Monday, January 25, 2010

The Path to the Three Pound Cleaver

We switched Astryd to a raw diet many years ago. When she was a wee puppy, she ate fairly normal kibble, but she got a rash. Then she ate kind of expensive kibble and the rash improved but didn't go away. Then, her vegan owners cooked dog food for her for two or three years; that was weird. It was this vegetable/beef melange that smelled pretty darn good, even to a vegan. We DID try one time to substitute soy protein for the beef, but the extremely smelly results brought beef right back into her diet. When I got pregnant, we discovered a kibble that had almost no grain in it, and she ate that- rash free- until we moved to Vermont and could no longer afford that really expensive dog food.

What were we to do? Maybe you did not know Astryd, but she was a beautiful, sleek boxer, and bumpy skin was just unacceptable on such a beautiful dog. A new friend in Vermont told us about the raw food diet, and after having cooked for her for some years, it wasn't much of a jump to switch to a vegetable rich diet that consisted primarily of raw chicken carcasses (the part left after they cut off the bits you buy at the store). It was so easy and fairly cheap; I scraped whatever was left from our meals into her bowl, with a few exceptions, and gave her a chicken carcass once a day.  She was very happy and her coat was lovely.

However, on a long enough time line... She still died, despite her excellent diet.

Elmer, our current dog, has eaten the same way since he came to live with us. So far, so good. He is not quite the glutton Astryd was; she would eat anything, salad, fruit, bread crumbs, bits of rice off the floor. Elmer is not that interested in food unless it is meat or something rotting in the compost pile. I gave up deliberately supplementing his meat with any vegetables because he insisted on some nasty foraging. He's healthy; I guess it's working well enough.

Then came the cats.

If you think about the size of a cat's mouth, you can immediately see that most parts of a chicken are going to be a problem. They can very handily eat small rodents, easily up to the size of a chipmunk. But think of the chipmunk's little backbone and then think of the hulking backbone of a chicken and you will see there is a problem. The cats just cannot seem to deal with chicken.

So, we bought a three pound cleaver. It's an awesome tool, frightening in its heft and efficiency. The nightly chore of chopping some part of a chicken carcass into cat food is one Jason and I both avoid. The blood always splatters around which is surprising when you consider how little blood there is in a carcass. There is always the tingle of fear that you won't keep your fingers well out of the way and the certainty that a three pound cleaver could go swiftly through the bone of your index finger. There is the hacking and hacking necessary to reduce the carcass into cat food. It's a loud, messy process, but we find ourselves doing it.

We find we cannot stand to give kibble to the animals when we know how much garbage goes into it. We find we cannot support an evil meat industry even to feed the animals. We find that we just cannot convince ourselves that cats need corn or soy in any form. So, we try to make friends with the cleaver, and then wipe up the mess, and get on with our lives.

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