dinner with my pack

I really love watching the dogs eat their dinner. They're so focused, so happy, and communicating so many things in their body language that we humans of the pack (who also enjoy our dinner) don't always remember to communicate in our laziness of having verbal language.

(I don't have a picture of them eating, but here they are doing yardwork.)

I started preparing the dogs' food myself a little over a year ago. I started doing this for basically the same reason that I cook most of the food that I and my gf eat -- to know what's in it, to make it as healthy and tasty as possible, and avoid as many chemicals as possible. You don't have to look very deeply into the ingredients of most commercial pet food to be horrified. Wendell and Gracie eat a high-quality vegetarian packaged food once or twice a week, when I'm too rushed or my gf is feeding them. And they eat the vegetarian kibble as supplemental food during the day. But most nights, they get food that I cook for them -- food which is very similar to what the humans eat: brown rice or other grain, tofu or legumes, vegetables. (If you're interested in preparing your dog's food yourself, the standard reference is Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats , which includes both carnivorous and vegetarian meal plans. If you want to go the strict vegetarian route, I'd also recommend Jonathan Dune's Vegetarian Dogs which has excellent recipes and information on doing your own nutritional composition calculations using the USDA database (available on the web).)

Although I started doing this because of my concern for their general well-being, it's really enriched my relationship with them in unexpected ways. Because they eat a varied diet, I now understand their individual preferences and habits in ways that I wouldn't if I was simply feeding them the same packaged food every day. Wendell prefers rice, and Gracie prefers oats; Wendell will always eat all her broccoli first, whereas Gracie nibbles from her vegetables throughout her meal. If Gracie comes across something particularly tasty or large, she'll take it off to the backyard to eat it -- a holdover from her days on the street. Wendell likes crunchy food; Gracie likes it when there's broth or thin sauce in their bowls. They'll both eat almost everything I give them, though I've learned that collards or broccoli will always win over zucchini, and pinto beans are not big favorites. If we've had a stressful day, I'll fix something special that I know they'll like. And I think they appreciate the variety, as well as the fact that they're eating the same kind of food we do. If you had to eat pop-tarts every single day, you'd be bored, even if you did have minimal basic nutrition. How is dry kibble any different?

Sure, sometimes it feels like a hassle to cook for them -- just as it sometimes feels like a hassle to cook for myself. But more often than not it makes me really happy to see them eating food I made for them, with good nutrition and love mixed in.