May 20th marked the anniversary of Buffy’s passing. As with every year on that day, for the past 15, we lit a candle by her tree near the place she rests. We sit with her a while and speak of stories past.
Ginger sits with us too, and then Buddy joined in. They quietly sit, knowingly. The candle burns through the night, putting itself out as the moon gently lights up the sky.
The next day, Ginger turns one year older: this happens every year. On that day, she happily eats her salmon dinner and blows out her own candle, thankful for having had BUFFY lead her to our home.
This year though, there was a heavy mood looming the day before. Buddy has been ill. It started with a simple change that was barely detectable. The back, which has always been a little stiff, seemed a little bit more stiff. The appetite, which has always been great, became only moderately good.
At first, it was just turning down a carrot. No to carrots, yes to sweet peas. No to snack kibble, but yes to Darwin’s raw food. Yes to chicken, no (?) to sweet peas. Then it was just, no. No food. No!
A blood test had revealed an alarming change in the progression of Buddy’s kidney disease. What once was mildly concerning had escalated quickly from, worth-watching, to demanding action.
Tom and I pride ourselves on taking care of our pups. We do what we think is best and what we learn is right. No matter how much we read or learn though, something else is needing to be learned.
May 19, 2015
Buddy was curled up in my arms on my lap, in the front seat of the car, in a position known well to babies (well, not the car part). I know this was not the safest way to drive and I knew that it was not the proper place for him to be. But against my chest, in my arms, was the only place.
Dr. Rice had told us about Paws Cafe awhile back. With all the research I do, scouting of the Internet, I do not know for the life of me, why it was I did not look this place up more seriously until now. Dr. Rice mentioned it again, this time more pointedly, singing praises of the owner, Shelly, as an authority on the subject of nutrition for specifically this thing. This thing that we (Tom, Buddy, Ginger and I) now have to accept and somehow make it through – renal failure! A subject I had not yet learned much of, but could now probably tell you more of than you really care to know.
Buddy traveled, on this day, the nineteenth of May, to work with me. We went from work to two meetings downtown. After the first, I came back to the car and Buddy had gotten on the floor and pooped. He was stuck down there on the floor, with the poop. Returning to the car, my heart skipped a beat because I could not see him on the seat. Ginger was in the back, asleep. I cleaned it up (with the help of my client bringing me paper towels). But I was happy to see poop. I had not seen it from Buddy in more than two days. The timing was unfortunate however…for us both.
This slight variance from the day’s plan caused me to be late to my next meeting. When I arrived, I was slightly smelling of odor, and I do not mean perfume.
After that, finally, we were on the road to Oz. We had contacted Shelly of Paws Custom Petfood (formerly Paws Cafe) and she had made us a tonic of detox and nutrients that I was to put in Buddy’s food. Having evaluated his blood work, Shelly recommended that I make his food because she didn’t want to sell me 10-15 lbs only to find it something he refused to eat. I didn’t want to, but I did read between the lines, regardless of if the lines actually said what I thought they read.
By this time, Buddy had not eaten in close to 48 hours. Dr. Rice was on vacation and we were somewhat on our own (although other doctors were on hand and there was our faithful friend and neighbor, Piotr, who helped with the needle and subcutaneous fluid administration). I did not mention this earlier to you, but Buddy was also suffering from small seizures brought on by specific, sudden sounds (such as cutlery clinking, foil crinkling or high pitched squeaks and vibrations, even a door closing). He would twitch and fall suddenly yet momentarily, legs splaying out bringing him to the ground. He was also wobbly and drunken as he moved across the yard, but still intent on getting to his destination, wherever that may be.
He acted this way when we got home from Oz that day. But it was sunny and more than warm. I went to the kitchen and began cooking Buddy’s food. Tom had not yet come home from work and the sun was the perfect temperature for Buddy and Ginger to lay outside on their respective beds.
When I finished, I brought a bowl outside. Two bites! Buddy took two bites of food into his mouth off of a tiny spoon. That was enough for now. The fluids from his injection were going to have to get him through another night. I looked to Buffy’s resting spot and remembered…another time.
May 20, 2015
This day is always bitter-sweet for us. There is a heavy presence of Buffy in the air and even Ginger, who (sometimes) can be cantankerous and ornery, is on her best behavior. It feels almost spiritual, Buffy’s presence is still so strong.
In the morning before work, I looked at Buddy, so small, curled up in our bed. I brought in a bowl of his “new” food and he did something quite surprising; he actually began to eat, ravenously, greedily eating!
Buddy and Ginger stayed home that day and when I came home at lunch-time, Buddy decided he would actually eat lunch!
The twentieth of May; a day I thought might take our Buddy from us too, was a turning-point instead. That day, Buddy decided to live, at least little longer (and hopefully a lot more). Buffy may have had a word or two, to him, or someone; we will never know. Every moment is precious when you realize how few moments there might actually be, so for now, we will count each and every moment as a gift. This gift we will always treasure.
Paws Custom Pet Food – A version (or two) for Buddy
I can not stress enough how thankful we are for finding this place. They are located in Redmond, Washington, right down the road from the Pomegranate Cafe. They deliver locally (in a (our) limited area), but ship via UPS to anywhere. The food is available in many different sizes and with chicken, turkey or grass-fed beef. They will also make food custom for your dog or cat’s needs based on their blood-work (which might include rabbit or lamb with an adjusted amount of protein and added nutrients or herbs).
They also provide a starter-kit for those that wish to make their pet’s food themselves. The kit provides the vitamins and minerals needed for proper nutrition in a simple, one-step container. I have always wanted to make my own (dedicated pet) food but worried that I wouldn’t know how to balance the nutrition levels to their needs.
Shelly spoke with me in great length on the phone, describing the percentages of proteins to carbs to veg required for a dog with renal failure. The phosphorous levels in Buddy were extremely high, so foods with low phosphorous were needed (in tandem with his medication).
Shelly provides recipes in the kit so you can get the proportions correct. Her recipe is for 10 lbs of food though and I needed to start a little bit smaller. Below is my recipe from the first batch of food. It resembled the texture of baby food because I used my Blendtec to puree, which required me to add water. He loved it, but I had to feed it with a spoon otherwise he would have worn most of it in his fur. The second batch of food I pureed in my Magimix (or a Cuisinart-type processor) and it was much more similar to the consistency of the food you can purchase from Paws Custom Pet Food.
This food is really easy to prepare and can be portioned out (and frozen if you make large quantities at once). Speak with your Vetrinarian (or Shelly, or another animal nutritionist) as to the right amount of food for your dog, based on age and weight. Ginger polished off a 24 oz portion sample size given to us by Shelly, in about 2+ days. Buddy ate the first batch of food I made in the same time (yay!). They shared a bit of each other’s but it mostly evened out.
Happy Turkey Coma with carrots and peas
Turkey is a great lean protein for compromised (or healthy) animals. The “feel good” comatose that we experience post-Thanksgiving is from the feel-good (but sleepy) dopamine found in turkey. I also added a few bits of lamb so that Buddy was enticed by the “stink factor” (a good stink, we think).
As with all foods we eat and feed our loved ones, use the best quality you can afford and if possible, organic is best! The idea is to heal, not harm. Ingredients should be as natural as possible with no added chemicals.
8 oz. cooked turkey and lamb
(I had 2 turkey cutlets of approximately 3 oz. each which were poached while making broth. The rest was lamb leg chunked for stew which I had purchased to flavor rice the previous day in an attempt to get Buddy interested in food – sadly, a failed attempt).
6 oz. cooked carrots
2 oz. cooked sweet peas (in pod, stringy side seams removed)
6 oz. baked sweet potato (no skin, just the soft meat)
4 oz. cooked white rice
1/4 cup broth (made from cooking the turkey, peas and carrots)
3 tsp nutrients*
*Nutrients: As purchased from Paws Custom Pet Foods (Shelly made my bottle of nutrients using vitamins & minerals, turmeric, slippery elm, probiotics, DGL etc…) Please note that I added the detox option to my nutrients which she added to the regular mix. All ingredients are organic.
The food will all have been cooked by now. That was easy, right?
The ingredients should be cooled before mixed and pureed.
Add the ingredients to a food processor (as mentioned, I used a Blendtec, which wanted me to add water so as to actually blend). The water or broth is not needed if you use a Magimix or Cuisinart, but since animals with kidney disease need to stay hydrated, it certainly won’t hurt).
Divide the food into 12 oz – 24 oz containers with tight-fitting lids. You may freeze them this way, or they will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
A few words from Shelly via email answering my questions:
I like the crockpot for small batches because it’s fewer dishes to clean. I cook and drain the meat and then if I’m cooking the veggies, I’ll either leave the meat in the pot for soft veggies like zucchini or peas that cook fast or keep it in a separate bowl to cool while I cook the harder stuff like carrots & yams. You shouldn’t need to add much if any water. If you’re putting everything through the food processor after it’s cooked and you’re adding water, that may be why it’s runny? I usually recommend cooking ground meat because you get a good texture by default so a food processor isn’t needed. If you aren’t cooking your veg you’d still need to run that through the food processor but it sounds like you are so maybe you can just chop your veg into smaller pieces and cook it and that’s it.
Regarding the foods you mentioned, mushrooms are not well tolerated by dogs. Parsley in small amounts would be safe but I’m not confident about the palatability. It’s pretty strong. Bell peppers are good. Again, they are strong so cooking them would be helpful. Chickpeas would be a carb more than a protein source in this context. Whole eggs are well-liked. Sometimes you need to omit the yolks if they get gassy. Lentils are also good; quinoa, blueberries, cantaloupe, pumpkin, cabbage, green beans, carrots, yellow squash, kale, dandelion greens. Most fruits are ok, but grapes are poisonous and all fruit seeds are. Onions, garlic, mushrooms, chocolate are also poisonous or ill-advised options.
Any fruits or veggies that are sweet should be proportionally limited. So if you add 20% yams or peas or carrots, then balance with at least 20% green beans, zucchini or squash. Too much sugar will cause acid reflux. White starchy foods convert to sugar like white potato and white rice, so those general guidelines should be applied to those as well.
Just one more tip, cook meat on low-heat if you’re putting it on the stove.
Batch #2 was made with bison (16 oz) cooked like stew with carrots, peas and zucchini. Once cooked, 1/2 can garbanzo beans, 1 sweet potato (minus skin), 1 cup rice and 1 cup blueberries were added along with the nutrients*.