42 & 43 Animals | Our Furry, Feathered, and Finned Friends

64 Arts

And all the others that might be left out by those 3 Fs!

I’m going to go ahead and combine the next two Arts for reasons of time and, well, modernity.

42 Stockbreeding

Raising and training rams, cocks, fighting partridges, and organizing battles, as for an army.

43 Teaching parrots and mynah birds to talk

As most sorts of organized animal fighting are illegal–not to mention morally questionable–in this country, I’m not going down the road of building an animal army. But there is something to be said (a lot of somethings, perhaps) on the subject of caring for our animal companions and even the concept of humane treatment of those animals which are grown for food.

And sometimes the line gets blurred.

My ex-husband’s family lived out in the country with a fair amount of land. Each year they would purchase a cow to raise and then have it slaughtered locally to fill their freezer. One year my ex’s little brother got attached to that year’s cow, named it and everything, and you can imagine the tough times that caused at dinner for a while.

Unfortunately, their idea of steak was plate-sized and paper thin (okay, something like 1/2 inch or just under) and the only way they cooked it was well-done. Now that, my friends, is one cow that died in vain.

With homesteading and other self-sufficiency ideals returning, rabbits and chickens are more commonly kept for meat and eggs, respectively, as they take up much less space than, say, cows or hogs might, and require less grazing room than even a goat or two, so better suited to urban or suburban set-ups. And if aquaculture is more your thing, I remember seeing in an episode of Doomsday Preppers where one family had turned their in-ground pool into a greenhouse and small lake and bred tilapia–they apparently multiply quicker than rabbits!

On the other side of the coin, of course, are pets.

Our home is currently sans members of the 4-legged variety, though I know Todd would really like to have a dog again if (when!) his schedule permits. I’m all for it, too–I may have had to re-home my rat terrier, Abigail, several years ago when my health and travel schedule did not permit me to spend as much time with her as she deserved, but I think a home with more people than pets is a good ratio for success when I’m one of the people involved. Being able to tag-team pet parenting is vital for me.

A few months ago I even reviewed a cookbook for dogs, if you’ve ever thought of decreasing or even eliminating the kibble and processed dog foods from your canine’s diet.

Lots of our friends are cat people and, as much as I appreciate their self-sufficiency in many ways, the slight allergy I developed to them after not having one around (grew up with cats when I lived at home with Mom) prevents me from considering them as an option (even if I was willing to have a litter box in the house, which I’m really not keen on).

Fish never did much for me–maybe it was all those carnival-won goldfish that didn’t live very long that soured me on them–but I know many people take great pride in their aquariums and find them very comforting. And while the same could be said for rodents and snakes, I think I’ll pass on those, too.

Making a friend in Roatan

Making a friend in Roatan while on a cruise excursion (2009)–sure, he was more interested in eating my headband than smiling for the picture, but what can you do?!

Now, birds on the other hand, they are really amazing. Sure, they can be messy pets–throwing seeds about and all that–but I can see where the attraction lies. Coincidental to the art at hand, I’ve had a few encounters with the talking varieties and they really are something else.

My high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Walper, had a parrot named Bogey. (He was an African Grey, I think, I can’t be absolutely certain but the pictures I’ve found look like what I remember.) Anyway, Bogey was quite the prankster as my teacher also had an elderly Schnauzer named Sheba and Bogey would call Sheba’s name and confuse that poor dog like you would believe! He also liked to sing ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’ as I recall. Bogey had a large cage with lots of rungs to play on in Mrs. W’s office and also had a perch in the Florida room where we’d get to visit with him during some of our Sunday study sessions leading up to state competition. (If you hadn’t yet figured out I was more than a bit of a nerd in school, that should tip you off!) Bogey also got sent to “jail” when he was especially naughty (jail being the guest room shower stall–it was not a tough life he led).

Later on I learned that parrots, in general, often out-live their first owners and a reputable breeder can and often does insist upon knowing who will care for the feathered one after it’s companion’s demise! This is smart since they can live 70 to 100+ years when properly cared for. It’s tough enough, sometimes, for cats and dogs to find good homes when their human has passed away, I would imagine the care of a parrot would be a lot to take on for many!

Still, it’s an important consideration–not just for parrots. Being responsible for any creature–human or otherwise–is a big commitment! And unlike children who (for the most part) grow up and can eventually take care of themselves, our pets will always depend on us for their well-being. In fact, when I see pan-handlers on the street with dogs tethered to them, I usually feel more sorry for the animals than the people–they had even less choice in their situation than their humans, that’s for sure!

What are your feelings on pets? Are they a part of your livelihood, companions, or not part of it at all?

Review | Better Food For Dogs by Bastin, Ashton & Nixon

Cover of Better Food for Dogs

image via Amazon.com

Honey, tonight we’re eating dog food!

And you know what? It wasn’t half bad.

Let me back up a second before you think I’ve completely lost my mind.

When I picked up Better Food for Dogs (with the oh-so-adorable wrinkly bulldog puppy on its cover), I was expecting a few lists of things dogs should never eat and a lot of recipes for treats, “muttloaf” and things of that nature. What I found was a book full of information that every dog owner can use, including many “Doc’s Doctrine” sidebars from Dr. Grant Nixon, D.V.M., the veterinarian that contributed to the book along with David Bastin and Jennifer Ashton–former dog bakery owners and dog-lovers themselves.

The recipes come only after a rather thorough examination of what the proper diet can do for dogs. The authors purport that does benefit from varying diets just as humans do and that it’s difficult for them to receive all the nutrition they need from a steady diet of only one sort of food. They even take on the topics of vegan diets for dogs as well as the raw diet trend–neither of which they are highly in favor of (the first as it’s not realistic for canines, the second for concerns of food safety).

While there are a dozen of yummy-sounding treats at the end of the book, the bulk of the recipes are for the everyday food for dogs, their two meals a day, and are divided between the Basic Recipe–a combination of beef, chicken, turkey, or lamb for the protein and either rice, macaroni, or potatoes for the carbohydrate, along with a veggie blend–in quantities enough for 4 servings at a time, and single-serving Gourmet Recipes. All of this is them broken down into suitable amounts for the different sizes of dogs out there–everything from 5 lb teacup breeds to 150 lb behemoths in 5-lb increments. And then there are charts for the additional needs of bonemeal (for calcium) as well as the other nutritional supplements needed (again, by size of dog).

The Gourmet recipes range from breakfast fare (Cottage Cheese, Fruit and Toast; Oatmeal, Yogurt and Fruit; even a Breakfast Burrito) to dinner options (Stir-Fried Ginger Beef with Greens; Salmon and Dill Pasta; Tomato and Chicken Rotini) and total 20 in all. Not each size of dog gets a version of each recipe, but it’s simple work to size  up or down by finding  the recipe you want in another size that can be easily doubled or halved to meet the proper calorie count. It’s a whole lot easier than making a small dog coat fit a medium dog!

Still, it sounds like a lot of work even cooking every other night on top of cooking for yourself or your family. How tough really would it be?

And that’s when I decided to serve Todd and I dog food for a couple of nights.

We started with one of the basic recipes: Chicken and Rice

Chicken and Rice from Better Food for Dogs

Chicken and Rice for dogs

And that’s when I determined that cooking for your dog is not as out of the question as it might seem. In fact, if you approach it the right way, it’s downright easy!

The basic recipe deals with a protein that easily be bought in quantities and cooked ahead: cubed chicken and ground beef being the most accessible. Package it up in the right quantities and keep it in the freezer until needed–you could do up to a month at a time depending on the size of your dog and the size of your storage space. Put your rice cooker to work to make up enough rice to get your through a week and buzz up a batch of the fruit & vegetable mix and fridge it. After that it’s a quick reheat, stir, and add in nutrients.

And, like I said, it’s pretty tasty. The vegetable mixture is pureed, so it’s a little different than using steamed, chopped veggies in your average one-pot meal, but other than that it’s totally normal food.

For our gourmet selection we went with the Salmon and Dill Pasta

Salmon and Dill Pasta from Better Food For Dogs

Salmon and Dill Pasta–yes, this is dog food!

Tomato, zucchini, spinach, garlic and dill with chunks of tender salmon and pasta make for a good supper no matter how you slice it, and since none of the veggies in this version are pureed, it’s not much different than any other meal we might make.

Now, obviously, we don’t have dogs ourselves but have owned them in the past and hope to in the future when we have enough time to devote to them. Still, I know many people who do–my own mother, for instance–and I would not hesitate to recommend this book to her.

Will we cook for our future furry friends? Hard to say, but at least it’s a discussion we’d be up to having now.

After all, some people consider their dogs akin to children. Would we want children to eat nothing but fortified cereals for every meal? So it’s a questions worth asking: don’t your canine companions deserve a bit more than kibble?


I received a copy of Better Food for Dogs for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Holiday Fun: Puppy Love

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

With the holiday taking center-stage this week and 2 sets of guests to get ready for,
let’s have a little photo-fun today, shall we?

In the eternal battle of cat vs dog, on which side do you generally fall?

Todd and I? Are dog people. Even though we are currently sans canine companionship and laugh at the LOLcats with the best of ’em, we swoon over some floppy-eared, waggy-tailed goodness.

And combining bow-wows with the vows? That brings the ‘awwwww’ to a whole ‘nother level. Take a look at these pretty pooches hamming it up for the wedding photographers:

Photo Collage of dogs in wedding photos

Sources: Style Me Pretty 1, 2, 3, 4

Photo Collage of dogs in wedding photos

Sources: Style Me Pretty 1, 2, 3 and Flickr

Photo collage of dogs in wedding photos

Sources: Style Me Pretty, Offbeat Bride, Lauren Kinsey, Style Me Pretty

What I find interesting, though, is something I stumbled upon while researching wedding traditions (ages ago, for a writing project): it was considered bad luck for a dog (or any creature, really) to walk between the bride and groom at the wedding so dogs used to be absolutely verboten at weddings! This harkens back to a time when it was thought that evil spirits would routinely inhabit animals, thus the spirit walking between the bride and groom was a very bad thing.

It’s a lovely thing being enlightened and not having to worry about those things anymore, but a great man once said not to work with children or animals as both are unpredictable. If you do choose to have your 4-legged friend as a part of your wedding, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Designate a handler for Fido, someone who’s already in the wedding party or maybe a House Party member, that Fido knows and is used to taking orders from.
  2. Do not entrust the real rings to your canine ring-bearer (dogger?) as even the most obedient dog is still a dog. One good “Squirrel!” at the wrong time and you’ll be borrowing bands for the ceremony.
  3. Be prepared. Scout out of good spot for Spot to take a walk both before and after the ceremony and have your designated dog walker equipped with baggies, etc. Wet wipes are good if paws could get muddy pre-pictures (don’t make the photograph Photoshop paw prints from the wedding gown).
  4. Remind all small children that chocolate is very dangerous for dogs and not to feed any groom’s cake to them, no matter how much they beg!

But if you’re the superstitious (or just cautious) type, you might want to save the furkids for the family holiday card.

And if you’d like to see more picture-perfect pooches, check out my Dogs in Wedding Photos board at Pinterest.com

Pretty Book and Flower Icon

Meanwhile, Todd and I will be checking out the National Dog Show hosted by the Kennel Club of Philadelphia after the Macy’s Parade. We’ll be rooting for the Basset Hound, the French Bulldog and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Will you be watching?