Gouda cheese

Small piece of cooked broccoli

July 13, 2010

Gracie's Snacks

In addition to Gracie's homemade meals and doggie biscuits (click here for a Doggie Biscuit recipe), we often share our snacks with her.
Whenever we have a snack Gracie, will usually have one too. Some of her favorites are:

Crusty Italian or French bread
Pancakes
Ice cream (vanilla or butternut pecan; no chocolate or coffee)
Popcorn
Cereal and milk
Medjool dates (no more than one whole one)
Any canned fish
Peanut butter (especially if it's stuffed into a rubber Kong Toy -- click here for a photo))

And if we're eating potato chips, walnuts or pecans, raw apple or blueberries, Gracie will eat some too. However, these foods don't excite her as much as the snacks listed above.

July 6, 2010

Peaceful Coexistence

When a friend asked me to babysit her pet parakeet I worried about Gracie's reaction to the house guest. Especially since this parakeet needs to fly around every day and Gracie often chases birds in the backyard.

I planned to carefully introduce my dog to the parakeet (while it was IN it's cage!) so she could become familiar with the bird's scent. Then I figured I'd have to pull her away from the cage and separate her and the bird the whole time the bird stayed with us.

Well, I was wrong. And my dog has, once again, shown me how wonderfully loyal dogs can be. When I showed Gracie the parakeet I actually told her we'd be taking care of the bird for a little while and she had to be very careful with this bird while it stayed with us. I realize my dog doesn't speak English but I believe she understood the feelings my voice conveyed. She seemed to realize this bird would be "one of us" for a while and we had to protect and care for it, not chase or eat it!

Even when the parakeet flew around the house Gracie pretty much ignored it. Only when the parakeet scuttled around on the floor did Gracie seem to notice it. I was glad to see the parakeet wasn't afraid of Gracie but I didn't think it was a good idea (for the parakeet's sake) to let it think dogs were perfectly okay to chum around with. When the parakeet was out of its cage I made an effort to keep it away from Gracie but one time it landed on my dog's back (while she was eating!!!) and one time on her head (while she laying down, resting). Both times Gracie quickly shrugged it off --- yet she did it slowly and gently; as if to say, "Get this bird off me please."

Gracie was a wonderful host to our visitor. Even so, I remained extremely vigilant while the parakeet stayed with us. No matter how obedient and well behaved my dog is, I try to respect what I call, "her culture (meaning: her instinctive behaviors)."

Too many dog owners expect their pets to have unreasonable control of their instincts. They expect their dogs to behave like humans and they end up getting mad when their dogs behave like dogs.

June 29, 2010

Sardine Breakfast 6-29-10


Canned sardines

Whole wheat breaad

Green peas

Yogurt

Sunflower oil

June 22, 2010

A New Shower Stall For Gracie

We finally replaced our clawfoot tub with a tiled shower stall!
In the coming years it might be easier for an aging dog (and aging people!) to get in and out of a shower stall.

I thought "bathing" Gracie in a shower stall would be easier on my back than "bathing" her in a clawfoot tub. It's not! I kneel in front of the shower stall and Gracie moves as far away from me as she can, so it's still a chore to get the job done well. At least a tiled shower stall and tiled bathroom floor make bath time easier and less messy.

Gracie never takes "baths." She doesn't like to stand in water. She's always preferred showers. Click here to see a photo of Gracie getting washed in our old clawfoot tub.  The photo below shows Gracie in the new shower stall:
Can you tell she's not impressed with the new tiles?

I can't say enough nice things about the Rinse Ace Indoor/Outdoor Pet Sprayer I use to wash Gracie. It makes bath time so much easier and faster. It's a hand-held shower head with an 8-foot hose. It attaches to a sink or shower faucet. You might have to take a trip to the hardware store to get an extra fitting. If you have the kind of water faucets that mix hot and cold water you might want to buy a separate valve to control the water pressure as it comes out of the Rinse Ace.

This handy device has an on/off push button and a little catch that allows you to keep the spray on continuously without pushing the button. It makes it so easy to wet Gracie down quickly, rinse her off thoroughly, and carefully wash her head without getting water or soap in her eyes. Here's a photo of my Rinse Ace Pet Sprayer:

June 15, 2010

Poached Salmon Dinner


Salmon (poached with olive oil, white wine, rosemary, dash of garlic powder)

Brown rice

Homemade wheat bread

June 8, 2010

"Oh My Dog"


"Oh My Dog"
by Beth Ostrosky Stern, with Kristina Grish, copyright 2010

Doggie Chef Rating
4 out of 5 bones

This very comprehensive book is best summarized by its subtitle, "How to Choose, Train, Groom, Nurture, Feed and Care for Your New Best Friend." It's an excellent resource for new dog owners and can be helpful to seasoned dog owners as well.

The author, Beth Ostrosky Stern, is a spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League America. She's compiled and carefully organized some of the best advice on dog care.

"Oh My Dog" is the perfect book for someone thinking about getting their first dog. The book's early chapters discuss the realities of owning a dog and how to choose a dog that's right for your emotional needs and lifestyle (super-important points most people overlook when dog-shopping). Later chapters provide information and advice on training and behavior, health, nutrition, grooming, bonding, emergencies, first aid and saying goodbye.

For more than eight years I've done a lot of research on canine care and nutrition. "Oh My Dog" includes some of the best sources I've encountered. And the book isn't just a rehash of everything I've already read about dog care. I actually learned a few things.

I like Stern's attitude toward canine care. Too many people believe dogs are just like wolves. These people think their pet dog requires dominance-based training to remind them their owner is pack leader. This is nonsense and not very nice for the dog. Stern discusses this under the heading, "Decoding and Debunking Dominance/Pack Talk." She advocates training using reward and motivation techniques to encourage love, trust and respect.

"Oh My Dog" contains lots of additional information in side-bars and boxes. These include lists of websites about dog health, traveling with dogs, and dog trivia explaining why dogs: whine at the door even when they don't want to go out, sleep all the time, stare intently into space as if they can see something we can't, etc...

The author isn't a full-fledged Doggie Chef but her chapter on nutrition encourages dog owners to set high standards for their dogs' diets. It includes sections titled, "Cooking for Your Dog," and, "Thumbs Up on Real Food." New Doggie Chefs will find these sections very helpful. Even long-time Doggie Chefs might learn something.

Stern isn't an expert on dog care and doesn't pretend to be so a lot of topics introduced in the book might not be addressed to a reader's full satisfaction. For definitive answers the author often ends up advising readers to check with their vets or a dog care expert. Yet she usually does this after providing some useful background information.

Through her work with the North Shore Animal League America, Stern encourages people to adopt shelter dogs. Surprisingly her dog, pictured on the book's cover (and mentioned throughout the book), is a purebred she bought from a breeder. It's not a big deal, as purebreds need good homes too. No matter what dog Stern owns, she obviously cares about all kinds and has provided other dog lovers with a very good resource book.

June 1, 2010

Heartgard Plus


I brought Gracie to our vet this past week for her annual heartworm test and check up.
(Click here to read how I've handled Gracie's heartworm preventive routine in the past.)

After talking with our vet I decided to give Gracie the recommended Heartgard Plus preventive through the summer. Our vet gave me a convincing pamphlet about the dangers of not using heartworm meds. I wonder: am I making a sucker's decision, ruled by fear for my pet's safety; or am I making a wise decision? Our vet assured me he hasn't seen any heartworm preventive-related health problems in dogs, even older dogs, so I guess it will be okay.

Our vet's office requested a stool sample so I brought that too. I'm always worried about Gracie picking up parasites from animals that pass through our yard (click here to see my post about that). Although Gracie tested negative for parasites I agreed to give her Heartgard Plus this year instead of regular Heartgard. In addition to protecting a dog from heartworm disease, Heartgard Plus treats and controls ascarid (roundworm) and hookworms infections. I strongly suspect I'm over medicating my dog and that regular Heartgard would have been enough. However, it's hard not to defer to the opinion of "experts." I do trust our vet.

I gave Gracie her first Heartgard dose May 26. The vet's office gave me enough for seven doses but I will only give her three more this year: at the end of June, July and August. That should provide Gracie with protection against heartworm infection through September.

***UPDATE: I changed my above plan. Click here to see my August 31, 2010 post and find out why.

May 25, 2010

Kickball Photos

Photos from a recent kickball game with Gracie. Watching my 11-year-old dog run and play so vigorously makes me happy and proud to be her Doggie Chef:

May 18, 2010

Gracie Playing --- Photos

Recent photos of Gracie leaping for a tennis ball while we played fetch:

With muscles tensed and eyes, ears and nose alert; Gracie focuses on the ball as I throw it:



Then she springs forward, mouth open, to catch the ball as it bounces off the ground:















Gracie often leaps gracefully leap into the air to catch her tennis ball: