Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What's for dinner?

I spend nearly as much time agonizing over dog food as I do over people food. And that’s saying quite a bit!

Over the years I’ve fed a variety of kibble, commercial frozen raw, homemade raw, dehydrated raw and homemade cooked diets. Currently, Jamie is eating limited ingredient kibble (due to health reasons) and Phoenix eats grain-free kibble for breakfast and homemade raw for supper.

When I tell people I used to feed 100 percent raw, the first thing they ask is, “Why did you stop?”

Honestly? My freezer quit working. In August. I found out about four days later.

Imagine 250 pounds of raw meat and bones sitting for four days in the August heat. And of course I didn’t find the whole mess until a Sunday evening after I’d been gone all weekend at a trial. All I wanted was a frozen pizza to fix for supper. Actually, I don’t think we ever ate supper that night.

It was beyond gross. The Farmer helped me clean out the freezer and load all the spoiled, bloody, dripping, stinking meat into buckets and put them in the back of his dad’s pickup. Pretty funny, it was so gross he didn’t want it anywhere near his own pickup but he volunteered his dad’s with no problem. What are family farms for, anyway?

Then I drove out to one of our fields in the middle of nowhere and dumped the whole mess in a waterway. (A waterway is a wide grass strip that follows the natural contours of a field and provides a place for water to run off during heavy rains, preventing erosion.)

It was as good a place as any to dump that much spoiled meat but to be ecologically friendly, I had to unwrap it all first so the butcher’s paper and plastic packaging didn’t go blowing all over our fields and into the neighbors’ fields or give some wayward coyote an intestinal blockage.

It was awful — bags of chicken hindquarters, ground venison from the previous year’s hunting season, chubs of ground turkey, pork and turkey necks, beef liver (all measured and pre-packaged, of course), and perhaps the most painful, brand new packages of Natural Balance frozen patties. Yeah, the really expensive ones. The expression “bloody hell!” took on a whole new meaning.

By the time I was done, I had blood spatter all over my clothes and was a bloody mess up to my elbows. I probably looked like I’d hacked someone to pieces. It’s pretty funny now, wasn’t at the time. Good thing I drove country roads on the way home - if the highway patrol had pulled me over for speeding, the officer would have taken one look and freaked out. When I got home, I had to hose out the back of the pick-up. Blood clotted all over the tailgate of a white pick-up is not a good look. Steven King would have been proud.

After that, I was seriously off feeding raw for awhile. Then we got the freezer fixed and I started again but on a more limited basis. I really like some of the commercial frozen raw products, they’re so darned handy. They’re also prohibitively expensive when you’re feeding dogs the size of Jamie and Phoenix.

I bought a grinder last year and am happily grinding chicken for Phoenix. I will NOT feed that dog un-ground raw meaty bones because he swallows things whole. I know that’s normal but he doesn’t even make a show of chewing, just opens his mouth and down it goes, no matter the size. It’s too chancy for me. When I fed Connor and Jamie raw meaty bones they at least made a show of chewing first.

Connor always chewed his food 10 times before swallowing. That’s just the way he was. Jamie wasn’t quite that thorough and occasionally he brought things back up for a second go-around. I know this “recycling” is normal when you feed raw but it doesn’t make it any easier to explain to your spouse when the dog is hurling next to the bed at 2 a.m., then crunching it back up. For a guy who has made a living dealing with the “indelicacies” of livestock all his life, the Farmer really doesn’t handle dog vomit well.


  1. This is one of my very favorite Martha stories - it ranks right up there with the vacuum cleaner :-) It would have killed me to dump that much meat - you made some critters VERY happy that summer!!

  2. OMD, this was hilariou. I feed raw and have a funny one too:

    i've always fed commercial raw for the convenience and when i moved tried to make the switch to raw i buy at the butcher. go figure a dog who'd eat raw bones and other raw stuff wouldn't have a thing to do with a raw chicken leg. he looked afraid of it!

    the sight of you with a blood red pick up makes me laugh...

    and i don't do vomit well either... but i deal with it when i have to. ugh. damn dogs. ;)

  3. Wow, I'm rather recent to the raw feeding arena, and so far really liking it (especially for my very elderly cat, who almost by magic got less fragile and gained weight in a single weekend of raw). This story, however, makes me rethink how much meat I actually want to stockpile at any given time... More is not always better I guess

  4. lucky you had a farm to dump the meat at - would have been something to explain to the garbage men - or dump guys :)

  5. Almost as funny as the "honey" story --- but grosser.