Introduction by Lew Olson
In past years, we occasionally shared with you testimonial stories from folks who have seen amazing transformations after changing their dog’s diet from a commercial diet to a raw or home-cooked diet. Some of these dog owners were simply looking for a more nutritional diet to give their dogs the best opportunity for optimum health and some were dealing with significant health issues from severe allergies to cancer. This month, we are excited to bring you Kerry Ann Crossley’s story that includes her experience through the process of changing diets and the healthy benefits the change in diet made to her beautiful dog, Hopi.
For Lew, My Reasons for Raw
Want to Feed the Best Diet for Your Dog, But Don’t Know How?Now there is a fast and easy way to learn! Check out Lew Olson’s easy-to-follow, on-line course videos! Read on to learn about Canine Nutrition and preparing Raw and Home Cooked Diets! Click for Video
By: Kerry Ann Crossley
My reasons for wanting to switch to a raw diet for my dogs were selfish ones. I wanted a puppy. I wanted an excellent puppy. A near perfect puppy. From an amazing, award winning breeder. It just so happens, this breeder REQUIRED me to feed her puppy a raw diet for its entire life. I was so elated to be considered, it was almost instinctual, I just agreed. I hadn’t really thought this thing through all the way. What have I done?
I had fed raw before, when I had one dog. One very special dog, who came into my life at a time I needed her most. She was a stray, and her mother brought her to me. Then she brought all the rest of her pups to me, through a clearing in the woods. I’ll never forget that feeling for as long as I live. A stray mother trusting me with her newly weaned, worm filled litter. She must have been watching me, through the woods, gardening in my back yard. Perhaps she thought, there is food. The first one she brought me, I kept. I found loving homes for the other five.
We had a special bond, I dreamed her name and her name was Hopi. At some point early in our journey together, I decided to start feeding her a home cooked/Raw diet. It was a recipe from Dr. Pitcairn’s book, on holistic health for dogs. It was raw ground turkey necks mixed with cooked oats, a few vegetables, and lots of supplements. Not a lot of variety. It was pretty easy to make, and I froze and defrosted Hopi’s meals. She was so very healthy, then. Lean and muscular, she had stamina and was very happy on our walks together, every day, for over an hour. She could run alongside my bike.
When Hopi was almost four years old, I had a traumatic breakup, and I left everything behind but the dog. This caused a change in my finances, which caused a change in my free time, and so Hopi went back to kibble. Time marched on. I met a man, we had dogs and we got more dogs.
So here we are, 16 years into a happy marriage, we have a strong affection for three Brussels Griffons, and I want another. Somehow I had forgotten about the home made meals, and I thought I was doing all the best things for our beloved dogs. They got the high end kibble, 95% meat in the cans we used to top the kibble. The cookies were always grain free, limited ingredients. I supplemented with salmon oil for their coat, Glucosamine for their joints. They were on medicines for joint pain, and allergies. It wasn’t cheap. Even with online delivery service, it wasn’t always easy. I had developed a system, had a devoted shelf in the pantry. A special air tight container.
Enter the up-setter. This breeder, who had somehow, casually, turned our world upside down. I discussed this with my friends. I got an “OHH NOOO!!!” Lots of groans, and even a “WHY!?” I knew the answer, I remembered Hopi’s lesson for me. Homemade food was better. I knew the result of a healthy diet, yet I could easily have been swayed into thinking this was too much to ask, that there was an easier way. Little did I know how much our lives would change.
So, I agreed to a raw diet, quite quickly. My husband was shocked, and very dubious. I know there was tuttering and head shaking behind my back from all my friends and family. This childless woman with too much time on her hands was losing her mind, endangering her dogs. Well, as it turns out, I work 30 to 60 hours a week, and “free” time is not in my lexicon. My calendar is packed. When I do have some self-care time it ALWAYS involves walking or grooming my dogs, taking care of my house and garden. I don’t have a house keeper, or any staff.
Once I agreed to commit to a fresh diet for a potential puppy, the first thing that ran through my mind was, “It’s all or nothin’”. That’s one of my mottos. It had to be all the dogs. I began immediately. I didn’t even have any type of guarantee from this breeder that I could have one of her exceptional puppies. They were, in fact, hours old.
I began by going to butchers, grocers, and looking online. Reading newsletters and forums. Where would my sources be? I took pictures of packages of meat, much to the amusement of other shoppers. I got lots of “No’s” when it came to asking if they would grind bones, or if they had such and such. I did math. Many times over. I made notes.
I bought and read another book, a more modern version of canine nutrition and wellness. What do you know? The author of the book was a PH.D, and she was also the breeder in question. I was so impressed, and so intimidated. What on earth was I doing?
But something had clicked. I knew, that even if I never got the “reward” of the puppy, that I was changing the lives of my dogs forever. I knew that logically, fresh, homemade food just made sense, just like it makes sense for us. I also acknowledged, that any breeder with a requirement of feeding RAW for her puppies has a conviction, and anyone with a passion, a conviction, and an education was worth listening to. This was not her first rodeo. I could trust her, and more importantly, I could trust the science. Nutrition is science, and it is chemistry, for all creatures. You really can’t argue with science, no matter how lazy I felt like I might want to be.
So it began. I first thought about my husband, and he likes to take part in feeding our girls. I wanted to make it easier for us both, so after doing the math, I bought appropriate sized containers for each meal. Then I bought a freezer. All or nothing. I really don’t like to not have a bulk of food, this was even true with my kibble and cans and cookies. It makes me calmer to know I won’t be caught empty handed, with hungry mouths to feed.
I started by covering my kitchen in foil and freezer paper. I got a kitchen scale and I bought lots of proteins and I began an assembly line. I followed the same path as my breeder/nutritionist/guru and decided to go all RAW, and to feed a muscle meat and organ meal in the AM and a RAW MEATY BONE meal in the PM. After doing math over and over again, I weighed out the portions of each and placed them in individual containers, and placed those in the freezer. Then I fed my dogs kibble again. I was exhausted and frightened.
My husband had concerns over cleanliness, E-Coli and such. He also had concerns about dogs choking. These were valid concerns. If you google too much, you will find conflicting articles about every issue under the sun. Luckily he’s a very smart man, and together we found ways to appease all our concerns. We began one night for dinner, and we haven’t gone back. I’ve given away pounds of kibble and countless cans. I’ve gifted bags of cookies.
For now we use ground Raw Meaty Bones, as our dogs are small. I changed the bowls to ones easy to clean, and I wash them after each meal. I use antibacterial wipes, I tried placemats, now I just spot mop, and I wipe their faces with doggy baby wipes after each meal.
I’m not going to say it’s been effortless. It has actually been a ton of work. It’s been nerve racking at times, when they turned their noses up, or just wouldn’t eat. It’s been stressful at times to see the digestive upsets. At one point, my husband almost called it off because his favorite girl, who happens to be 14, wasn’t showing enthusiasm at meal times anymore. This was a deal breaker!
It turns out, her digestive enzymes required a boost. Once she was on a probiotic and digestive enzyme supplement, she’s the loudest demanding dog at dinner time again.
We just kept going. It wasn’t always perfect, or easy. But I know for sure my dogs are benefitting. I will try to list the changes I have seen, after feeding RAW for only 2 months now.
- The first thing I noticed was the glitter in their eyes. Their eyes actually glittered. Sparkled. I’ve never seen that before. Now I can’t quite remember what they looked like before, I have to refer to pictures. The oldest one, at 14, used to have so much eye gunk in her eyes we bought special wipes for them, and it was a “thing”,” did you wipe her eyes today?” We have not had to wipe her eyes in a couple weeks now.
- The glossiness in their coats. We were supplementing with salmon oil in the bottle, and we switched to Omega -3 capsules, because we learned the air in the bottle oxidizes the Omega -3 making it inert. Maybe it’s the Omega-3. Maybe it’s the fresh meat, maybe both. But these girls have gorgeous coats, now. Shinier than they have ever been.
- Better mobility. We have the 14 year old that was on pain meds, pretty strong ones, for her luxating patella and her joints in general. When we changed her diet I didn’t want to tax her system too much, and I also thought about her upset stomach, so I suspended the drugs for a bit so that she could get accustomed to the diet. We took care to always walk her in the stroller, carry her up and down the stairs during this time. I fully intended to put her back on the pain meds as soon as she adjusted to the diet. Well, as soon as she was barking and demanding her dinner again, she was dancing on her back legs. She was trotting down the hall. She was straining at the leash to be allowed to walk further. We have not resumed the pain meds. Her mobility is better than it’s been in years.
- The shape of their bodies. This part is harder to describe. But I will just say, they seem more muscular. My husband jokes they are getting fat, but their ribs are still there, able to be felt. And while I may cut back on the food by an ounce or two, I feel that the change is in the squareness and the set of their bodies. They seem cobbier. More squared off. More muscled. Like they’ve been working out. I can only assume they were somewhat starved of protein before. And for that, I am deeply sorry.
- Their contentedness. They are, simply, more content. They sleep better. They play with more joy. They walk with more pep and nap harder afterwards. I felt that jitteriness and restlessness might have been part of the breed before. It is not. Now, every rattling bag does not send them scurrying into the kitchen. They are content.
- Their toileting habits. Let me just say that the time I spend putting meat into little containers is time I used to spend scooping poop. I have bags dangling from the leash handle. I have a pooper scooper rake-and-tray butler’s broom deal for the yard. These have not seen much use. They poop once a day now, maybe twice, and the poops are tiny, insignificant. They’re not as smelly, and the dogs seem to be able to make it to the rear of the yard now, and they seem to want to. Before I would have poop on the potty patch because they couldn’t make it outside fast enough. Before our littlest one would have a stool the length of her body. We were constantly amazed at that. That all seems behind us now, pun intended.
- The connection I have with them. This is also hard to articulate. I have often shown my love for my dogs through meal times. I suspect my husband does this too, which is why the diet change was so concerning. We used to fall for the marketing, the puppy ice cream and yogurt frosting at birthdays, the fancy labels on cans, and the cute names of meals. Always they would have treats and cookies and snacks, and I see now that, despite all this, they were malnourished. Feeding them in this new way, with fresh meat, and taking the time to portion the gizzards and hearts, the tripe and sardines, it feels even more special, somehow. I think they enjoy it more, even if on some occasions we enjoy it less. My husband hates the smell of tripe, and yet, seeing their excitement for it and hearing their eating noises somehow makes it worthwhile. The opening of a can or using the measuring scoop in the kibble was never quite as fulfilling for any of us as much as putting fresh, varied meats in their bowls and adding a scoop of a daily probiotic and digestive enzyme, and then a bit of Oil of Omega-3. It’s really not that hard. And what it does is slows us down just enough to connect with them, and their health and well-being. They know, instinctively, that we are taking more time, we are giving more care to their food, and I really, truly, deeply believe they are trying to communicate a thank you. Just like I want to communicate a Thank You to this breeder, whom I’ve not yet met, and from whom I do hope to get a puppy in just a few short days. We’re ready! And I’d also like to communicate a Thank You to Hopi, who taught me so much about unconditional love, patience, and kindness. She will forever be the barometer for loyalty and selflessness for me. I hope I’ve made her proud.