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Musings of a Grieving Raw Feeder

It’s been several weeks now since my dog Missy ended up dying from cancer and my other dog Buzz moved in with his Daddy in Texas, and I feel like time is just being cruel.

It keeps on running, although I really think it ought to stop out of respect for Missy’s death and give me a break so I can properly mourn her loss as well as her brother’s move.

But of course it doesn’t do that because, well, that’s just not how time works.

I wonder if it will really assist me in getting over Missy’s passing. I suppose it will, but it’s hard to imagine right now. After all, it’s said to heal all wounds, right?

When I think about it, it’s certainly helped me get over past relationships that seemed devastating at the time they failed, and look at me now – still alive and going strong.

But losing a dear dog is an entirely new and different experience, and seems to cut so much deeper.

So much so that I found the thought of opening my laptop and typing out a dog-related blog post, just shortly after her death, unbearable. I was relieved when Lindsay was more than ok with pushing back the due date of this article.

However, now that I’m actually typing away, I can’t help but admit it feels sort of therapeutic to put my thoughts on this virtual paper instead of leaving them bottled up inside my brain. Maybe time HAS already helped me a little after all.

Amidst all the grieving and the many tears, the following thoughts have been sneaking up on me:

When will I be ready to welcome a new fur ball into my life?

I wish I already had the answer to this burning question. My house feels SO ridiculously empty these days.

When I walked into my vet’s office to pick up Missy’s urn, I was told that there’s a 3-month old (tripod) puppy in the back, looking for a loving new home.

I declined seeing the pup at that moment in time. It was too soon after Missy’s death and would have felt like cheating on my little girl. It’s sort of odd because I’m around my dog-walking client pups all day long and that part doesn’t feel like cheating.

At the same time, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to leave without the dog once I had seen him.

I also agreed to a 5-month-long pet sitting gig for one of my deploying clients as of June, and will be watching her 2 small pups here at my home. That job might just be the right project to bridge the gap between Missy’s death and the arrival of a new fur ball in my personal life.

It’ll be nice to have doggie companions at home and I’m looking forward to puppy cuddle time, but it’ll be weird to a certain degree because they’re not mine.

They’re also not raw fed, meaning I’ll be storing a bag of kibble in my pantry again. That hasn’t happened since 2015 when I switched Missy & Buzz over to raw.

Buzz and Missy

Do I want a specific dog breed?

Missy & Buzz were/are both Boxer mixes, and although the Boxer breed has a special place in my heart, I wonder if I should bring another Boxer pup home. After all, they’re predisposed to certain cancers.

My ideal K9 companion would be:

An active dog that can go for several daily walks and a few weekly hikes, but not an overly active herding breed such as Border Collies, Aussies or German Shepherds. That would be too much for me.

I’ll also admit that I’m sort of a neat freak, so I think I’d want to stick with short haired breeds. (Watch me walk into a shelter and fall in love with a long-haired cutie, HA).

A dog who can protect me to a certain degree. The image of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, Great Dane or Mastiff has come to mind. Of course they’re all big guys with a giant daily food intake, and we all know the bigger the pup, the shorter their life spans…

Then there’s the Bulldog option – they weigh around 40-50 lbs and need 8-12 ounces of raw food per day. They’d definitely be up for the protective part but might not be the perfect hiking companion given the breed’s reputation for couch lounging fondness and their shortened nasal passages.

There are, of course, variations in temperament and stamina within the Bulldog breed (as is the case with any breed, I suppose)!

I’m reminded of a friend who lived in the same apartment complex in Northern Virginia and had 2 Bulldogs who couldn’t have been more different from one another.

Atticus was the laziest couch potato I have ever met, and I’ve taken care of hundreds of dogs throughout my dog walking career. It was a challenge getting him to go potty, let alone for a walk around the neighborhood!

Ada however loved running around, playing, and going for walks!! I would take her along on walks with Missy & Buzz every now & then, and she never had any trouble keeping up.

Both Ada & Atticus were on a raw diet by the way! They were getting pre-made patties from an independently owned little pet retail store.

I don’t remember the brand, but I clearly remember feeding them the patties. This was before my own raw feeding days and my very first experience with raw dog food. Both pups loved it and demolished it within seconds.

My sister walking Buzz, Missy and Ada
My sister walking Buzz, Missy and Ada

Are there advantages/challenges to feeding different breeds a raw diet?

Regardless of my future new dog’s breed, he or she will most definitely be fed a raw diet. That’s beyond the shadow of a doubt because the benefits of a raw diet are just amazingly far-ranging.

Technically all dogs can be fed a raw diet, but some (breed specific) health issues can make raw feeding a little tricky and would require the guidance of a holistic veterinarian.

Dalmatians for example are sensitive to foods high in purines, which means organs are a big “no no” for them. They can still be fed raw, but it has to be customized to their specific needs – a challenge I would be up for by the way.

Bulldogs would probably not do well with larger raw meaty bones such as chicken leg quarters and duck frames because of their teeth alignment (jaw presses forward), but I can see them being ok with chicken or duck feet. Worst case, they could be fed an entirely ground raw diet, to include ground raw meaty bones, just like Ada & Atticus.

I’ve learned how to keep a raw food diet affordable for my 50 & 70 lb pups Missy & Buzz, but imagine how inexpensive it would be to feed a small dog a raw diet.

A 10 lb dog would only need 2-3 ounces of raw food per day, and even a 20 lb pup would eat less than half of what Missy ate on a daily basis. I could easily get away with just $30-50 of raw food allowance per month if I decided to bring a small(er) pup home. I will admit that the sound of that is intriguing!

I do, however, honestly wonder whether or not I could be without a medium to large size dog. I’ve always considered myself more of a large dog enthusiast. I’ll need to ponder that question, and the small pups I’ll be watching soon might just be able to help me find an answer to it.

Phew. Thank you all for letting me ramble.

I’ve always been a fairly organized person and like to plan ahead, but at the same time I don’t want to overdo it. Like I said earlier, what if I walk into a shelter or rescue organization and get attached to a lovable mutt with longer fur?! I’ll keep you posted on my new journey.

Barbara Rivers writes regularly for That Mutt. She is a blogger, raw feeder and dog walker and maintains the blog K9s Over Coffee

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A Letter to Myself: 'When My Old Dog Dies'
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Justin

Thursday 7th of June 2018

So sorry for your loss!! I know the pain. Have you thought about an american bulldog? They're my favorite breed! I have the Standard Scott type American Bulldog and he sounds perfecr for you as they have just the right amount of energy. The Classic Johnson types are lazier lol. Good luck with the dog sitting and can't wait to read more articles.

Barbara Rivers

Friday 8th of June 2018

Thank you, Justin, it's just the worst pain. I hadn't thought about an American Bulldog! Huh! Thanks for the suggestion, I really like it! How old is your current pup?

Thank you also for enjoying my articles - that's exactly the feedback I needed to help me get back into blogging gear right now.

Colby

Thursday 7th of June 2018

Barbara, I'm so sorry for your loss. I've been thinking about you a lot. It's been difficult for us losing Linus right around the same time you loss Missy. I'm lucky to have Raven and Stetson at home to comfort me.

I haven't thought too much about getting another dog at this time since we have Stetson and Raven plus twins on the way.

One thing I did want to mention about small vs large dogs. My parents and aunt/uncle used to have medium to large size dogs. My parents had a Golden Retriever then a Border Collie mix. My aunt/uncle had several Great Pyrenees. Now that they are older they don't want large or medium sized breeds because it's difficult for them to handle. My aunt/uncle now have an Italian Greyhound and my parents little Cairn Terrier passed away last year. At my age I'm already noticing my body breaking down. Thirteen years ago I got Linus to be my running partner, but I rarely run anymore because it's hard on my knees. While I do see the appeal of a smaller dog I think I'm going to wait until my later years right now I'll stick with the big boys (or at least medium sized).

Barbara Rivers

Friday 8th of June 2018

Thank you, Colby, you & Lindsay have been in my thoughts on a daily basis as well. Are we talking about human twins?? (Not even sure if there are twins in the animal kingdom...). If that's the case - congratulations to you guys!!

I think I share your thoughts on small vs large dogs. I'm in my late 30s now and do think that I'm still energetic enough for the big guys ;-)

Sherill Chapman

Thursday 7th of June 2018

I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you. This may sound corny but I think you will know when the right time is for a new pup. Be patient and trust your instincts/the universe to guide you. I have to say your comments on long haired dogs made me laugh. When we were looking to adopt a dog a few years ago, my husband and I were willing to consider just about any short haired dog that was low to moderate energy and medium size but we absolutely did not want white fur and definitely no long fur since we already had two cats. We met at least a half dozen dogs at the rescue and then we met the little 21lb long-haired white and red sweetheart, now named Winnie, who stole my heart. She very much chose me. She looked me in the eyes and in that moment I knew she was coming home with us. I had to convince my husband who was still interested in the boxer cross we went to the rescue to meet, but it didn't take long for Winnie to pull his heart strings too. Now we have a hairy home, a perpetually full vacuum canister and no regrets. My advice is to have an open mind and an open heart and what is meant to be will be when the time is right. I wish you peace and strength as you get through this difficult time. Take care.

Barbara Rivers

Friday 8th of June 2018

Thank you for your advice, Sherill, I will take it to heart!! Your little Winnie sounds adorable and like it was just meant for you all to find one another. Do you know what kind of breed she is? Maybe like a Mini Aussie?

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 7th of June 2018

Also, sometimes certain short haired dogs shed a lot worse than certain longhaired dogs. My lab mix Ace was constantly shedding a ton, every day of the year. My weim Remy seems to barely shed at all compared to Ace. So I guess every dog/breed is different.

Chris

Thursday 7th of June 2018

If you don't mind doing a little work during hunting season, I feed my four German Shepherds (140 lbs, 100 lbs, 70 lbs and 65 lbs) for basically free year round. The only meat I buy is organ meat and supplement with meat bought for us like pork and chicken and beef (if we have extra from dinner making). I bought 9 big 17 cu ft freezers and they are filled during hunting season by hooking up with hunters and with meat processors.

Barbara Rivers

Friday 8th of June 2018

Wow Chris, your 9 (!) freezers sound like every raw feeder's dream!!! I don't know any hunters...but I suppose it wouldn't be too too hard to find some (I'm thinking maybe asking around in local Facebook groups?). What exactly do you feed? Rabbits & deer?

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 7th of June 2018

That is awesome! I love that idea.

KL

Thursday 7th of June 2018

I’m so sorry to hear of your recent losses. To be hit with multiple losses at once would certainly not be easy.

For what it’s worth, my German shepherd can go from couch potato to high octane athlete and back again. She needs exercise, but it isn’t a constant thing (I work full time plus, for what that’s worth).

She also eats only about 0.8-1 lb of raw base PER DAY. Since her spay surgery, this is what we’ve had to bring her down to in order to maintain a healthy weight. I do occasionally supplement with kibble, but I’ve been finding that’s the issue with her GI stuff, not that particular raw base like I thought. So - there can be easy keepers among the large.

Barbara Rivers

Friday 8th of June 2018

Thank you, KL, it feels like a punch in the stomach. You're right, not every dog of a certain breed will have the same amount or lack of energy, I really do need to keep that in mind.

I'm excited to read that your pup's on a raw diet! Yay! Is she on a weight loss journey if she's only getting 1 lb per day? Or is that only while she's recovering from her spay surgery? And are you feeding THK as a raw base? I had tried that before with Missy & Buzz and it was giving Missy diarrhea, so I stopped feeding it altogether.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 7th of June 2018

I've always loved shepherds! Your girl sounds like such a good dog.