Memoirs of making Dog Food

Start the truck, make sure it has gas and you have a full jerry can in the back that’s sealed good…theres nothing worse than having gas everywhere.
Double check the directions to the camp.
Head out onto the ice road, yah yah sort of like Ice Road truckers, just not as well groomed roads. “You’ll see a bright orange marker, its rough but well send the Bombardier out to open it up a bit”.
We see the fish camp, they’ve been out there for a while and there’s a big file of culled fish…fish that won’t be processed and sold to restaurants.
We back the truck up, we load the truck high with frozen fish. We have some tea.
She tells me: “You know Kate, when the world is kicking at yah, yah just keep kickin’ back, just keep kickin’ back and eventually they’ll stop”.
Drive back to the “city”.
Put the extra dog houses in a circle.
Back the truck up to them, unload the fish, throw a tarp over it. Throw snow up over the tarp and the dog houses. I see a fox watching from a ways a way. No ravens will get into this pile but I will leave it open just a bit so the fox can get in if it’s that hungry. There’s lots of them and they are starving this year. Poor soul. I leave some grub out for them and watch them eat a bit. They eat more like a cat than a dog like animal and they don’t like my cooking.

When I was really young I would watch Laura and Gerard and their relatives Peter and Linda work with their French Bulldog and other dogs. They would prepare different types of dog food. I learned to make fish dog food from watching Fran and Mathew. They were patient with me and let me tag along and watch. They set me up with my first 3 dog team and Matt would go ahead on the skidoo and the dogs would chase and if I fell off Peewee, the big white leader, would turn the team around and come back for me. I wasn’t very old.

Pull three big fish out of the pile. Chop them up with an axe. I have a little rule: a chunk for each dog. Chopped up, they cook faster that way. Throw them in the big metal pot. Turn the propane on, start the torch. Lift the metal pot onto the frame. Pour the hot water from the house into the pot. Let it cook for about twenty minutes and check on it.
Take the lid off and stir with the old boat paddle.

It’s bubbling. I breathe in the steam. I believe the oil from the fish makes me healthy. Healthy lungs, healthy hair, healthy skin, healthy mind.

The fish is cooked. Let it sit and cool.
Dump the contents into the big plastic garbage can. Plastic, because it is easier to clean and also to drag along the snow to where ever it has to go, heavy sometimes.

If it’s cold, add more oils – like corn oil.
If you want to enrich their blood feed them some beaver.
If they are sick feed them some beaver intestines.
You want to keep them parasite free, give them some beaver fur to play with. Eventually they eat it and it will go through their system.
You want to make them lean and fast? Feed them beef.
It’s cold and you want to still keep them training? Add chicken skins or start feeding real fatty chicken. If it’s cold and you want to go real old skool, give them oats and lard.
You want to give them wind and open up their lungs? You chew on some rat root, kneel beside their bowl and spit it in there. Just a bit.
Lots of water. They always need to get to water. If they are healthy and aren’t training they won’t want to eat everyday but they always need access to water.
Jackfish they don’t like so much.
Whitefish they like better in the summer when you throw them a frozen one to knaw on.
Trout they kind of like only frozen and chopped up and they just need a little chunk.
Char when you can get it. The dogs that know what that is gobble it right up.
Pickeral, um, not so much. It has spikey fins.
Fresh water cod or Ling or Mariah or burbot, that’s what I feed, they love it when its cooked.

“Feed them good and work it off them” said John as we were standing there watching Robert feed these beautiful, lanky, strong hounds. John taught Robert how to run dogs when he was a young adult, a loooonnnng time ago. Robert won every race that year.
I got to spend a couple of seasons with John and his wife. He taught me a lot. “Kate, why do you always have to do things the hard way? Think about things!”. When I saw him he gave me a big huge hug. So big, I scared myself around it. He was glad to see me.

I have the individual dog dishes all laid out around the garbage can. I look up at the first dog in line. Esau. He looks a little thin, a little more for him. Longlegs. She looks a little fat, a little less for her. Those crazy puppies are under four months old get them fat in case they get sick they will have some reserves.
Don’t feed them so much them so much that they lose their appetites. If they ever turn away from their food take it away from them and give it back a bit later. Sounds funny but you train them to eat fast. That way when they are under stress or sick or tired that eating becomes automatic and in extreme cases of sickness that can be lifesaving. “Those dogs eat so fast I thought they were going to eat their dishes!” I heard Danny say once. He also said to me one time when I was talking about training a young leader once, a dog he didn’t like: “The only place that dog will lead you to is straight to HELL!!!” I am still laughing about that.

I am still kneeling there, deciding how much of this heavy oily dog food I should add. Not to much, they don’t need a lot.

My dogs know, they don’t jump up. According to Cesar Milan, I am to be the pack leader, the dominant one. I am not sure I like being that, however, it makes life easier. The respect me and I respect them. They watch me and I watch them and if they don’t pay attention to me when I walk in the yard, I’ll throw a little rock or twig at them when they are not watching to get their attention. You need this, you don’t need out of control baboons not listening and potential killing something and they are more than capable of it. They should be aware of me. They are working dogs and only after we have had a real good run do we play a bit.

I make each one sit before they get their food. It takes longer.

Each one eats vigorously. They are healthy. Healthy coats, healthy eyes, good muscle tone, coordinated balanced and focused. They are not the fasted, we are still trying to find our niche. I am thinking longer races. 50 to 150 to 300 miles maybe. We will see. I don’t really know how to train them. If I asked them for something than they give me everything they have. It takes a very long time to figure these things out on your own.

I get to travel to other communities. Communities beside rivers and lakes. Not many dogs. Why? Hard to get food I am told. That’s weird. Even fifty years ago dogs were a huge part of life, there was food then wasn’t there? Even when I was a kid people were still keeping dogs. That’s how I learned.
Dogs that people did get are dying, big pussy cysts vets can’t figure out. Can’t get them healed. Breast cancer. Pups dropping dead from at four, five months old. One right after the other.
Fish? The stuff I chose to feed my dogs? You find them with cysts. Even the ones without cysts I would be leery of. Feed them to my dogs now, if I had any? No. Fry them up for my kids, the way I was raised? No way.

My kids haven’t learned to make dog food like that and they probably won’t. The more I think about it, the harder it would be to find a steady supply of food.

Now, instead of hopping in the truck to drive hours to a fish camp on the tenth largest lake in the world, we go to a mall.