After Annemarie dropped us off at home, it was just me and Grace. Alone. Inspired by Grace’s seemingly relaxed attitude during her very first car ride and being separated from her nine litter mates for the first time, I was feeling more relaxed. I didn’t expect this good behaviour to last – how could it? She was only ten weeks and four days old and in an alien environment with only me for comfort.
Despite it being May Day Bank Holiday, I had two piano pupils coming at 2.30 pm for lessons – sisters, Georgia and Amber. With just an hour and a half before they were due to arrive, I took Grace into the garden and played with her in the hope that she would then be tired enough to sleep in her unfamiliar surroundings while I worked.
Grace seemed to respond to me while we were playing and was keen to follow me around and run towards me when I whistled. Very encouraging. As well as tiring her out a little, I needed to see if she would be happy to accept the confinement of her travel crate which I hadn’t needed to use on the journey home.
Opening the zip-up door on the front, I showed Grace that I had some tiny pieces of cheese in my hand (organic cheese of course). She sniffed my hand and gently extracted a piece from the cheese dispenser – the appendage previously called my hand. I threw a few pieces into her crate and encouraged her to go after them which she did without too much hesitation. We practiced going in and out of the crate a few times and then dumping a small handful of cheese pieces at the back of the crate I quietly zipped up the door as she set about devouring them. Once she had finished she turned to find there was no way out. I expected her to start barking and whining in frustration and fear, but no, she looked up at me as I praised her, and lay down settling her chin on her front paw.
After a few very quiet minutes, I let her out without making any fuss and Grace wandered around the kitchen having a look at everything. She had never been in a house before, other than being in the rather dirty room at the farm a couple of hours previously. Everything was new, exciting and at times, a little scary.
I moved her crate into the music room and settled her inside with a puppy Kong stuffed with some tempting (organic) soft cheese, hoping that licking and chewing would help settle her and send her off to sleep while I worked.
As soon as Georgia and Amber arrived and decided who’s turn it was to have their lesson first, we got cracking with some scales. Up until that point, Grace had been quiet, licking at her all-consuming stuffed Kong toy. She started to scream as Georgia got to the fourth note of her scales and my heart sank.
I tried ignoring her. It didn’t work. I told her to be quiet. I didn’t expect it to work, but it was worth a try. I needed to nip this in the bud. Fast. With the screaming reaching a crescendo at the same time as Georgia’s playing did, I quickly reached over and sharply bopped Georgia’s piano notebook onto the top of the crate. I had timed the ensuing noise to coincide with Grace facing away from me in her crate. Startled, she was quiet for a few seconds, and then continued to scream. It only took two more bops on the crate when she started to create merry hell, to make her realize that screaming had undesirable and startling consequences. She didn’t know it was me and that was the quickest way to make her stop.
She settled quietly without so much as a peep for the rest of the hour and half long teaching session and then was royally rewarded with playtime with Georgia, Amber, their mum Emma and their Gran in the garden. It would seem that Grace was already building her very own fan club …
I had made the decision not to continue with the commercial dog ‘food’ that Grace had been raised on. I do not believe the claims that dog food manufacturers have dog’s best interest at heart. ‘Your pet, our passion’ is one slogan that makes me cringe. There is an obvious correlation between the advent of commercial dog food and the incredible rise in Western world type diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Before ‘dog food’ was put in a packet and a can, dogs were fed on table scraps, left-overs and raw meaty bones from the butcher. The same is true for humans. Our modern disease epidemic started when convenience food became available. Until then, food was real, local, invariably fresh and home grown, meat, fruit and vegetables.
You will read many things, and be told the same by Vets: you must only ever very slowly change a dog’s food by introducing tiny portions of the new food into the existing food. This may be true when switching brands of commercial dog food that can only be termed food in the very loosest possible sense. Heavily grain-based, low quality meat (often by-products), laced with sprayed on vitamins, minerals and toxic preservatives (and often artificial colours too) is never going to be conducive to good health. There is a very informative American website that mine of information as to why commercial dog food is not as good as the marketing campaigns would have you believe. You can also check out the common ingredients of commercial foods and discover the truth…but of course, only if you want to!
Having switched Chandi directly from Pedigree Chum puppy food when I got her from the pound nearly fifteen years earlier, onto proper home prepared meat, bones, offal and vegetables, I didn’t encounter a problem. No upset stomach, nothing. The only side effect of the dietary change was that after a couple of days Chandi stopped drinking copious amounts of water.
Grace’s first meal was going to be lamb and some finely ground fresh raw vegetables. I cooked the lamb, with the intention of feeding her a completely raw diet after a couple of days. I also added some probiotics to help balance her gut flora. Grace inhaled her plate of food, including all of the pulverized vegetables and licked the plate totally clean. It seemed vegetables weren’t going to be a problem…
Like Chandi when I first brought her home, Grace was constantly at her water bowl, but after a few days I hoped this would subside as her body adjusted to her new nutrition-rich diet.
I have fed Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) for the past twelve years. There is lots of information on the internet, some of it conflicting, but all of it based on sound logical information. I subscribe to the camp that feeds prepared vegetables along with meaty bones, offal, eggs, etc. There are too many valuable nutrients in vegetables not to feed some to my dogs. Basically the idea is this: as long as the majority of a dogs food is a fresh supply of appropriate raw meaty bones (and by appropriate I don’t mean giant knuckle bones), along with occasional offal, your dog can do very well on anything else you chose to feed. Personally I avoid all grains, as dogs can’t digest them and they have a higher glycemic index than meat, bones and most vegetables that I chose to feed.
Grace’s first night was incredibly uneventful. Thank goodness! She had already caught onto the idea of emptying herself on the grass outside when I told her to ‘get busy’. There was no messing around, just straight outside and down to business, each and every time. She slept quietly for seven hours in her large crate upstairs and when she woke up, entertained herself quietly by exploring her new chew toys. This was not how I expected things to go. My worst case scenario was a pup who screamed all night long and wouldn’t settle. Apparently Grace felt right at home, and it felt to me within the space of a just a few short hours, that she had been here for years and completely understood the routine and rules of living with me…