My furry friend, Furry, was six months old when we found him in a shelter and gave him a forever home.
He was terrified to eat that first night, but when he finally gave in to the hunger, he didn’t stop. He chewed and ate everything…Milk Bones were his favorite, but he was never picky. He’d eat anything…rawhide bones, furniture, blankets, school projects, hot dogs left unattended, a dish of jelly beans, a bowl of green beans right off the Thanksgiving table, a bag of protein bars, a cupcake wrapper, a plate of Christmas cookies.
Furry eventually developed a weight problem.
He is a Manchester Terrier whose ideal weight is 20-25 pounds. When he weighed in at 47 pounds, the vet suggested we try low cal dog food. Coincidentally, that’s when he started stealing food off the table. Dieting is “ruff”.
Then Furry got sick with an autoimmune disease. His weight plummeted and ballooned depending on which medication he was taking. But last year, it started to drop again…and drop…and drop.
Today, he is 15 years old and weighs 17 pounds. I can see his ribs, and I lie awake at night worrying about him.
After one particularly long sleepless night, I scheduled an appointment with the vet. I was terrified of two things: 1) She would have me arrested on the spot based on his appearance alone. 2) She would tell me it was time to schedule euthanasia.
She did neither of those things. She just patted him on the back like she couldn’t feel his spine and told him he was handsome. I swear he stood up taller. He definitely wagged his tail.
She took him off to run some tests and brought him back a few minutes later, still going on about how good-looking he was. “Without doing any invasive testing,” she said, “I think he is fine. His teeth could be better, and he has cataracts, but overall, his biggest problem is he’s old.”
Old. My puppy–who loved long walks and who would run to the door so fast at the ring of the doorbell that he would skid across the hardwood floor–was old.
“At this point, Momma,” the vet said, “it’s all about quality of life. Let him do what he wants to do, and let him eat what he wants to eat. I wouldn’t recommend feeding him “people food”, but you could still cook for him if you want. Just keep it bland.”
Cook for Furry? Hmmm…
We started with scrambled eggs, which he ate in 10 seconds flat and looked for more. Encouraged, I browned some ground beef. He stood at my feet the entire time, watching through his cloudy eyes, then pranced (yes, pranced) to his bowl when his dinner was ready.
While he chowed down, I entered “dog food recipes” into the Pinterest search field and got lost in its magic for the next hour. I learned I could make my own dog food in a slow cooker, and that dogs can eat bananas, blueberries, pumpkin, rice and oatmeal. Turkey, chicken and beef are good. Pork is bad.
Since then, I’ve made Furry beef stew, chicken casserole, muttloaf (aka meatloaf), peanut butter banana oatmeal cookies and pupsicles.
He’s loved every one of my new recipes…at least for a while. He enjoys each one for a few days, then eventually he sniffs it and refuses to eat again. My heart breaks a little bit, and I try a new recipe.
I know he probably doesn’t have much time left with us, but I’m doing everything I can to make sure he enjoys every last bit of it. These days his favorite activity is napping on the Young One’s beanbag wrapped in a blanket Santa brought him for Christmas. I carry him up and down the stairs, so he can be with us when we watch the latest “Walking Dead” episode, and I make sure he gets the sunny spot on the couch during the day.
I cook for Furry not because the vet said I should, but because he is one of my children and because I love him.