My raw diet journey began sometime in the mid 90’s. I had a St. Bernard that was a few year’s old and suffering from chronic ear infections and regular bouts of vomiting foamy yellow grossness. Back then, in the stone age of dog food, there were only a few ‘premium’ brands and I’d tried them ALL. I can’t tell you who or what turned me on to raw, but it made a whole lot of sense to me. It also solved my dog’s health problems, including his bad breath and gas. Mac died in 2003 just one month shy of his tenth birthday, but the Great Diet Experiment left me a believer.
Fast forward to July 2006. That’s when I adopted Henri. We didn’t make the switch to raw immediately, but it wasn’t long before I decided that Henri would need to live forever, or at least as long as I could manage to keep him healthy, and the best way to do that was to make sure what went into his body was real food. A few portion adjustments- I didn’t have to buy meat in bulk from the butcher- and accomodations for Henri’s palate- he loves greens but hates fruit- and I was back in the groove.
Since I hadn’t killed my first dog, I had a lot more confidence with Henri! No more weighing and measuring, no strict adherance to the schedule, and rules? What rules?!
It wasn’t until we started traveling a lot that managing his diet got a little tricky. It was one thing to visit my Mom and Dad and commander a fridge drawer for Henri’s chicken wings, but it was quite another to be booking hotel stays. Fortunately, the homemade diet lends itself to flexibility and Henri had developed a stomach of steel.
You Need 3 Things
- Grocery Store
Our friends at Igloo gave us a Sportsman cooler, most hotel rooms have a fridge, and since Henri eats real food, I can dart into any grocery store, which all towns have. Regardless of where we are, I never have to worry about finding his brand of kibble. We’ve ordered fruit and yogurt off hotel breakfast menus, plain chicken breast and/or a burger patty with a side of veggies from restaurant menus, and once I even ordered and shared a Surf & Turf. I took the surf; Henri got the turf.
The best news in all of this, at least for Henri, is the number of restaurants that now offer canine platters or specialty menus. In 2015, I highlighted 6 of those places, as it was somewhat of a novelty. Now, it’s practically a trend! Of course, a lot of folks wouldn’t dream of letting their dog eat human food, especially not when traveling, but for Henri it’s normal. It doesn’t upset his stomach and it gives us a great opportunity to highlight some truly dog-friendly places.
What Henri Eats
The short answer is ‘everything.’
Henri gets fed twice a day and half of those meals are what those of us in the raw world call raw meaty bones (RMBs). For Henri, that consists of chicken wings and turkey necks. Yes, raw. Yes, bone and all. But we aren’t strictly raw, and because Henri is so skinny, I do feed him grains. So in addition to his bones, he gets canned salmon, lean red meat– usually raw unless we’re splitting a steak; then it’s medium rare. He gets veggies with both of those meals. Those are steamed and seasonal if I have time, canned if we’re on the road or I’m feeling lazy. Several times a week he gets what we call ‘Henri Hash.’ This is a big ol’ pot of stew that I make using cooked ground lamb, buffalo, deer, whatever, plus seasonal veggies, and grains. Throw in some yogurt, cottage cheese, and raw eggs several times a week and you have a nutritionally balanced diet.
*A note to other raw feeders: Please do not message me because there is no liver in his diet. I know he’s supposed to have it but it’s slimy and smelly and the thought of eating something that filters toxins from another organism’s body is just gross. I buy freeze-dried liver treats and that’s as good as it’s gonna get!
How To Pack a Kitchen
The short answer is ‘NOT everything.’
The easiest stuff to pack is Henri Hash and RMBs. The hash is stored in portion-sized containers and the RMBs go into Ziplocks. If you freeze the RMBs, they work like icepacks and save room in your cooler. IF I take his regular food, that’s usually all I pack. I can order yogurt, fruit/veggies, poached eggs and most anything else from hotel menus.
The truth is…if it’s only a few days, I just don’t sweat it. My dog is healthy, and sometimes I let him eat regular ol’ dog food.
Ok. It’s a premium brand. And grain free. And usually some variety of duck because that’s not a protein he gets regularly. And I wet it. And add stuff. And we get right back on track as soon as we get home. Everybody gets to slack on their diet while on vacation, right?!
Feeding raw may sound crazy to some (most), but it isn’t rocket science. It isn’t even all that time consuming once you get the hang of it, and frankly, I think it makes traveling a lot easier. “Here, Henri. Eat this!” Would I do it if I had a husband and three kids? Maybe not. There are a lot of commercial raw diets out there that didn’t exist in the 90s and some of them are really good. They’re also really expensive, and by expensive, I mean more than the $100/wk I average now- for BOTH of us.
Am I advocating switching to raw? No. It isn’t for everybody. In fact, it’s likely not for most. However, if traveling or boarding or worry about someone else feeding your dog this complicated mess and screwing it up is what’s stopping you, don’t let it. Adjustments are easy, even if you have to go back to kibble on occasion. Besides, Henri thinks kibble is the canine equivilent of cake!