Books Nomi has
She came to me at noon eight months
ago with only a set of stainless steel dog bowls and an opened
bag of expensive kibble.
According to her owner, she’d been fed that particular brand
And she was a ”grazer.”
Not so great.
might have been a first-time pet owner, but I’d done my
Feeding 101 said that bowls were to be set out for each meal at
the same time daily, then picked up – empty or not – twenty
Knowing she’d been traumatized enough by the first major
upheaval in her three years, I immediately filled both bowls,
placed them on the kitchen floor and left them there.
pretended not to be waiting, but I was.
continued to wait until five o’clock, when she finally crept
into the kitchen, sniffed at the bowls with something close to
disdain, and crept out again.
She needs time, I told myself, as
the hours passed. And passed. And passed.
In the morning, I changed the tepid
water in one bowl and wondered what magic powder to sprinkle
over the mound of stinky pellets in the other to make it more
By ten o’clock that night, I was
She hated me. She blamed me for
taking her away from the only home she’d ever known. And she was
going to punish me by starving herself to death.
After a second guilt-ridden and
sleepless night, I broke the first rule of dog training. I knelt
on the kitchen floor and hand fed her three smelly pieces of
kibble. Before I could praise myself for my bad behaviour, she
threw up on my shoe.
As I cleaned up the tiny mess, I had
a huge lightbulb moment.
She wasn’t punishing ME. She was
punishing THEM. For abandoning her. For betraying her trust.
Clearly, she didn’t want any reminders of her former life.
Out went the old bowls and old food.
In came two new bowls and a new brand of food. That evening, I
held my breath as she sniffed suspiciously at both bowls, then
finally lowered her head to eat a single, brown nugget of
kibble. Followed by a second. Then a third. Two sips of water,
and she padded slowly out of the kitchen.
It was a start.
“The pity party’s over, little
girl,“ I muttered as I picked up the food bowl twenty minutes
later. “New rules.”
At eight the next morning, breakfast
was served. Twenty minutes later, it was removed. At six in the
evening, dinner was served. Twenty minutes later, it was
No sooner had this routine been
established than it stopped. She either refused to eat or threw
up whatever she did eat.
“Small dogs are the pickiest
eaters,” the staff at the pet store reminded me each time I came
back for yet another brand of food. Whether in bags or tins, dry
or wet, nothing pleased her for more than three days.
In breaking the second rule of dog
training – switching foods -- I’d figuratively opened a can of
worms. I’d also reversed the order of things in our home. She
was now the undisputed pack leader. I was her devoted follower.
I tried mixing safe “people” food in
with the dog food. Assorted fruits and vegetables. Raw and
cooked. The results were the same: three strikes and they were
When I’d exhausted all store bought
options, I turned to the one source guaranteed to succeed: REAL
“You’re going to spoil her,” warned
my fellow dog owners.
Undaunted, I made dozens of small
meatballs from extra lean ground beef and extra lean minced
chicken. I froze the majority of them in plastic bags and kept
out enough for three days’ worth of meals.
At breakfast, I crumbled two of each
tender, juicy ball into bits and filled her bowl. To my supreme
relief and delight, she gobbled down every morsel, then looked
up pleadingly for more.
“Not until dinner, little girl,” I
said with a self-satisfied grin. “Not until dinner.”
When we reached the three-day mark,
I crossed my fingers and prayed.
By the end of the week, I did an
exuberant victory dance around the kitchen.
One month later, in an effort to
balance the protein in her diet, I tempted fate and added
thawed, frozen peas to her bowl. She loved the combination.
I then added dried cranberries.
Happily, I introduced lunch,
consisting of several fresh baby carrots and a dried, wild
salmon strip. And yes, shame on me, I hand fed her again. My
reasons: to slow her tendency now to inhale her food like a
miniature vacuum cleaner, and to keep her from choking.
She crunched away on each bit of
carrot, each piece of salmon, then washed everything down with
thirsty slurps of water.
I was in heaven!
But my joy was shortlived when I
tried to ensure that she was getting all of the proper nutrients
in her new diet. Brown rice flopped, followed by white rice,
whole wheat pasta, gluten free pasta, yogurt, eggs, oatmeal,
cottage cheese and unsweetened applesauce. I repeated each of
the fruits and vegetables I’d given her before, with the same
The one fruit she would accept – on
an irregular basis – was apple, a single wedge cut into small
Then came the day she discovered
organic, unsalted tortilla chips. I tossed her one as a treat
and her brown eyes glazed over in ecstasy while she snapped and
crackled her way to doggie nirvana.
After that, whenever I called out,
“chips!”, she’d come running to me from wherever she was, stumpy
tail wagging, eyes bright with excitement, mouth slightly open.
I’d never seen her more animated than in her ecstatic response
to that one simple word.
“Chips!” became our code word. It
was the secret weapon in my small arsenal of commands to which
she consistently responded. It was both bribe and reward for any
task well done.
If only it had worked on stabilizing
her erratic behaviour at mealtime.
Because last week, she suddenly
stopped eating her thawed, frozen peas.