If you haven’t noticed already, Russell and I really love our dogs.
And they love each other too! This is Doris on the left, and Betty giving her a kiss on the right.
Since we’re young and both have full-time jobs, children are not something we see happening anytime in the immediate future. And hey, who needs diapers and vomit and crying and bad report cards when we have Doris and Betty?
Make no bones about it (pun absolutely intended), these dogs are spoiled. Their biggest daily challenge is deciding where to nap while we’re at work. They have free run of the house and yard, their treat jar has become a part of our decor, and they have more toys than some children. They even have their own toy box. I wish I could train them to put their toys away, but Betty would prefer that her toys are spread evenly throughout the apartment. When I tidy up she usually disapproves and goes back into the box to return two or three things to where she intended them.
Doris was our first and she’ll always have a super special place in my heart for that reason. When we took this apartment we knew a pup was in our future but didn’t know when it would actually happen. We talked about it endlessly, discussing which breeds we liked best and thinking up potential names. We did a lot of dog sitting for friends to help get us ready and help us decide which breeds we liked best, and we fell completely in love with our friend’s adorable mini schnauzer, Belle.
One day as I was walking up to the apartment after work, I got a call from Russell. He said he’d found our dog and he was bringing her home with him right away. At first I was kind of annoyed that he’d fallen in love with a dog without my meeting her first, but as soon as they got home I knew he’d done the right thing. We’d just gotten engaged a few days earlier, and Doris was the best engagement present I ever could have received.
At just about seven pounds, Doris is much smaller than most miniature schnauzers. We’re so used to her size now that when we see other schnauzers they look gigantic to us! She’s perfectly laid back and relaxed and is a total little snuggle machine. She’s never happier than when curled up in one of our laps watching television. She absolutely loves to give us kisses, and if we let her she would just sit and lick our faces for hours on end. She’s also very quiet for her breed, and barely ever barks, though sometimes she does talk to us in a funny low grumble to get our attention. Once you get her outside her personality changes a bit, and she loves to run and jump and play. She’s super fast and we often have people at the dog park tell us they can’t believe how she keeps up with dogs five times her size.
About a year after Doris came to live with us, we started wondering if she gets lonely while we’re at work. The more we discussed it, the more certain we were that we wanted to add another pup to our little family. We had a wedding coming up though so not only was money tight, but we had a lot on our plates and training and caring for a new little dog was out of the question. We agreed to start the search when we returned from our honeymoon, but as a wedding gift, Russell’s sister Shannon and her family gave us an IOU for a puppy!
Once again, best gift ever. Thank you guys!
The only issue was that Shannon lives in California, and we’re here in Brooklyn. We thought about finding a dog in our area and asking Shannon to help pay for the adoption, but before we knew it, she found a beautiful little schnauzer in need of a new home. She lived with a very nice family near Shannon who needed to give her up because of a family emergency. She was still a puppy, but the family had her completely house trained already! Score! To our surprise, Betty is even smaller than Doris, weighing in at just under six pounds! Shannon has dogs of her own, and loves having animals in the house so she fostered Betty for us until Russell and I were able to fly out and get her. She was such a good girl on the plane home and just sat quietly with Russell the whole time. There was a little bit of jealousy between Doris and Betty at first, but now they love each other completely, and they’re totally inseparable.
Though they’re so close in size, Betty has a very different personality from Doris. Betty is an adorable little ball of energy, and spends half her day running back and forth between the living room and our bedroom window. She loves to sit in the window and stare out at the yard, keeping it safe from intruders. If a bird lands in the yard or a cat jumps the fence, Betty will loudly tell them they’re not welcome and come tell us we need to let her out to take care of business. She has a voice and she’s not afraid to use it, especially when she’s keeping us safe from the threat of a few sparrows grazing in our yard. She loves to play with her sister and they chase each other around the house and play tug of war constantly. When Doris needs a nap break, Betty keeps herself entertained by carrying her toys around in her mouth, or by chewing on deer antlers and nyla-bones for hours. She thinks of me and Russell as her personal jungle gyms, but she also loves to snuggle just as much as Doris. She isn’t as much of a kisser as Doris, but she does the most adorable thing to show her love by putting her little paw up and touching your face.
Since these two girls are so important to us, I make them their own homemade food. We’re totally those neurotic dog parents.
The thing is, medical expenses add up, even when it comes to animals. We’re going to do anything we can do to help make sure our dogs stay happy and healthy. These little dogs eat better and healthier than Russell and I do, and I like to think of it as preventative medicine.
When it comes to feeding dogs, you have to be careful what you give them. Certain foods are definitely not good for dogs, and many foods that are fine for humans can be toxic to animals. You should never ever feed dogs any grapes or raisins, onions or garlic, chocolate, or alcohol of any kind. All of these foods can be toxic to dogs and can be very damaging to their health. Raw yeast dough can also be very dangerous, so be careful not to feed your pups any raw scraps when baking bread.
Foods that are beneficial for dogs include sweet potatoes, blueberries, carrots, pumpkin, green beans, and leafy greens. It’s great to feed your dogs a variety of vegetables so they get different vitamins and nutrients from a few sources. Apples make a great healthy treat, but you have to be careful to remove the seeds, which contain cyanide. Lean meats, eggs, peanut butter, salmon, and unsweetened plain yogurt are great sources of protein. Cooked unsweetend oatmeal is a perfect source of soluble fiber and is a nice grain alternative for dogs with wheat allergies. If you’re not sure if certain foods are okay for dogs, the internet is a wealth of knowledge, so google away before feeding your dog a food they’ve never had before.
I especially like to use lean meats and a variety of vegetables and greens. My family is big on hunting, so I’m lucky enough to have a source for free venison that I love to use for Doris and Betty’s food. Venison is super lean, and since the deer came from the wild instead of a factory farm, I know they ate a natural diet and weren’t fed antibiotics and hormones and all that nasty stuff. When I run out of venison I usually use lean ground beef or turkey. I also throw in chicken hearts and livers for added vitamins and goodness. Brown rice and oats add nice body and fiber to the food and help keep it moist.
I basically like to cut everything up in big rough pieces and throw it into a big pot with some water. I bring it all to a boil and simmer it long enough to cook the brown rice. Once it’s all cooked I puree it in a food processor in batches, mix it all back together, and divide it up into freezer safe containers to store in the freezer.
If you want to make this for your dogs, you’ll need a food processor or food mill and a very large stockpot. It’s not at all difficult, and depending on how much your dog eats, one batch can last more than month in the freezer. For some reason, the texture of this food improves after freezing. After it’s pureed it’s basically just paste, but once it’s frozen and thawed it firms up and is easily pulled apart with a fork. For our girls, we feed them about an 1/8th of a cup of this food mixed with an 1/8th of a cup of dry kibble, and they are fed twice a day.
Homemade Wet Dog Food
1 1/2 lbs chicken hearts and/or livers
2 lbs braising greens, like kale, spinach, chard, or collards
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes (approximately 3)
1 lb apples (approximately 3)
1/2 lb carrots (approximately 3)
1 cup brown rice
1 cup oats (steel cut or rolled)
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil (or flax oil)
Wash and dry all of your vegetables and fruit. Tear the leaves of your greens off the rough stems and place into a large heavy bottom stock pot (at least 8qts). Cut ends off and roughly chop carrots and sweet potatoes. Add to pot. Quarter and core apples and add to pot along with rice, oats & water. Stir contents of pot. If not already cut up or ground, cut your lean meat into large pieces and add to pot. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add chicken hearts and livers and cook 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool enough that you can handle it. Add oil and mix well.
Puree mixture in batches in a food processor. After each batch is completely pureed, add to a large bowl. When entire recipe has been pureed, mix well and divide into freezer safe containers. Before serving, thaw completely.