Dog Story 3: Lacey’s Eating Habits by Ron Steinman
(On my Notebooks blog, I posted “A Dog Story,” 8/11/16 and “Dog Story 2, Lacey’s Routine,” 9/19/16. These are part of a work in progress called, “The Zen According to Lacey,” with photos of Lacey. Part 4, “Lacey’s Last Years” is coming soon.)
When Lacey, my purebred Shih Tzu, was 11 she had a serious stomach problem that put her into an animal hospital for an overnight stay. The vet inserted an IV to feed her and hydrate her in his effort to keep her alive. She was in bad shape. I thought I might lose her but, stronger than I thought she was, she came through. Her vet recommended home cooked chicken and vegetables based on the simplest food that one could find on the healthy diet menu of, say, the steamed food column at some Chinese restaurants. Rather than ordering in every night, I started to cook for her and did so for most of the rest of her life.
Her menu included slow baked chicken breasts that I marinated for twenty minutes with a touch of sea salt. I placed the chicken in a tabletop oven, usually for twenty minutes until well cooked, but not dried out. Into the same oven, I put a sweet potato or yam and baked that for about forty-five minutes. Sometimes I baked an Idaho potato for one hour. I boiled broccoli stalks but never the florets. For some reason, she did not like eating florets. She never explained why. I boiled fresh carrots cut into small pieces. When everything was ready, I cut the meat, the sweet potato, and the Idaho potato. I served her both the Idaho spud and the sweet potato or yam without the skin, always in chunks but never mashed. She did not enjoy mashed food. After I cooked her food using no spice or condiments, I placed it on a large dinner plate, brought it to her spot in the living room where she attacked it with gusto. Friends of mine contended she ate better than I did. There was no argument from me. But she was Lacey and deserved every bit of warm attention I could give her.
In the morning after her walk, I gave her three noshes that I cut into small pieces. I put them on the floor. She enjoyed a snack called Snausages. She had a small mouth. I broke those in half. She usually ate those immediately. Then I took a handful of her dry health food that she sometimes ate, or whatever else she enjoyed, and put it in a small pile near her water. She usually went right to it and chomped away, slowly and deliberately. Sometimes she let me know she wanted more food by coming to me and staring. She did that as if she were sending me a signal by mental telepathy, something I believe all dogs do.
I admit I fed her table scraps. For some reason that got her taste buds going, making her want to eat her own food. I never gave her sweets, but if I had dry cereal, I gave her small desert plate and added a spoon of skim milk. The vet said that was good for her. She loved tomatoes, so when I ate one I gave her a few small pieces. She loved cheese. If I had a piece of Swiss cheese or American cheese — she not like cheddar because it was too crumbly– I gave her a few tastes of those as well. That always satisfied Lacey and she would then sleep through the night.