When Ted sees a commercial touting how much beef or chicken this or that dog food contains, he says, “I don’t buy dog food and hope for chicken. If I want my dog to eat chicken, I feed him chicken.” Ted knows every ingredient I am eating because he’s the one who prepares my food for me. The basis of my morning breakfast and evening dinner is chicken. Ted buys it in cans, already cooked, at Costco. He opens a can, pours the contents into a colander (that’s a bowl with holes), and runs cold water over it to rinse it well. Then, putting my dish onto a kitchen scale, he weighs an ounce of the chicken into it. The balance is stored in a glass container in the refrigerator. Each time Ted takes an ounce from it for me, he weighs the amount into my ceramic food dish, then warms it in the microwave for eight seconds. Afterwards he touches his finger to whatever he warms for me to make sure it is the right temperature. When Ted is asked, “You cook for your dog?” he answers, “Well, not exactly; I microwave.” The amount of food Ted gives me each day is based on my body weight of nine pounds, and the fact I get a lot of exercise. Ted says to me, “You like to eat, you’ve got to run.” We jog before breakfast for forty-five minutes every morning. So I’m muscular, but I don’t get fat. My breakfast comes in two courses. The first is the ounce of chicken, with my dog-multi-vitamin sprinkled onto it. Meanwhile Ted is cooking a mixture of oat meal/oat bran (50% of each) for both of us, and my second course is an ounce of that mixed into two ounces of warm milk. (The hot oatmeal usually warms the milk sufficiently. However, if needed, Ted puts the oatmeal and milk into the microwave for five seconds. Before giving it to me, he always tests the temperature with his finger-tip.) At lunch-time Ted puts a small dab (a flat teaspoon) of plain non-fat yogurt into my dish—I prefer Greek yogurt—along with a tablespoon of whatever no-added-salt soup he is having. It’s not a meal, but just a tide-me-over. In the evening we have dinner. I get another ounce of chicken, with a half-ounce of cooked pink wild-Alaska salmon added to it. Ted buys the salmon already cooked in cans, and cleans it well, removing the skin and larger bones. (Note: Dogs should never be given raw salmon because of a bacterium in it harmful to them, but cooked salmon is fine.) Then Ted adds to the chicken and salmon three-quarters ounce combined of three vegetables he is having. Typical ones are sweet potato, carrots, and broccoli, cut up into chunks and microwaved in a bit of water that is poured off afterwards. No spices or sauces, just the unadulterated tastes of the vegetables themselves. I get a chunk of each, and I particularly like the broccoli. If Ted is having corn on the cob, he cuts off a few kernels for me. Ted breaks up with a spoon this mixture of chicken, salmon and vegetables. Usually the heat of the vegetables warms the whole mix, but after the finger-tip test, if Ted feels it is not warm enough, he puts my ceramic dish with its contents into the microwave for five seconds. After he warms it, he mixes into it a teaspoon of virgin olive oil (which makes my fur lustrous). That’s my dinner. I “wolf it down” and lick my dish clean. Then I wait for Ted to finish his own dinner, because that’s when he takes out the vanilla ice cream. He says he buys it for me, but he always enjoys some, too. When I see him open the freezer I whine in anticipation and spin in circles I’m so happy. He gives me a level teaspoon of vanilla ice cream each evening into my dish for dessert. It’s cold, but I “wolf” it, too. That’s the Tobi Little Deer diet. No ingredients regulated unfit for human consumption; no fads. Just chicken for chicken, salmon for salmon, whole grains and fresh vegetables—followed by a dab of vanilla ice cream. With that nutrition, combined with lots of exercise, particularly our morning jog, I am a very healthy dog with lots of stamina. © 2014 Woodwrit, Inc.
It’s not unusual when I accompany Ted into the bank or into a neighborhood store that the bank greeter or store owner looks at Ted and politely asks, “Do you mind if I give your dog a treat?”Ted likes the attention I get, and, smiling, answers just as politely, “I don’t mind,” forewarning the person, “I doubt he’ll eat it, though. He’s not used to dog food.” So I’m offered the treat—by hand first. I sniff it, and of course don’t take it. So the person sets it on the floor for me, and steps back. I sniff it again; I’ll give him that much before I turn away. Ted explains, “He’s not familiar with dog food. When he was a puppy he was poisoned by dog food and almost died. Ever since then, I’ve fed him only human food.” That’s the quick story. Here’s the longer one: When Ted first brought me home as a puppy, he found me to be a very finicky eater. He tried every type of dog food, and grew quite concerned. I’d approach my dish, smell it, maybe eat a bite or two, and then ignore it. I simply didn’t care for most of it. Sometimes the food was just boring; sometimes there were traces of bad smells hidden under the surface smell. Finally, Ted found one thing I liked, chunks of “meat” in “gravy,” available under various brand names; and he bought me the best. It turned out that virtually all the brands were getting their “meat and gravy” from the same manufacturer, a company named Menu Foods. Menu Foods happened to buy one of its ingredients, wheat gluten, from a foreign company that, to fool testing equipment, was grinding up a very hard plastic named melamine (used to make dinnerware) and lacing the wheat gluten with it. Over ninety-five pet food brands, expensive ones and inexpensive ones alike across the United States and Canada, were all buying this “meat and gravy” from Menu Foods. And everywhere, dogs and cats began to get sick with kidney failure; and many, many died. When I was barely seven months old, only half-grown, I was one of those who almost died from “meat and gravy.” It took many months of medical treatment to save my life, beginning with IV’s into my jugular vein, which required me to remain hooked up in a cage in the hospital day and night. I’d cry and hardly would eat at all. Ted visited me every day. He’d reach into my cage with a little food on the tip of his finger to try to coax me to eat. I’d just look at him with the IV sticking out of my neck and cry and cry. I didn’t understand. I wanted him to take me home. The IV’s had to be repeated because soon after treatment my kidney-failure symptoms returned. I got a little better, but not enough. Eventually the doctor told Ted that the only thing that would keep me alive was routine subcutaneous hydration several times a week. That involved injecting a whole cup of fluid under the loose skin at the top of my shoulders. I was a young dog; the prospect of doing that for the rest of my life was daunting to Ted. A veterinary assistant tried to show him how, but I screamed and jumped out of her hands, with the liquid splashing all over her and Ted and none into me. Ted told the doctor that if there was no hope for cure, it would be better to just let me live comfortably whatever time remained and not put me through that. To better judge my prospects the doctor suggested an ultrasound exam to ascertain how badly my kidneys were damaged, and afterwards he carefully explained to Ted we could be “cautiously optimistic.” He clarified that Ted could expect success or failure in a matter of months. When Ted objected he couldn’t do the procedure, the doctor told him to bring me to the hospital three times a week, “and we’ll do it for you here,” he said. We did, three days a week, week after week, and I slowly got better. Then the hydrations were reduced to twice a week, and later to once a week, and finally to none at all. The veterinary assistants knew how to handle me. When I panicked and snapped at them, one held me fast and calmed me while the other got the job done without hurting me much. Ted stayed in the waiting room where he didn’t have to watch. When I came out I’d jump into his arms, and he’d try to get my harness over the huge lump of fluid above my shoulder. The doctor says that I made it because I was such a young dog, that kidney tissue normally doesn’t regenerate, but that I was still growing so mine did. Ted felt very, very bad through it all until I started to get better. While I was sick Ted went to the Internet to learn everything he could about the poisoning, about kidney failure, and about dog food. He found out that basically all the dog foods he researched contained byproducts that aren’t approved for human food, especially where the word “rendered” was listed in the ingredients. He was surprised how often historically one or another brand had had to be recalled. Even one recommended by veterinarians for special dietary needs had been in trouble only a year before. Ted told the doctor that he wasn’t going to feed me anymore dog food. “But Tobi needs a balanced diet,” the doctor objected. “He’ll get one. I eat a balanced diet,” Ted replied, “vegetables, and fish and whole grains, no processed food. That’s what I’ll feed him.” He added, “When I was a boy on the farm, we always had a dog. And nobody back then knew anything about dog food. Dogs ate what we ate, the leftovers from our table, and they were healthy.” The doctor insisted, “You should add a vitamin supplement, then,” so Ted sprinkles a multi-vitamin for dogs into my breakfast each morning. Items may vary in my daily meals, but my diet remains structurally the same each day. It mirrors what Ted prepares for himself—plus chicken. I guess you could call it “The Tobi Little Deer Diet.” With it I grew strong and I stay healthy. © 2014 Woodwrit, Inc.