Home cooking for old Ben

Paula PiattI’ve had dogs for almost 25 years. I married into a dog and since then there has been the pitter-patter-pitter-patter of little (and not so little) feet at my feet.

They’ve all started out small – 7 weeks old – so I know the responsibility of a young life totally dependent on me for food, for warmth, for care, for knowing when it’s important enough to see a specialist and when a nice long hug will do.

I’ve seen two dogs through that tough, but loving end, when there wasn’t anything I could do but say good-bye and saying good-bye was the best thing I could do.

Why then, as our black Lab Ben gets (much) older and I’m faced with his care, do I feel like I’ve been called upon to do brain surgery?

During the past several weeks, as he struggles with food and intestinal issues, I feel like I’ve never owned a dog before and have no clue how to handle the runs and the subsequent recovery. They’ve been tiny little “rookie” mistakes… not pulling Ben off his kibble at the first sign of distress, not feeding enough of the bland diet to keep this 16-year-old (yes, he’ll very quietly celebrate that milestone this week) going.

I see him not-so-slowly slowing down and it breaks my heart that I can’t turn back the clock at warp speed.

Steve and I have had two vets in the last week talk us back from the ledge, from that irrevocable decision. We’ve walked out of the office with optimism and a game plan. When the chicken and rice comes to an end, Ben will finish his days on a home-cooked diet of turkey, chicken, fish and various veggies and fruits that will help his heat-prone constitution. Apple, sweet potatoes, broccoli and watermelon are on the menu. And I’m charged with putting it together. I’m not sure why, but the whole thing is a bit overwhelming. I know dogs need nutrients you and I don’t and he’ll get those from some vitamins and minerals I’ll add later on. And I know he’ll enjoy the meals, for if there is one thing he’s not lost through this whole ordeal it’s his appetite.

And, given the recalls and problems with bags of kibble that have plagued the pet food industry, I can’t help but think that a good home-cooked meal will be better for the old boy. But I’m still a bit nervous.

At least I haven’t forgotten how to given him a hug.

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