The Dog Food Dilemma

When I was a little girl, and I wanted to help my mom in the kitchen, she pulled up a chair for me, pointed at a pile of raw chicken cutlets and told me to first dunk it in the egg flour, then the flour egg, then the breadcrumbs.

I remember the slimy chicken threatening to slip through my fingers, the cloying egg – I don’t think I could take a deep breath until it was floured and breaded. Then the next piece. And the next.

Nothing much has changed; I haven’t eaten meat in ten years, nor have I ever prepared my own.

So why was I picking out chicken at the grocery store this morning?

When Kaylee first came to us, we fed her dry, “healthy” (read: expensive) dog food. If she ever grabbed a pizza crust off the curb during a walk and upset her stomach, we’d phone in an extra order of rice when we got take out, and that was about it.

And when I moved back to NY with her, I was on a strict budget. One of the things I sacrificed was her pricey dog food. But after reading a little bit more about what’s in dog food, I was completely turned off. I re-budgeted, switched her back to the natural stuff – slowly, over a period of a week. For some reason, it wasn’t sitting well with her.

To cut this potentially long story a bit shorter, I’ve been cooking her food for about a month now. Rice, carrots, sweet potatoes and whatever veggies I had on hand that she liked.

The girl was hungry. Really hungry. At first I chalked up her dinner-time enthusiasm to sheer enjoyment. But then I started to worry about her protein intake.

After much reading, I’m still not sure what I believe. Some sources say that dogs can thrive on a completely vegetarian diet. But others disagree. I’m still not sure I want to turn my dog into a guinea pig. But I don’t want to feed her one, either.

Here’s where the chicken comes in. If I am going to feed my animal another animal, I want to be completely comfortable with it. If it’s a natural process, I want to be in on it. I don’t want to repudiate factory meat for myself, but feed my dog canned, cubed, disguised meat product. If I’m feeding her meat, I’m going to have to touch it.

So, tonight, I’m pouring myself a glass of wine, turning on the boiling water, and putting my hands on a store-bought carcass. I’ll pick around the bones and give her some meat – along with her now-usual rice, carrots and veggies. I’ll save the broth (on the recommendation of a friend), and pour it over the dry food I’m still mixing in to her diet. And I will try to remember to breathe while I do it.