Thursday, November 13, 2008

For the Dogs

It's pumpkin pie season, and my dog couldn't be happier.

I am the kind of food geek that roasts her own pumpkins to make pie. Okay, look, I KNOW that it tastes the same if you buy it in the can. You can all stop telling me that. If I don't have time and I need to make a pie, I'll buy the damn cans, alright? But I LIKE roasting the pumpkins. It feeds my pioneer-lady fantasies, okay? It's me, the prairie and a few potatoes I dug up by hand from the freezing ground, right before the blizzard hit. I've just got to make it till Pa comes back with provisions. So leave me and my roasted pumpkins alone.

Anyway, my dog and I share this mindset, so when I roast pumpkins, she pretends she doesn't have a 40-lb bag of IAMs Mini Chunks and ten pounds of meaty marrow bones in the freezer, the likes of which Ma and Pa Ingalls would have served for Christmas dinner. No, it's just her, the back alley and a few strips of roasted pumpkin skins. Lucky she's so scrappy or the Tramp would never go for her.

Okay, whatever about my dog's and my pioneer fantasies.

The truth is, my dog actually likes pumpkin and squash skins. I learned this from my mom, who feed them to her dogs, and was the first person to talk me back into feeding dogs table scraps.

Back in the 70's and 80's we all got too fancy to feed our dogs scraps. It made them beg while you were eating. It made them fat. So they said.

I bought all this hook line and sinker, and when I got my first dog I never fed him scraps. He was a deaf pit bull who was really headstrong, so it made sense on a lot of levels to be strict with him in every way possible

(I used to let him chew on apple cores, until the day I was driving through downtown Philly with him in the passenger seat: I was halfway through an apple when he climbed on to my lap, trying to get at it. I had my arm extended out the window, skidding through traffic, with an 80-lb pit bull on my lap, sticking his head out the window to get the apple, before I realized that he couldn't even have apple cores.)

But my sweet girl Cleo, who is only part pit bull, is a little more malleable. (Look how gently she takes the pumpkin skins! She is always like that about treats.) I give her scraps. She doesn't beg; if she does, I make her leave the kitchen and lie down on her bed. It makes sense to give dogs table scraps. This is what dogs have eaten for thousands of years. It is why we have dogs, because they can survive on our table scraps.

Plus, what is all that crap in dog food? Thousands of unpronounceable ingredients and by-products, that's what. Are they healthier for all this nutritionally formulated food? I don't know. The fish guy at Fairway told me his dog lived to be 17, eating nothing but table scraps. That's spectacularly old, for a dog.

It makes sense to me to give dogs wholesome healthy food, not packaged processed food. It makes sense not to throw away scraps and then go buy a packaged food. It's wasteful not to give dogs your scraps, and it's probably healthier.

Cleo still gets dog food. But as often as possible I give her scraps. She gets the remains of soup stocks, and the livers and necks (uh, and feet) of the chickens that are about to be roasted. And she gets pumpkins skins. Look how cute she is!

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