What’s For Dinner, Dexter? The Backstory
Learning how to home cook a healthy and balanced meal for your dog.
Today I was remembering how What’s For Dinner, Dexter? all began. Since I became an adult with dogs, I’ve wanted to home cook for them. I knew it would be the healthiest option, but I was so afraid I would do something wrong, and not provide them with the nutrients they needed, or not balance their diet properly. A very valid concern, as you shouldn’t home cook for your pets until you learn how. But learning how isn’t impossible!
As a puppy, Dexter always had “toppers” on his premium dog food (sorry, that’s a terrible word because all processed, dry food is pretty crappy). I added things like cooked turkey, beef, chicken, and salmon. Yum. Perfect for high-value dog training treats too!
September 2012, my life changed. Dexter was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia. Chiari Malformation is a skull malformation. Syringomyelia is a neurological disease that progresses and varies in severity caused by this skull malformation. There is no cure, only various treatments to aid in comfort and less painful episodes. Symptoms vary and include head scratching, face rubbing, general pain, weakness in limbs, lip licking, seeking cool places, excessive body rubbing, nerve damage, stiffness in limbs, and the body forming into a C shape. This condition is widespread in toy breed dogs like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Griffon Bruxellois, Chihuahuas and other breeds with a “doll-like” head shape.
That first year was really tough. I had to figure out what medications would help Dexter, what he could and couldn’t do, and how best to treat him, and help him lead a happy, and pain-free life. It was very painful to see my playful (he was 2) pup, full of life, being in pain, and having “bad days” needing extra pain pills. Luckily, I had Deb, and a great support group for dogs with SM that helped me through the learning curve, stress, and pain.
We managed our first year, but Dexter certainly wasn’t thriving. Then I met her. The woman who would totally change my life and give me my spunky Dexter back! Dr. Judy Morgan was (and is) a member of a great group of Cavalier folks on Facebook. She selflessly provides the group with helpful tips on holistic pet health and answers questions members have. A truly giving woman. I had a sneaking suspicion she would be able to help me figure out the best care for Dexter, so I set up a phone consultation with her. Sure enough, she modified his medications and added supplements. Within a few weeks, he was doing much better. However, he still was having “bad days” about 3 times a week, give or take.
Then Dr. Morgan started her dog food webinars on how to home cook for your dog. But the dog food webinars were more than learning how to make a healthy, balanced diet for your dog. Dr. Morgan explained how the right foods can help treat disease, and the wrong foods can contribute to disease and discomfort. In July 2013, I made Dexter’s first slow cooker dog food! I was super excited and started to post Dexter’s home cooked dog food recipes to Dexter’s Facebook page. You can read one here.
Over the next few months, Dexter started to feel better! I didn’t realize what was going on, until my family and I were talking about how good he was doing, and how I hadn’t been giving him as many “extra” pain pills. And he was starting to get back to his silly self, being more playful, athletic, and goofy. Wow. I continued to post recipes on his Facebook page, and on his dog blog. It wasn’t long before our friends were asking us to make a dog cookbook, and the idea was planted. Within a few weeks, I started writing what would become What’s For Dinner, Dexter? Luckily I photographed all of Dexter’s meals along the way and kept a database of his recipes. In a couple of weeks, Dr. Morgan agreed to join me to co-author the dog food cookbook.
Dr. Morgan added a much-needed layer to the dog cookbook, not to mention the kick-butt title! She was able to go into great depth and detail about home cooking for dogs, food therapy, and treating disease with food. She truly is a food guru! The cookbook is now an in-depth manual for how to cook for your dog safely, and how to use the principals of Chinese Medicine Theory in your dog’s recipes. It’s pretty amazing stuff! Over the next year, she became quite an influence on me and has been a great mentor ever since. Without her and her expertise, What’s For Dinner, Dexter? would not be as fabulous as it is today. The book and the process of writing a cookbook was a truly amazing experience.
What’s For Dinner, Dexter? has been quite a success. One of my favorite parts is seeing readers posting their photos of the recipes they create, and their modifications to meet their dog’s needs. After all, it is a cookbook, and geared toward teaching the reader how to customize the recipes to meet their dog’s personal needs.
Do you cook for your dogs? Tell me in the comments.
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