I’m Cute, But Please Back Off

The chihuahua invasion of Saturday got me thinking, and then yesterday I took these two photos of Mozzie.

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They were taken about twenty seconds apart. He was snuggling happily with me on the couch, then there was a very, very loud boom of thunder.

Mozzie isn’t usually afraid of storms, which is good because he’s afraid of so many other things. I can control when I open the freezer or take out a plastic bag, but my superpowers do not yet extend to controlling the weather. This thunderclap, though, was incredibly loud, close, and seemed to go on forever. Even made me jump, and I love storms.

So, why am I showing a photo of my scaredy-pup? Because a lot of people look at the picture and think how cute it is, sweet, look at the adorable, meek golden-boy. And, yeah, he’s cute.

This photo is a very good illustration of a dog who is freaked-the-f**k-out. He’s panicking inside, almost paralyzed with anxiety over things he doesn’t understand and can’t control.

But I realized a lot of people don’t understand dog body language. If you or your child were out at a park, and you saw an adorable golden retriever who looked like Mozzie, I bet you’d like to pet it. I would too, because golden retriever, but I would know to absolutely not pet this dog.

He’s not growling, snarling, barking, showing his teeth. He’s not crouched defensively with his hackles up. He couldn’t be dangerous, right?

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Wrong. Look closely. His ears are back and down tight against his head. He has “whale eyes,” that wide, unfocused expression saying “get me out of here.” If you saw him in person, you’d see his shoulders are hunched, his tail is tight against his body, and his body and legs are trembling.

Yes, I wanted to cuddle and hug and snuggle his scared little face, but that would only reinforce to him that there’d been something to be frightened of. I forced myself to stay calm, speak to him normally, touch and react to him normally, until he was more relaxed.

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Your instinct might be to approach a dog who looks like this, to comfort or reassure him as I wanted to do, but that’s how you get bitten in the face. Do not ever, ever do this. Not in the park, not with your aunt’s dog, not with any dog who is not your own…and not even then if you’re not 100% certain how he’ll react. I know Mozzie wouldn’t have bitten me, but I didn’t want to reinforce his fear response. I don’t, however, know for sure how he’d react if a stranger tried to grab or snuggle him when he’s that close to the edge.

When you’re panicked, you react out of character. Even I, if you cornered me and freaked me out and got too close, would bite you. Though, to be fair, I’m a known fear biter. Point is, even the sweetest, meekest dog can lash out if it is approached mid-freakout.

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Every time I see this picture, my blood pressure almost makes my head explode. This dog is doing everything it can to “tell” the kid (and the parents, who sure as hell better be nearby) that it is not enjoying this interaction. But people say “awwwww, how cute,” and the next thing you know, the kid is missing a chunk of her adorable little button nose, the dog is wondering why everyone is screaming and trying to hit him…yeah, nothing good is going to happen.

If you want to learn more, I highly recommend Canine Body Language: A Photographic QPlfDwAAQBAJGuide Interpreting the Native Language of the Domestic Dog by Brenda Aloff. I’ve had it for years, and it’s the best all-in-one guide I’ve seen. We used it often in our veterinary practice, and most rescue groups use it as well.

Dogs aren’t toys. They’re sentient creatures with feelings, and those feelings matter. You expect your dog to have good manners, right? Well, you’d damned sure better have them too. Failing to understand and respect their language and pushing them beyond their endurance will not end well. You’ll end up with a traumatized, injured person, and likely a quarantined and ultimately euthanized dog.

People who love dogs but forget their language isn’t as straightforward as ours when it comes to saying “back off” are all too often loving their dogs…to death.

Intruder Alert

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The very first thing we did when we bought this house 4 1/2 years ago was install a fence to keep our dogs secure and safe. The two gates have a small gap under them, but we had Darwin (85 pounds of golden) and Brody (105 pounds of Pyr) at the time, so that wasn’t really a problem.

When they were gone and we got Mozzie and Oliver, we put boards and logs and such at the gaps to keep their little puppy-butts in the yard. The front and right side are six-foot white privacy fence, and the left and back, which border the woods, are four-foot chain link. I’m sure Oliver could clear the fence in one leap if he wanted, though he’d probably immediately impact a tree, but so far he hasn’t tried it. They’re both almost two years old now, 65 pounds each, so policing the gate-gap hasn’t been an issue.

Until yesterday.

I was sitting in my “office,” AKA my spot on the couch, from which I command my World Headquarters and Petting Zoo, at about ten a.m., when I saw an animal on the deck, right up against the sliding doors. Something small and tan. Maybe bigger than a squirrel, but not by much. Possibly a small cat, because there are a lot of free-range cats in the area and they sometimes (foolishly) come in the yard. Could also be a good-sized guinea pig, but I found that unlikely. I couldn’t get a good look, because the Direwolves rushed to the door and were blocking my view, so I got up to investigate.

Uh-oh. It was the little chihuahua I frequently see at the rental house across the street. Not good.

I opened the door a crack, squeezing myself out while shoving the very excited Direwolves back. The little dog scooted to the steps, but once I was outside and the door securely closed, she wiggled over to me, and I picked her up. Yes, I checked; she’s definitely a girl. Perhaps four very solid pounds. Four wiggling, squirming, vibrating, very-much-needs-a-nail-trim pounds. The ten or twelve long red claw marks down the middle of my chest can testify to that last part.

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She looks kind of like this. But wigglier. So…much…wigglier

What to do? Mozzie and Oliver were quivering with anticipation of my returning to the house with what they believed was their new chew toy. I didn’t even dare go inside to find the key for the gate so I could go out front, where I was sure the neighbors must be looking for the little intruder.

I decided to go to the gate and peek through to see if they were out there. Two kids, a boy and a girl of maybe ten or so, were visible, so I yelled, “Are you missing a puppy?” The little girl confirmed they were. I told them I’d have to hand her to them over the fence, as I didn’t have a gate key handy. The pup-nugget, who it turns out is named Zoey, was delivered safely to the girl, and I advised them to watch her, because I didn’t know what would happen if she got in while my guys were outside. If it had been back in the Darwin days, I know exactly what would have happened, and it would have ended with a “burp.”

Okay, mission accomplished, excitement over for the day. I came in, calmed the ‘Wolves, and went to wash the chihuahua smell off me and change clothes, because she might have peed on me a little.

I went back to work. At a little after three p.m., Oliver and Mozzie were having raw bones, Oliver in his crate and Mozzie on the rug by the couch. And then…there she was again. Apparently, I am Zoey’s new BFF.

Since Oliver is the one who can jump higher than my head (He’s a standard poodle) and he was in his crate, I decided to risk bringing her through the house to the front door, which I did, Mozzie hot on our heels. I returned her to the little girl again, and asked if she’d seen how she got in the yard. The gate on the right. Yep, pretty big gap there. I reminded her I have two large boy-dogs, and even if they thought they were playing, they could easily hurt such a tiny dog. I was thanked profusely, and came back inside and through to the back yard to find some stuff to stick under the fence.

I honestly don’t know what would happen if Zoey came to visit while the boys were outside. They can run about 86,000 miles per hour in pursuit of squirrels. Luckily, squirrels can run 86,001 miles per hour, and they have yet to catch one. They have, however, caught and killed bunnies and mice and voles, and once scared a possum into playing dead, after which I picked it up with the pooper-scooper and deposited it outside the fence. Mozzie, especially, despite being an overall timid golden, has a high prey drive, and I don’t know how he’d react to seeing a small, furry critter in his yard, even if it is (technically) a dog.

Tom declines to get involved, saying he’s tired of being responsible for other people’s problems, despite my pointing out that if she got in the yard and they killed her (on purpose or accidentally) it would most definitely be our problem, if not from a “neighbors are hysterical and furious because we killed their dog even though she was trespassing” standpoint, at least from an “I am horribly, permanently scarred because I saw my dogs tear apart another dog” one.

Actually, this is par for the course in terms of my neighbor interactions. I still don’t know the names of anyone who lives there, or even who really does live there since people are coming and going all the time. But I know the name of the dog, and she has been in my house.

If Tom brings some landscape blocks from the shed, I’ll put those by the gate instead of the flimsy board-and-log barricade I put there yesterday. In the meantime, I hope they manage to keep Zoey at home. But there are always small kids there, going in and out, and it’s inevitable she’ll get out at some point.

Just hope my puppy-predators are in the house at the time.

I Know You’re Only Here For The Dog Pictures

Yesterday was “Direwolves to the groomer day.” This comes along about every eight weeks, because Oliver is a poodle and there’s no way in blue hell I’m tackling that jobdoginatub myself.

When we still had Brody (Pyr) and Darwin (heavy-coated golden), they also had to visit the groomer, because attempting to get that undercoat out at home would’ve resulted in two very unkempt, pissed-off dogs and me in traction because my back would be contorted like a Crazy Straw. But Mozzie is a smallish, light-coated golden, so he only visits Jill’s Pet Resort for a nail trim, then we bathe him at home while Oliver is getting re-poodle-ized at Jill’s.

Grooming day is always chaotic, because the boys are 19 and 21 months old, energetic and strong, and a lot to handle. Thankfully, we now schedule this on Tom’s day off so he can help wrangle them, since the time they both almost got away from me in the parking lot.

There was some additional chaos yesterday, when we arrived and Jill came out to quietly tell me they didn’t have us on the schedule. I had the email, though, and she was super nice and they quickly rearranged some things so he could still be groomed, for which I was grateful since we have people coming over on Sunday, and I’d rather he not look like Post-Apocalyptic-Poodle. Everyone at Jill’s is always so great, and even though we’d just thrown their schedule out the window, we weren’t made to feel rushed or like an inconvenience.

I’ve always favored a shaved face when Oliver is groomed, or at least very short compared to the rest of his body.

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But Tom prefers a longer, more doodle-ish face, and yesterday I relented and let Kate (Oliver’s groomer) leave it more natural. He’s adorable no matter what, and other than his mouth-fur getting icky from food and dog-slobber, I’m okay with it. We try to leave his butt region with some coverage, but the way he sits means he tends to mat, so clipping is usually required…leaving Giant Poodle Testicles on full display. I’m considering inventing a Poodle Butt Toupee for those pet-parents who have intact male dogs but would rather not view their goodies all day.

Now on to the reason you’re really reading this post…the pictures! Mozzie, being a golden, looks pretty much the same. He is, however, super soft and so silky I can hardly stand it, and he smells a lot better. Bonus, his toenails aren’t ripping my legs to shreds.

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And here’s Oliver with his “natural” (more or less) face and 100% natural tail…

Tom picked Oliver up for me yesterday, which I really appreciated. It was supposed to be simple, but ended up being a pain in the ass. He didn’t complain, but I won’t try to guilt him into doing it again. I just really hate to drive.

Today is all about the chill. Yesterday was busy, and the weekend will be too. I’m going to work on my shawl, which is only about six or seven (long) rows from being done. I need to look up how to do the picot bind-off and practice so I don’t ruin the shawl I’ve been working on for three weeks…so wish me luck!

Shopping Splurge

Conversation this morning…

Tom: So, do you want to do something today?

Me: (purses lips and gives side-eye) When would have been the right time to ask this question?

Because as a dedicated hermit, if I am venturing into the Out, I like to know in advance. Surprise excursions do not make me happy. A better approach is to suggest something to me at least the day before. “Hey, I was thinking we should (go over to check out Washington) (take the dogs to Flanner’s Beach) (go do lunch on the waterside deck at Persimmons) tomorrow.” This usually works better on me.

But today, I had an agenda.

Me: Well, I was thinking I wouldn’t mind going to Swansboro.

Tom: (registers slight surprise that I suggested anything at all, much less something he didn’t mind doing) Okay.

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We’re in New Bern, NC, and the town’s only LYS (Local Yarn Shop) closed last year, before I discovered knitting. We have a Michael’s and now a Hobby Lobby, and I’ve bought a crap-ton of “big box store” yarn over the years. As a lifelong crocheter, those projects work up so fast and use more yarn, leading to more big projects like blankets and afghans, meaning really nice yarn with exotic fibers or hand-dyed yarn are cost-prohibitive. Knitting is slower (for me), more intricate, smaller projects, and a nice ball of yarn can last me a couple of weeks instead of half a day.

So off we went, heading for, naturally, The Salty Sheep Yarn Shop. Sad that the nearest LYS is nearly an hour away, but it’s a nice little coastal town and lots of great shops and restaurants along the water, so a great day trip.

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I really should’ve asked names, because the woman in the shop (I assume the owner) was super friendly and helpful. I looked at some of her WIPs, bought the stitch markers she recommended, and began looking at the displays of completed projects. I found a shawl I liked that appeared to be something I could do. She told me it’s the Holden Shawl on Ravelry. It’s a paid pattern, but I used my phone and bought it right away.

Which led to the yarn. So. Much. Beautiful. Yarn! I could literally spend a thousand dollars without breaking a sweat, but confined myself to two twists each of two colors of Dream Smooshy with Cashmere (70% superwash merino wool, 20% cashmere, 10% nylon). I got “Mermaid Shoes” and “Burr.” Mermaid Shoes is my always favorite purple/green/blue combo, and Burr is a more beachy blue/brown theme.

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Imagine my delight when I learned a good LYS will wind the twists into cakes for free. Love those special little touches that equal outstanding service. Takes some of the sting out of paying $32 for a 4-ounce twist of yarn.

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We walked through the waterfront downtown, in and out of shops, then had a nice lunch at the Saltwater Grill, sitting on the screened deck overlooking the water. Conch fritters and a tangy potato salad hit the spot!

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Not a bad lunchtime view.

Before we could leave, though, I had to return to Silver Line.

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It was the first shop I popped into on the way to The Salty Sheep, and the second I stepped in, I was drawn to a jewelry display at the back of the room. Sterling settings with bright sky blue stones swirled through with white. I’d never seen anything like it before, like the perfect summer sky at the beach with some high, wispy clouds.

Hmm. One has a nice Celtic band.

Hmm. It also happens to fit my right ring finger perfectly.

Inquired about the price. Cried a little inside.

It turns out the stone is called Larimar, which comes from Larissa (daughter of the guy who discovered it in the 1970s) and Mar, which is Spanish for sea. It’s found only in one very specific area in the Caribbean, and how much of it there actually is remains unknown. But I reallllllllly liked it.

Went about my shopping day, but couldn’t stop thinking about that ring.

Realized tomorrow is pay day, so screw it. MINE.

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And now I’m home, and these two missed me. Apparently.

Checked in on work, so now I can get back to the shawl-in-progress using Knit Picks Chroma (in “drawing room”) that I’ve been working on. Because the sooner I finish it, the sooner I can play with my beeeeeeee-youuuuuu-teeeeee-ful new cashmere blend.

WIP Wednesday

This is weird. As an author and editor, “WIP” means a manuscript in publishing.

Yesterday was a soaker. It rained all morning and into the afternoon like Mother Nature had pulled the flusher on a giant atmospheric toilet tank. The Direwolves, sadly, still have to go outside when we get up, regardless. When they come in, Mozzie always thinks I’m going to dry him (I rarely bother) and runs to his safe place, which happens to be my bed. Funzies. They spent much of the day first watching the rain…

And later watching “Squirrel TV.”

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I got through my work-related tasks as fast as I could, because I’d ended Monday night with a knitting clusterfluff. I should have stopped before I did, but I wanted to do the row of eyelet in my WIP shawl. Doing the knit row after to secure the eyelets, I moved wrong and dropped several stitches from the left needle.

Rackenfrazzle.

I picked up what I could see the best I could, but I knew I had lost stitches. The question was where. So yesterday I knitted across and then counted to see how many stitches I’d lost. Looked like two, one on either side of the center markets. I added an increase on each side of that row to compensate, and moved ahead.

After a few rows, I examined the piece and saw three dropped stitches. I grabbed a hook and looped them back into secure positions, brought the last up to the current row, clipped it with a marker, and worked it into the next row. I was pretty proud of myself.

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I didn’t have a lifeline, despite my new ChiaGoo circulars having the handy eye in the base to allow you to knit a line right in, because it ends up through my center markers and gets pulled along to each new row somehow. And I’m around 150 stitches per row right now, and too lazy to do one manually with a tapestry needle. But I probably should.

The good news is the mistake is the stitches adjacent to the center eyelets, and so very hard to detect. The bad news is I’ve never used stitch markers before, so the eyelets themselves are not very even because I find it awkward to work around the markers. I hope I can fix that somewhat during blocking. If you have tips for working around markers, or the best kind of marker to use, I’m all ears.

My other WIP is the travel scarf, but I haven’t done more on it since sitting on–and breaking–my wood needle a few nights ago. I ordered a replacement.

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I’m already plotting another project, but not sure what. Another shawl? Start to learn cables? If you have a good starter cable pattern, let me know!

Now, a bit more work and a few chores, and I’ll see what adventures await in my knitting education today. 🙂

 

Quiet, Crafty Saturday

Today sort of feels like a “me” day. Work email tends to be light on weekends, and I don’t have a new edit until Tuesday. The only productive thing I’m doing today is washing bedding, because these happy puppy-faces have paws full of yard-sand, which tends to transfer to the sheets, and while it might seem like a great idea to do full-body exfoliation while you sleep, it’s not as pleasant as one might think.

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“Morning, Mama! Does your skin feel smooth and revitalized? Good. Now, go make breakfast.”

Tomorrow will be busier, with making dog treats, scanning some photos, and preparing a couple of lasagnas to take to a family event on Monday. But today, I’m going to chill.

Surely the sign of age and a small sphere of existence (by choice), I’m disproportionately excited about new knitting needles. I ordered a full set of ChiaGoo circulars which should have arrived Thursday since I have Amazon Prime, but tracking showed they won’t arrive until Monday. In compensation, Amazon is extending our Prime membership by a month. So,  yesterday I ordered a full set of Knit Picks Caspian Wood straight needles and paid the extra for next day delivery. See if this boggles your mind as much as it did mine.

  • Ordered 11:33 a.m. yesterday.
  • 6:29 p.m. the package left Chattanooga.
  • 9:48 p.m. it arrived in Knoxville.
  • 11:46 p.m. it left Knoxville.
  • 12:33 a.m. it arrived in Louisville.
  • 4:42 a.m. it left Louisville.
  • 5:54 a.m. it was in Raleigh.
  • 7:13 a.m. it left Raleigh.
  • 7:15 it was in Havelock and out for delivery, which means it must have missed a scan somewhere, because Havelock is more than 2 minutes from Raleigh.
  • Delivered to me in New Bern at 10:30 a.m.

23 hours to get what I want from Tennessee to my doorstep. Pretty cool.

This is what I’m planning today. As you can see, the rainbow scarf is now more-than-couch-length, but I’m in the home stretch. I’m on the blue, which will go back to green then a bit of yellow, and done. I need to find someone who’s into the whole rainbow thing and long scarves to give it a home.

I wanted these straight needles so quickly because we’ll be traveling about 2.5 hours away on Monday for a day trip family event thing. The scarf is too long and cumbersome for travel-knitting, so I want to start something else small to keep me busy and help me deal with the anxiety of socializing. I’m going to do a new fan and feather scarf, though I swore I was done with scarves for now, but I need the ChiaGoo circulars to arrive before I start anything bigger, like a baby blanket or small afghan.

How beautiful are these? Seriously! And I like the feel of them. Smoother than the typical bamboo needles, but a bit more texture than aluminum or steel.

I have quite a bit of this favorite yarn, Premier Serenity by Deborah Norville, colorway “Sea.” It’s a 2 weight and calls for a size 6 needle, and my aluminum 6 needles are currently full of rainbow scarf.

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I might end up using a different size, depending on how my test swatch looks, because I want a lacy look…

But at least whatever I decide, I know I now have the right size needle for my project!

The Most Convenient Food Ever

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Food science is wonderful, and this is truly amazing. Did you know you can purchase 100% nutritionally complete, healthy food, all in a single bag? There are age-appropriate formulas for all life stages, from infant to senior, and you can’t beat the convenience. Just measure out the appropriate amount of bite-sized nuggets and munch away! It’s full of protein, fruits, vegetables, has grain-free formulas for those with gluten intolerance, and even has essential vitamins and minerals added, and a tasty coating to enhance its natural flavor. Doesn’t that sound great?

What? No? It doesn’t?

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Of course, it doesn’t. But that’s exactly what the majority of people feed their dogs. You wouldn’t feed your child or yourself this way, because you’re not an idiot. You understand that a diet consisting solely of highly-processed ingredients, cooked at high heat and dried, is not healthy. You need fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, all in as wide a variety as possible to be truly healthy.

Even the cheapest, most crap-and-filler-laden commercial food carries the “seal of imagesapproval” from the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) as “100% nutritionally complete.” But AAFCO is not the FDA–or a government agency at all. It’s a private corporation, basically the fox watching the hen house. All their “approval” means is the bag contains what it says it contains, and if a pet is fed this particular food exclusively…it isn’t likely to die of starvation or malnutrition. It in no way certifies the ingredients are of any sort of quality.

If you (or your child) ate nothing but dried cereal, ramen, and hot dogs every day, you probably wouldn’t die. But would you be healthy? How much healthier would you be if you ate those things, but also added fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables?

I see it all the time in various dog groups. “What kind of food is best for my (insert breed here)?” They get a range of replies from the most expensive, organic, grain-free brands with exotic proteins like kangaroo or pheasant, to “I feed Crap-In-A-Bag from Costco, and my dogs have always done fine on it.” They choose a brand and buy that same bag, same variety, month after month, year after year.

At the very least, they should change the protein each time. Get beef, then the next time the chicken and turkey, then the lamb, then the salmon. The only variety some dogs get is the occasional pizza crust or tidbit from their people’s plates or what they manage to scavenge from the trash. No wonder they’re garbage-hounds. They’re starving for real food.

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I’m not anti-kibble. I feed about 50% grain-free dry food, because the tree that fell across my fence last year didn’t have $100 bills for leaves and I have two large-breed dogs who like to eat a couple of times a day.

You don’t have to go all-out with a totally raw diet. It’s not for everybody. But no matter which commercial brand you buy, you can make it healthier. At the very least, you can mix in a raw egg, or plain yogurt, or ground beef or turkey, some raw liver, or shredded and lightly steamed leafy greens or sweet potato, or a handful of fresh blueberries. Any or all of these once a day will go a long way to add high-quality nutrition and natural enzymes and probiotics to your dog’s diet.

There are complete frozen raw diets available at most pet supply stores. Not so much the “big box” stores, but your local or regional shops. These contain a range of proteins, bone, vegetables, and fruits, and can be used to supplement kibble. There are freeze-dried or dehydrated foods. I’m currently buying Sojos freeze-dried. I mix that up, then stir in the dry food.

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If raw grosses you out, cook it–but don’t over-cook it. There are all kinds of “stew” recipes out there for dogs. Put it in your slow cooker and add some to your dog’s food every day.

You don’t have to be a food chemist or a chef. Simply put a little thought into what you feed your dog. Just as you eat some processed convenience foods but also recognize the value of whole, healthy, natural foods, do the same for your dog. Convenience is…convenient. But the dog you love deserves more.

PS: While writing this post, I encountered THIS article taking a similar look at “dog food for people.” It was an April Fool’s story, and…It. Is. Hilarious.

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