I’m big on food. I love to eat and spend a lot of time thinking about, growing, planning, and preparing food.
This time of year, the asparagus is coming in by the hour and we eat it at nearly every meal. The rhubarb is up, so there’s pressure to do something with it besides the same old thing (strawberry-rhubarb pie). This year I discovered a recipe for lemon-rhubarb scones that is delicious (but if you know a good rhubarb recipe, I’m all ears). The baby lettuce is filling up the garden and always in danger of being trampled by Frankie and Flannery as they wrestle and chase. Up next are strawberries, snap peas, kale, and a plethora of herbs.
I also spend a lot of time thinking about, planning, and feeding dogs. It is quite a production at this foster home. Last year I installed, Vittle Vaults, to make feeding easier. I love the vaults and have completely come to terms with their presence in my front hall.
Most everyone who comes in my house is a dog person and if they find it odd that the table in our front hall outside the mudroom (puppy room) is basically a ‘dog kitchen’ they don’t say a word. There was a time when I would have worried what people thought of the vaults, bottles, bags, measuring cups, and stacks of towels, but somewhere along the line, probably around dog eighty or so, I let go of that worry.
Mealtime starts with five bowls lined up to be filled and doctored. The foster dogs eat food donated to the rescue, but I feed my personal dogs, Frankie and Gracie, Taste of the Wild. It is grain-free (despite the current controversy, I’m a believer as I saw the switch to this food extend my dog Lucy’s life by several years), has chelated minerals, and proteins that come from the ‘wild’ (bison or salmon).
Flannery is not my dog, but she had a little tummy trouble with the donated bag of food for the foster dogs while I was away on the Road Trip, and since I wasn’t there to sort it out, I had Nick switch her to TOTW and it righted her, so I just haven’t switched back. (Sometimes I feel like Flannery is just worming her way into our family despite my denial.)
Daisy is not a picky eater, scarfing up whatever donated bag of food I offer, and Thelma currently eats puppy food. It is high in fat and she is still nursing and it’s a battle to keep weight on her.
Everybody gets a pinch of probiotics on their food at dinner time, and Daisy gets a few squirts of CBD oil to help her anxiety (this is a new thing and not sure if it is making a difference yet). I keep the schedule of heartworm preventatives and flea/tick preventatives on a board beside the vaults. Sometimes, depending on the dog or circumstances, I add cranberry pills, vitamins, coconut oil, pumpkin, or dewormer to a dish.
Flannery and Frankie and Thelma use ‘slow down’ bowls because they eat much, much too fast and without them, they will occasionally barf up what they’ve eaten.
Flannery eats by herself in a separate room since she is so eager to try just a bite off the plates of the other diner’s food. Daisy eats in the kitchen or playyard, depending on where she is (and she is always fed by one of the guys in our house in the hopes that she will come to see them as her benefactors, not adversaries). Gracie and Frankie eat side-by-side, but Frankie knows to wait until Gracie is finished before he licks her bowl clean.
Thelma, eats just outside the puppy room, in sight of Frankie and Gracie (but separated by a gate) for several reasons. First, because we’ve begun the weaning process and I need her to stay out of the puppy room long enough for those fatties to get hungry (she’s quite an indulgent mom). And second, so I can begin to discover if she guards her food. So far, she doesn’t seem to care that the other dogs are there, she’s much too focused on her chow.
While the big dogs are eating, I prepare the puppies’ food. Their kibble is softened in warm water with a little milk-replacer (to make it yummier and hopefully tempt them to try it) and then turned to mush in the food processor.
So far, they only eat a few tentative bites, and it almost seems accidental. They are mobile, but still at the ‘drunk’ stage, staggering around unsteadily, and sometimes they knock into the food or step in it. Once they have it on their faces or paws, the other puppies lick it off and then go in search of the source.
This bunch has been slow to catch on. I think this is because they aren’t very hungry. Thelma feeds them constantly and with only five of them for ten seats at the milk bar, they have yet to experience true hunger. They are four weeks old today, so I’m working on a plan to keep Thelma away from them more. This isn’t easy at the moment with so many dogs underfoot and family returned to the nest.
As I said, feeding the dogs is a production. It takes time and thought and preparation.
This morning I was reading in the paper about a hoarding case nearby (50 cats) and as I thought about how much time and thought and preparation goes into feeding my ten, I realized how quickly things could get out of control with large numbers of animals in one house.
It also made me grateful for the dog warden who visits twice a year to be sure I’m taking good care of the animals here. Not that there’s any danger of me becoming a hoarder as I am clearly learning my limits this year. Still, hoarding is probably one of those frog-in-the-kettle situations. The water is just warming little by little and before you know it, you’re boiling.
Here’s hoping some of these beautiful faces get adopted before the water in this house gets too hot.
Thanks for reading!
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Released August 2018 from Pegasus Books and available now
3 thoughts on “Feeding Lots of Dogs at Once”
The Canadian commenter’s back again. Sounds like you put a lot of time and thought into caring for your dogs. If you think fifty cats is a lot, there was a woman in Toronto, Ontario, Canada who had around 300 cats in her apartment, the hoard just being discovered last week after neighbors had complained of a strong fowel smell for several months. Eek! I like cats, but I don’t think I’d want to be around hundreds of loose ones at once! Keep us posted on how things go with your pack. And take some time to enjoy a cup of tea.:)
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Great post. 🙂 I have a pack of three and I’m (almost) always hosting between one and five foster puppies. There are definitely strategies involved, changing over time as the puppies get adopted and new ones take seats at the table. As I feed them, a running commentary often goes through my head…similar to your post…about what I’m doing and how I’d tell someone else to do it if I weren’t there for some reason. I’ve got the Vittles Vaults, the supplements, the slow feed bowls…and even the Taste of the Wild food and the “Saving One Dog” sign. Every now and then I’m between foster puppies and life seems so simple. Too simple. And then more puppies arrive. There are always more puppies…
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It is a lot to remember – I love hearing stories like this and knowing that there are kindred spirits mixing up food for their own packs elsewhere. Thank you for fostering – I know that weird feeling when there isn’t a foster in the house, admittedly rare, it does feel too simple!