We bought Pinta from the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm last December. Just kidding–it was Howling Hill Kennel, a local breeder of small small breed dogs (Bostons and Pugs). I appreciated the advice regarding rescue dogs from NoVA and, I think Goose. Sadly, the local links ranged as far as N. Carolina and so there were very few Bostons available in this area.
Pinta means painted or spotted in Spanish. The name fit for a Boston Terrier. She’s actually named for a rice and beans dish from Central America called Gallo Pinto (spotted rooster). As ours is a female, the appropriate name was Pinta. All we need to do is pick up a boy, who will of course be called Gallo. Well, that or Bilbo. I figure hobbit names work well for small dogs.
Pinta came home from the kennel with a bag of kibble (which we later determined is Costco’s small breed dog food). We had been feeding her that for the first 7 months we had her along with treats. Then we went to Costa Rica for several weeks. A friend of ours cared for her until I returned. As part of caring for Pinta, she fed her a canned dog food to keep her happy. I returned on my own for four weeks. There were a number of containers left, so I took to giving Pinta a bit in the morning when I left and a bit more in the evening when I came back home. Then I ran out…
What to do? I didn’t want to buy a bunch of expensive dog food and it struck me that it’s something one could make. I hit the web and looked through a few recipes. This was going to be a supplement to her main diet, so I wasn’t worried about making a complete food. Just something that would be a bit of a treat when I left in the morning, but one that is nutritionally appropriate.
It takes a couple of hours to make, but there’s not much active work and one batch makes enough to last for a couple of months. The essentials are meat, rice, and veggies. I went with chicken for the meat. Chicken quarters are inexpensive and the bones are useful for making stock. I suppose I could break down whole chickens and save the breast meat for human food.
I got mixed messages regarding rice. Brown rice is good, because it has additional nutrients. No no no. Brown is bad, because it’s harder to digest. I split the difference in the end. I used a sweet brown rice (the bag your own bin at Whole Foods), but I cook it an extra step. I’m a fan of risotto, so I thought that might work. I cook the rice in our rice cooker and then cook it further with chicken stock so that it gets a risotto like texture. For veggies, I use carrots and peas. Onions are verboten as they can be toxic to dogs. I don’t use a commercial stock as onions are certain to be used and I’d rather not deal with doggie indigestion.Although this isn’t our dog’s primary food, I add a vitamin supplement and some Omega 3 oil. Once everything is mixed together, I freeze it in one cup portions. I can transfer one down to the fridge in the evening and it’ll be defrosted by morning. On days when she’s alone, I give Pinta about 1/3 cup when I leave in the morning and a similar amount in the evening.
The basic approach works pretty well with other proteins. I was cooking salmon recently and had some trimmings after I made filets. That made a nice small batch of Pinta food. Likewise, I had a chuck roast that I used for a Trieste goulash. Grind the smaller pieces and use them for a beef based version of this dish.
Five pound bag of chicken leg and thigh quarters
Two cups chopped or shredded carrots
One pound bag of frozen peas, defrosted
Two cups of sweet brown rice
1. Cook rice. I put rice and three cups of water in a rice cooker and let the machine do the work.
2. Remove skin from chicken quarters and separate meat from bone. Make stock from the bones, ~6 cups of water, several stalks of celery and a couple of carrots. Do not use onions as these are slightly toxic to dogs. Bring up to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for about an hour. You should get about four cups of stock. Strain and return to pot.
3. Use a meat grinder or food processor to make ground chicken. If using a food processor, cut the chicken into large pieces (1” – 2”) and put in freezer for 15 minutes. This is a method I use for ground beef (taken from Cooks Illustrated).
4. Add a bit of oil to a large, heavy bottomed pot and heat slightly. Add the ground chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes. No need to cook it completely, just take an edge off the rawness. Add the carrots and peas, stir and add a couple cups of hot broth. It’s not a bad idea to defrost the peas in the microwave and chop in the food processor.
5. When the rice is done, add to the pot with the remaining two cups of broth. Simmer until the broth is absorbed. You’re going for a risotto like consistency. I read conflicting information about digesting brown rice, so decided to break it down further. Whole Foods has sweet brown rice, which is short grain and hence suitable for this kind of dish.
6. Add the softened rice to the chicken and vegetables and stir. Cook uncovered until the broth is mostly absorbed. Stir in nutritional supplement. These vary quite a bit, so use your judgement as to the right amount. I use a combination of a NutriVet and Omega 3 oils.
This makes about four quarts of dog food. I freeze in one cup quantities. Move to the refrigerator the day before and it defrosts nicely. I reheat to room temperature in the microwave before serving.
Pinta at 3 Weeks
Pinta at 6 Months
Pinta at 1 Year