Read Part One here
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
Read Part Four here.
by now, you are probably wondering what got into me. i wonder, too.
the only thing i can tell you is that i listened to Lo, i read a lot about feeding raw, and i think it's a good thing to do--a very good thing to do. the problem is that it's incredibly time-consuming, very expensive, and much more complicated than i had first realized.
i'd been feeding the boys the combination of turkey and chicken, with veggie slop, for a few months when Lo told me that i should also be giving them organ meat--hearts, or liver. but since liver is the organ that cleanses the body, she stressed, it must be organic liver. toxins and pesticides and antibiotics are collected in the liver, and i didn't want to be feeding that to my dogs.
she also said i shouldn't always be feeding the boys the same thing; she rotated a number of different meats for her girls. i couldn't keep track of what, precisely, they should be eating, or what the nutrients were that i was giving them too much of or too little of. i don't feed myself all that well--i like the occasional overdose of cookies or chips and salsa, though i also try to eat veggies every day. but in this case my dogs were powerless; they were completely at my mercy. if kibble wasn't good enough, and the raw turkey-chicken-combo wasn't good enough, what was?
sometimes i was frustrated almost to the point of tears with everything that i could be doing wrong. but i kept going.
lo hooked me up with the farmer who delivered her free-range, happy chicken meat, and i started getting 25 pounds at a time. this necessitated buying a freezer. doug was starting to think i had seriously gone over to the extreme side, but he didn't stand in my way. i bought a small used chest freezer and plugged it in in the garage.
the good thing about buying chicken wings in bulk was that i only had to make dogfood about once every three weeks instead of every week. but there were downsides.
the chicken arrived frozen, in heavy bags of plastic. i'd dump the bags into the chest freezer until the day before grinding day. then i'd lug the huge heavy frozen blocks into the house and heave them into the sink. i'd fill the sink with water and leave the meat there to thaw.
sometimes the wings thawed, sometimes they didn't. on grinding day, i'd have to plunge my hands into the frigid water and pull the wings apart; they were often still frozen together. and then slowly, laboriously grind them all. sometimes the grinder jammed, and i'd have to take it apart, or poke at the trapped meat with a chopstick. my hands would grow bright red and so cold from handling the meat that i'd have to run them under hot water to be able to move my fingers again.
i had bought fifty or more little Tupperware tubs, and i'd fill them all, one at a time, with the ground meat, and then try to make the right amount of veggie slop. sometimes there was too much. sometimes not enough. and then i'd snap the lids on and haul all the little containers of food, 10 or so at a time, out to the garage freezer.
and then i'd be done for another three weeks. it felt great to open the freezer and look at all those healthful little meals, waiting for the boys. there was no worse feeling than getting to the bottom of the freezer and know that the next grinding day was nearly upon me.
thawing the individual meals was tough, too. it was all about timing. how long does it take one cup of densely-packed dogfood, frozen to a solid lump, to thaw? sometimes i timed it right, and sometimes i didn't. many times i'd take the boys' dinner out of the fridge and find that it was still rock-hard.
still, the reward in all of this, of course, was in the dogs. they loved the food. they were healthier than ever. i felt like i was doing right by them, even though lo asked me from time to time why i didn't feed them raw meat for breakfast, too.
("because i'd have to grind twice as much!" i'd say, and she'd just shrug. she had three dogs, and i only had two, and she fed them raw for every meal.)
i don't want you to think that lo is pushy or controlling. she's not; she's hilariously funny and has the biggest heart of anyone i know. she believes passionately that diet is the key to raising healthy dogs with long, happy lives, and she spreads the word to anyone who will listen--and often to those who won't. she is not easily daunted. she is the embodiment of kindness.
and when all's said and done, i do believe she is right.
but we can't always do what's right.
i don't remember the precise moment i decided i couldn't do this anymore. i do know that we had been feeding the boys raw for about a year. it was winter time. i'd made endless treks out to the garage in -20 degree weather to haul in the bags of chicken wings, and my hands ached with the cold of the water and the wings and the weather, and one of those too-short December or January afternoons was clearly going to be eaten away with thawing, grinding, slopping, filling, freezing.
"i just can't do this," i said to doug. "i need a break."
and i closed up the bag of frozen wings and hauled it back out to the garage.
that night, the boys ate kibble for dinner.
ONE MORE INSTALLMENT TO GO AND WE'LL BE DONE
4 minutes ago