Bloody Good Times
If I am not in the kitchen, I am spending time with my dogs. Just ask David, my partner. He will assure you that the dogs are top priority – over him, cleaning house and cooking family meals. I have owned bull terriers since I was 9 years old, but it wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I owned my first show dog, Beckett. Well, his AKC name is Ch. Winsor’s Damned to Fame ROM. The “Ch.” Is because he is a champion. “Winsor” is his kennel name, the name of the breeder’s kennel. “Damned to Fame” because that’s the name of a book about Samuel Beckett. “ROM” stands for “Recognition of Merit”, which kinda means he is a super-duper champion. In other words, he is a fancy show dog.
(I should get this part out of the way: folks always ask me if I’ve ever seen the movie Best in Show and whether dog showing is like that. The answer is that it is one of my favorite movies – and the people, situations and circumstances are way more over-the-top. Really.)
Show dogs need to be in tip-top shape, which means a lot of attention is paid to diet and exercise – what we call “conditioning” in the dog show world. I feed my dogs “raw”, which means that they do not get kibble or even canned dog food. Rather, I have a full-sized upright freezer that is dedicated to their cuisine and I buy about 200 pounds of food at a time. If you opened it up today you would find 80 pounds of skinless chicken necks, bagged in gallon ziplocks and about 120 pounds of food made up of either 5 pounds blocks of raw beef tripe (full of yummy enzymes) or 5 pounds blocks of mixed beef muscle meat and organs. The “blocks” are actually like large sausages – huge rounded tubes of frozen doggie heaven. I defrost them one “log” at a time in a Tupperware container that a fellow raw-feeder found me at a tag sale. It is probably 60s’ vintage and was meant to hold large celery bunches; my “logs” fit perfectly. To this is added the occasional raw egg, with the shell, and sprinkles of probiotics, vitamins and minerals. David and I eat a lot of broccoli and the dogs absolutely love the stems, so that is an almost nightly treat. I find the raw approach gives my dogs gorgeous coats and they never, ever get stinky ears like my old kibble dogs used to have. In terms of exercise, they get daily walks in the woods alternated with road work, sometimes a bicycle ride (I’m on the bike, they trot alongside) and we even have a treadmill made for dogs. The day-to-day routine varies little. It keeps them in the best of shape
When we are on the road to a show, that can mean a 14-hour road trip or a flight to CA, AZ or FL. Flying with raw food is a drag. These days I usually check the food, but we did have one exciting trip when we carried on a small cooler full of frozen chicken necks. Freeman, my son, was probably 12 at the time and we were flying Beckett and another dog, Belle (Freeman’s show bitch) to Arizona for a big show in the dead of winter. This was terribly exciting on many levels: it was cold in Massachusetts and we were going somewhere warm; he got to miss school; and we were traveling somewhere that we had never been. The dogs were loaded into cargo, we found our seats and the first leg went smoothly. By the time we boarded the second plane hours and hours had gone by and the chicken was beginning to defrost. We boarded late so that we could watch the dogs being loaded onto this second plane. When we finally got to our seats there was no room in the over-head compartment for the cooler. The flight attendant grabbed the cooler and said they would find a spot for it and hustled us into our seats. I watched as they found an open space across the aisle and about 4 rows ahead of us. I made a mental note where to find our food when we landed. What I did not see is that they turned the cooler on its side. We started taxiing down the runway; the nose aimed towards the sky at a sharp angle as we began to climb. Freeman was near the window; my gaze started to wander around the plane. As my eye went to the compartment where our defrosting chicken necks were ensconced, I noticed the blood. Chicken blood was seeping out of the unit and flowing in a narrow line along the underside of the compartment – a red rivulet. Because of the pitch of the plane, instead of dripping down onto the person below, the flow was traveling backwards. I nudged Freeman and we both watched in horror as the blood traveled about four rows back, so that it was now exactly opposite us. (Well, truth be told it was half horror and half amusement). The people underneath this liquid carnage were completely unsuspecting. My mind raced. What should I do? Warn them? What would I say? Just yell across the aisle WATCH OUT FOR THE BLOOD!? Before I could decide what to do, my decision was made for me. The plane was leveling off, the flow ceased and a droplet started to form. Freeman and I watched as a drop of chicken neck blood fell onto the man below. It hit the top of the back of his sweater. It looked like it got absorbed right away. I sighed a mental note of relief. The flow had been slight and no additional droplets were forming. I chose to play dumb. When we landed, I grabbed the cooler as quickly as possible and got out of there before anyone noticed anything. That was the last time I brought frozen raw dog food in a carry-on. I promise you are safe. Although I admit I always look up now when I am in an airplane seat.
PS: the photo shows our girl Hope helping us unpack a 40# box of chicken necks. What you cannot see is our cat just out of camera range. He liked chicken necks too!