Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spoiling Puppies on a Budget

Words cannot describe how much Greg and I love our puppies, Sheila and Lucy. From the moment we laid eyes on them at the shelter, we knew both of them needed to come home with us. They were roommates at PAWS Chicago, a wonderful cage-free shelter that Greg and I adore.

Sheils and The Moose, as we more commonly call them, were in the same suite. When we adopted them, they were four months old. They had been at PAWS for one month. They were brought in with their litters, who were instantly adopted out, and our little girls were left over and paired together. It was clearly meant to be because Greg and I visited PAWS, fell in love with them instantly, swooped them up, and took them home. Now, two years later, I cannot imagine life without them.

People often ask me if the wonderpups are vegetarian or vegan. To their surprise, the answer is no. After doing some research, I haven't really found anything that makes me feel comfortable making the girls go totally veg. From what I can tell, dogs are perfect omnivores; they really do require both animal and plant products to have a healthy diet. Obviously, though, there are the ethical considerations that Greg and I wrestle with as well. I think we've found a balance that makes us comfortable. For their meals, we feed Sheila and Lucy Wellness Sweet Potato and Whitefish food; Greg is a pescetarian, so it made sense to give fish to the girls, too. We also give them rawhides because dogs need to chew! When it comes to treats, though, we give them vegetarian, and almost always vegan, treats, since we figure that will help boost the plantstuffs they need to eat.

We have a wonderful local natural pet food store, Kriser's, that supplies the girls with all they need, but you can also make dog treats on the cheap. The good news is that dogs can eat some of the fruits and vegetables that their owners eat. We feed Sheils and Moose carrots (peeled and cut up), apples (core, seeds, and stem removed), and banana (peeled). The girls also love sweet potatoes, either baked or dehydrated. They are huge fans of natural peanut butter and have a preternatural sense when it is coming out of the fridge. (As far as I know, only natural peanut butter is safe for dogs. More dog food safety below.)

So what does all of this have to do with "being fancy on a budget"? Well, as much as we love spoiling the girls, it can add up. Greg and I like to give the girls a treat we buy at the store, marketed as a "dog smoothie." I used to think, for $7.50 for six servings, it was a pretty good deal. Then I read the ingredients and realized I could make the same thing for much cheaper. After playing around in the kitchen, I yielded a treat that Sheila and Lucy slurped up, and I made the same quantity as what we buy at the store for around $1.50. Smoothie people, you've been great to us, but I think the budget wins on this one.

There are two important words of warning before feeding your puppies homemade treats. First, don't overdo feeding your dogs in a sitting, either with these treats or with fruits, veggies, and peanut butter generally. In an attempt to be delicate, I will just say that fiber has the same effect on dogs as it does humans, and you don't want to hurt your puppy's tummy. Second, please do research before feeding fruits and vegetables to your dogs; there are some that can cause great harm or even death, including onions, grapes, raisins, and avocados. We keep sugar-free gum out of the house, because even a little bit can be fatal to a dog within an hour. In short, please consult your vet for advice on feeding your furry friend.

Homemade Doggy Ice Cream
Yields: 6-8 servings (1 serving = 1/4 cup)

1 apple chopped up (peeled, cored, seeded, and stem removed)
2 bananas
1/4 - 1/3 c. natural peanut butter
1/2 c. water

1) In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth.
2) Place in container and freeze until solid (about 5-6 hours).
3) To serve to your dog, scoop up 1/4 c. of the frozen mixture into your pup's bowl. He or she can take it from there. :)

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