Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Homemade Dog Food: Labour of Love

Some of the best things in life happen with no planning, when least expected. We had talked about getting a dog and agreed s/he had to be a rescue. The dilemma lay in who would go to the shelter. Neither of us had the strong will to face those sad faces without wanting to take them all home. So, we did nothing.

In a blink, we were already celebrating our third anniversary. We took an impromptu trip to Santa Barbara for the weekend. We had just gotten into town that Saturday morning and out for a stroll along the main street when we heard some barking coming from the road. A car drove by with 3 pups' heads hanging out of the passenger-side window. 

We giggled at how cute they were and continued on our way, looking at the shops, thinking about stopping for coffee (and a pastry - You know me.) when we heard someone call out, "Hey, you guys want a free puppy?"
There she was, a lady rushing to set up an enclosure right on the sidewalk, dropping off the same three pups we saw just earlier. We walked over without giving it a second thought. The lady explained that she couldn't sell them and she did not have the means to keep them. So, she was literally giving them away. To strangers. Off the street. 

I was dying to hold one of them. While I was standing there, trying to figure out if I could manage a puppy, what, with my hubby's traveling, my own job, our planning a baby, blah blah blah, we agreed to take him home. NO one could resist that face.

Shawn found the perfect name for him, Milou, since he is a wire hair fox terrier, the same breed as the dog in the Tin Tin comics and he has been a cherished member of our family since the day we brought him home.  Milou wears many hats around our place. His main duties include serving as midnight security surveillance, monitoring the local squirrel population, performing as a energy-efficient vacuum cleaner, and earning an Olympic gold medal in Napping. He also does a bit of modeling, on the side.

Milou's devotion to Daisy is astonishing. The day we brought her home from the hospital, he would whimper and rush to her crib every time she cried. He is ever-patient with her, despite all the tail-tugging she subjects him to. One of his most favourite things is chasing the garden hose, ears flopping, bouncing up and down, trying to get big gulps of water.
He is such a lovable character.

When it comes to food, he will never refuse anything from our plates, but he is not a canned dog food connoisseur, not even the fancy stuff. He much rather prefers the healthy chicken dinner Shawn makes for him with care.

Basic ingredients such as chicken, rice, pasta, beans and vegetables all go into the mix. Milou loves this stuff. And who wouldn't? There's so much goodness in there.

Doggy Dinner
Makes about 25 cups

Notes: This recipe yields enough to fill 10 standard sandwich bags, enough to feed our Milou between 31/2 to 4 weeks. One bag lasts about 3 days. We feed him once a day, in the evening. He always has a clean bowl of water and dry food available. Some days, he is hungrier than usual, of course. So he gets a bit more, but we are careful to make sure he keeps his svelte figure. 

Milou is a medium-sized dog. You can easily adjust the recipe to feed your smaller or larger pup.

6-8 lbs chicken, whatever's on sale
1/2 lb brown rice
1/2 lb bulgur (or more rice)
1 lb whole wheat pasta
2 tsp olive oil
10oz bag of frozen peas
2x 10oz boxes frozen spinach
2x 12oz boxes frozen squash
2x 15.8oz cans white, kidney or garbanzo beans, black-eyed or chick peas

Fill a pot 3/4-full with water, cover with the lid and set onto medium-high heat,

When the water begins to boil, remove the lid, add a drizzle of olive oil and the pasta.
Give it a quick stir, put the lid back on.
Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain excess liquid and set the pasta aside.

Transfer the rice and bulgur into another pot and add enough water to just cover them.
Put the lid on and set onto medium-high heat.
Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, drain excess liquid and set aside.

Combine pasta, rice and bulgur into one big pot
Cook the chicken. Shawn usually grills it. Remove skin and bones, unless you got boneless, skinless chicken. 

If your dog is anything like ours, s/he will pick all the chicken out of the bowl, leaving all the beans, rice and vegetables behind. So, chop the meat into small pieces or pulse briefly in food processor. This will make it more difficult for your dog to pick out the chicken.

Add frozen vegetables and beans.
Stir gently to incorporate, cover with the lid and set onto low heat.
Cook the chicken. Shawn usually grills it.
Add the chicken to the big pot and mix thoroughly.
Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Transfer into sandwich bags (about 2 1/2 cups each).

Store 1 bag in the fridge, freezing the rest for future use.
Using boneless, skinless chicken breast meat makes the work much easier, but it is more cost-effective to get the whole chicken and clean it yourself, if you can afford the time. It costs less than $30 a month to make food that we feel good about feeding our dog. Frozen mixed vegetables are a good substitute for the spinach and sweet potato. Be sure to avoid ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as onions, garlic, avocados, grapes/raisins, chocolate. 

A few weeks ago, I was, trying to take a photo of our living room with the new kilim rug, when our curious little boy photobombed the shot. So, I forgot all about the rug and asked for a pose.

Ears back, wide-eyed, confident stance, what a handsome devil he is. Of course, you know he's really just looking for a treat and for that, he'll do ANYthing, especially for Daisy who is always willing to reward him.

My favourite time of day starts when work ends and I finally arrive home. As I walk up to our front porch in the evening and rushing toward the door lock, I think about how much happier I am to be there.

I always ring the doorbell to announce my arrival, because I love being ambushed by my welcoming committee. Daisy runs to the door, calling out "Mamaaaaaaaaaa!" and gives me a big hug. My hubby greets me with a smile and a kiss.

And Milou runs toward me, skids and slides across the hardwood floor, then jumps up with his front paws over my knees to say hello (or maybe he is really just looking for a treat).

Making dog food at home takes a bit of time, but Milou is so worth the effort. A big batch lasts almost a month, so it actually saves time and money.

And feeding our furry friend the healthy stuff Shawn patiently makes for him ensures many more happy homecomings for me.


  1. You have such a beautiful dog! And I love that your husband takes the time to make Milou's food from scratch - a labor of love indeed. Cheers!

  2. Thanks, Carly! Love your roasted rhubarb idea. Gotta try that.

  3. Oh Coco he is just tooooooo adorable!!! what a great story - it was meant to be! what a lucky pup he is :)
    Mary x

    1. Thanks, Mary. We're lucky to have him! Have a great w/end. xo

  4. Cutest dog E.V.E.R. I love his name and his face! And I love that you make him dog food. While we have no pets, we do like it make dog biscuits for out friends' pups! Next time we do, I will send some for Milou! ~ David

    1. You are just so sweet, David! Thank you!! Hope you guys have a great w/end. xoxo

  5. Oh wow you went all out!
    That is definitely human consumption as well.
    Might be tempting when there is nothing to make for dinner. lol

  6. Hi Coco,

    We love Snowy in Tin Tin. Milou is as cute as Snowy! I will be motivated to cook for him too :D


  7. What a lovely story and a beautiful post. Milou looks so cute and he is blessed to have you as a family and you to have him as a member of your family. Prags


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