Monday, May 29, 2006

What to feed the Dog

For thousands of years dogs survived as human companions with only left over food. Till a few decades back dogs were eating only table scraps. With the explosion in the growth of pet food industry, today pet dog owners face a puzzling array of colorful bags of dry premium foods, convenient semi-moist packets, and gourmet diets for puppies, adult dogs, hunting dogs, show dogs, lactating dogs, old dogs, skinny dogs and fat dogs. Compounding the confusion is the barrage of advertising touting the benefits of this or that food: It’s all natural, it’s real meat, it’s non-allergenic, it’s high protein, it’s low protein, it’s low-fat, it doesn’t have by-products, your dog will love it . . . Add to these claims the crying of the nay-sayers: It’s cooked, it contains chemicals, it causes allergies, they use meat wastes and animals not fit for human consumption, soybeans cause bloat . . . and it’s not a wonder that when two pet owners meet they invariably discuss what they feed their dogs.
Like all living creatures, dogs need a combination of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water in a balanced diet that provides sufficient calories to meet their daily needs for growth, activity, and repair.
As people have become more conscious of the amount of meat in their own diets, they have also begun to wonder about meat in the dog’s dinner. Some folks have switched from beef and are looking for a dog food with little or no beef, so companies have responded with chicken, lamb, turkey, or venison-based foods. Some owners want a vegetarian diet for their dogs, and companies provide such a diet. The fat and proteins in the dry dog foods mostly come from by-products of poultry and meat. By-products fall into several categories: parts of the animal that people prefer not to eat, such as intestines, feathers, feet, beaks, lungs; tongue, or tail meat.
The average house pet will do well on any of several dry dog foods or home made food, depending on his level of activity, his metabolism, and his individual body chemistry. If jasper is doing well on the food you are feeding and it falls within your budget and is easily obtainable, don’t switch. If Jasper has skin problems that cannot be traced to an obvious cause such as fleas, consider a switch of food
Feeding the family pet, like feeding the family, involves psychological as well as practical decisions. Somehow, the choice of food gets wrapped up in how much dog owners care about their pets. Commercial companies bombard owners with advertising in every media. The over-riding message is that if pet owners don’t choose this or that brand, they don’t care about their dog’s health and well-being. Companies have made it look like home made food for dogs has become out of date and pet unfriendly.
If a dog has a healthy skin and coat, is energetic, and gets good marks from the veterinarian on the annual checkup, pet owners can continue to feed the same diet no matter which they have chosen. If the dog is having problems, they can find out if the food might be a contributing factor and take steps to fix things by adding a supplement, switching to another food, or asking the vet to run some diagnostic tests.

What I feed my dog:

My dog Scooby is a medium sized Himalayan terrier with a long coat. After experimenting with dry dog foods of several companies and also feeding it with complete home made food, I find not much of a nutritional difference between the two. Home made food has not made Scooby’ lazy or his coat dull. Nor the company’s dry food made it hyper active and the coat shiny. Dry food has a tremendous convenience, when you don’t have anyone at home to prepare the food exclusively for the dog. But mind you, dry food of some companies is prohibitively expensive, especially if you have a large breed dog. The only caution to home made food users is to not limit the food to leftovers alone. This will cause nutritional deficiencies.
Home made food: Allocate an old pressure cooker in good condition exclusively for preparing dog food . Keep stock of broken rice( cheaper than rice but same nutritional value ). Shop on Sunday for a week’s supply of boneless meat / chicken / beef. Wash well and pressure cook it for 10 minutes ( two whistles of the cooker ). After it cools, divide the same equally in seven plastic boxes and store in the freezer compartment. Thirty minutes before the dinner time for the dog, cook the broken rice in the cooker. Transfer the steaming rice to a bowl and mix it with the meat. The heat of the rice will defrost the meat. After it cools, add a tea spoon of sun flower cooking oil, a cup of milk / butter milk and feed. For a medium sized dog, 150 gms of meat and 100 – 150 gms of rice a day will do.
If you want your dog to be vegetarian, then the left-over vegetables of the day can be added to the rice and cooked.
10- 20 ml of Ostocalcium mixed with Vimral can be given twice a week. Pregnant and lactating bitches need more food enriched with Calcium and Vitamins. So accordingly the quantity and quality needs to be increased.

What I feed Now: To avoid wasting the leftover rice of the previous night, I add whatever rice is left to the boneless chicken ( cooked and frozen) and depending on the quantity of rice I reduce or increase the dry food. A glass of Butter milk is added.
Scooby is hale and hearty and jumping with joy for the last 3 years.

Tomato Pickle

Making tomato pickle is very easy. I am listing down the ingredients
and the process below.
1 kg tomatoes ( unripe green hard ones)
200 gms tamarind seedless
200 gms Garlic bulbs ( optional)
300 gms crystal salt
300 gms chilly powder
2 tea spoons fenugreek seeds powder( Fry the seeds in a dry pan for 2- 3 minutes and powder)
2 tea spoons turmeric powder
750 gms ground nut oil ( more oil if you want the pickle oily but not
more than 1 kg )
Select the tomatoes carefully. They have to be unripe green and
hard.Wash them in cold water thoroughly and dry them in the shade. An
hour's drying under the fan will do. If still not properly dry, use a
clean dry cloth to wipe off the wetness.Cut each tomato into four
Transfer the pieces to a container ( non-metal), add the turmeric
powder and salt. Mix well, preferably with your own hand. using a spoon
might crush some of the tomato pieces. Please note that hands or spoons
have to be thoroughly dried before dipping them into pickle. Place a
lid firmly on the container and let it marinate overnight.
By morning,juice out of tomatoes would come out. Take the tomato pieces
out and spread them thinly on a polythene sheet. Dry the pieces in the
Sun for a day. At ~ 35 degrees C and bright sunlight, 4 to 5 hours of
drying will do. Remember that the pieces will not be completely dry or
whittle down.
In the morning, after the tomato pieces are taken out of the container
for drying, add the tamarind to the juice in the container and let it
soak in for a few hours. Add garlic paste. Add chilly powder and fenugreek seeds powder
and mix well till it turns into a thick paste. Grinding in a mixie for a couple of minutes is recommended.
In the evening add the dried tomato pieces to the paste and mix well.
Pour the cooking oil in the heated pan. After oil is heated put 20 dry
chillies,20 garlic bulbs,4 tea spoons of Bengal gram, 4 tea spoons of
polished black gram, 2 tea spoons of Mustard seeds, one after the other
in quick succession. Flame should be as low as possible. After a minute
add a handful of curry leaves. Put off the flame and let the oil cool
to room temperature. Pour the seasoning in the container and mix well.
Let the pickle remain in the container for at least a day. Two days
would be better. Taste the pickle and add salt if necessary. (
Adjustment of salt quantity is necessary, since the saltiness of
crystal salt differs to a small extent from one packet to another. Also
the soarness of tomatoes differ.)
The pickle is ready. Transfer the pickle to glass / plastic / porcelien
The pickle goes well with rotis, rice.
Shelf life without refrigeration is 10 to 12 months. As long as tomato
peices remain green, you can assume the pickle is fresh. Towards the
end of the shelf life, slight colour change might happen to the pickle
paste. It is normal.
For the pickle to remain fresh, do not use wet spoons and do not leave
metal spoons in the pickle for long periods.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Green Chilly Pickle

The green chilly pickle goes well with all types of food. It is a gourmet's delight when taken with snacks.
I am giving below the ingredients and the process to make the pickle. Follow them diligently and have a feast.
1 kg green chillies ( lean, long ones)
300 gms seedless tamarind
250 gms crystal salt
50 gms Fenugreek seeds
250 gms garlic bulbs
2 nos. coconuts
Wash the green chillies with cold water and dry them by placing them on a dry towel or newspapers.You can also dry them by wiping the wetness of each chilly with a dry clean cloth. Remove the stalks. Heat the pan, pour 2-3 tea spoons cooking oil. After the oil is heated, put the green chillies in the pan. Stir well while frying till some discolouration happens to most chillies. Do not overfry or roast. Keep them aside.

Boil 2 cups of water ( about ~150 ml ). When the water begins to simmer, put the tamarind in the boiling water. Ensure tamarind is submerged. Do not cook the tamarind.Keep it aside to let it cool to room temperature. Mash it to paste with a spoon.

Grate the 2 coconuts. Keep it aside.

Fry the Fenugreek seeds in a dry pan on simmer heat till they turn deep brownish. 3-5 minutes of heating will do. Powder the seeds in a mixie. Keep it aside.

Powder the crystal salt in a mixie.

Remove the wafer thin outer layer on the garlic bulbs by putting them all in a cloth and rubbing vigorously. Do not waste your time by trying to remove the outer layer for all the bulbs. Make it into a paste in a mixie.

Now put proportionate portions of each of the ingredients ( chillies, tamarind paste, grated coconut, fenugreek seed powder, garlic paste, salt ) in the mixie jar depending on the size of the jar and make complete paste of it. You may have to do it in 5 to 6 portions for a medium sized jar. Mix all the portions of the paste well.

Taste it and add salt if necessary.

Season the pickle paste as follows:
Pour ~50 ml ( 100 ml if you like your pickle oily) of cooking oil in the heated pan. After oil is heated put 10 dry chillies, 10 garlic bulbs, 2 tea spoons of Bengal gram, 2 tea spoons of polished black gram, 2 tea spoons of Urad dal, 1 tea spoon of Jeera, 1 tea spoon of Mustard seeds, one after the other in quick succession. Flame should be as low as possible. Aftera minute add a handful of curry leaves, stir and add the seasoning to the pickle paste. Mix thoroughly with a spoon.

Let the paste cool. Transfer the pickle to glass/ plastic / porcelin jars/ bottles.

Bingo! you have the pickle ready for polishing off. The pickle remains fresh for 8 to 10 months without refrigeration. Do not leave metal spoons in any pickle jar for longer periods.

For a family of 4, the pickle will be sufficient for 6 months assuming all the members consume once a day with snacks.

For snacks:- Take a small portion of the pickle to a bowl, add curds / water / buttermilk at 1:1 ratio. If you want the serving to be less hot increase the portion of the curd. Serve with snacks.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Responsible Dog Ownership

Most times decision to bring in a pet dog is taken on the spur of the moment. You meet a friend who has a litter and offers a pup free. Or your kid has been pleading with you to get him or her a pup. And you just pick up whatever is available that doesn't cost much or because you read somewhere that a particular breed is very friendly etc.. For a lifetime's happiness of owning a dog, the first and perhaps the most important decision is to carefully select a breed or mix of dog that is most likely to fit into the family temperament and lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many breeds to choose from, and there is at least one to fit every situation. There are breeds that are predisposed to retrieve, to guard, to pull sleds or carts, to snuggle, and to lie by the hearth. There are active breeds and calm breeds. There are breeds to satisfy the desire to comb long strands of silky hair and breeds that require only an occasional rubdown to keep coats healthy. There are breeds that can withstand cold climates and breeds that can cope with hot, muggy temperatures. There are breeds that love children and can put up with a toddler's teasing, poking, and pulling and a 10-year-old's rough-housing. Do not make your decision basing on popular beliefs that small dogs need little attention or can fit into an apartment and big dogs need lot of excercise. There are variety of small dog breeds that are hyper active and need lot of excercise and play and there are huge dog breeds that simply want to rest 24x7. Keep in mind that big dogs need lot of food and prepare yourself for a hefty monthly budget.

Before you make a decision on the breed you would want, check out the breed origin, for knowing where and why a breed was developed helps to understand its character and physical attributes.

Once the breed is selected, the buyer should look for a breeder who produces puppies that fit the breed's physical and attitude description. Choosing a puppy that has the name of the breed but not the appearance and character negates the vast amount of work to get to this point. Why bother reading and studying about breeds just to buy a puppy that is a Labrador Retriever in name only?
To find a breeder, contact a local veterinarian, groomer, or kennel or obedience club for a referral, check ads in the Kennel Gazettes or surf the Internet for a breed club website. Do not buy from the puppy mills that seem to be sprouting everywhere. The breeders of puppy mills have only one thing in mind- making a fast buck. The dams are reared in inhuman conditions and bred indiscriminately. Puppies are not socialized causing psychological and behavioural problems as they grow.
Once the puppy comes home, there are many other decisions to be made, but they can all be approached with common sense and made to fit your personal biases, budget, and life circumstances. Take the pup without delay to the vet for vaccinations. Maintain a file recording the vaccinated dates and treatments to other ailments.
Do not pamper the pup as it grows to an extent where the pet dog becomes the master of the house. Obdience training is a must which can start as early as 3 months. You should be a responsible dog owner and an obedient dog is a pleasure to have. Dogs that jump on people, chase cars, or bite strangers are not only a nuisance but dangerous too. There are hundreds of books and material available to learn the basics of obedience training. After all you are not attempting to make your dog a movie star. Basic obedience training will do.
(If you are in or in the vicinity of Australia, you can go to Alpha Dog Training Institute headed by Greg Fontana. His Canine Lifestyle Communication system, the methodology of training dogs is unique and very effective. You can send the dog to Alpha Boarding kennels at 8 Kiernan Road, Macclesfield, Victoria 3782 Ph. no- 59688101 for boarding as well as training. Or best, you can take a short term course ( 1 week) in dog training and you will be amazed at the results. Just a few minutes drive from his kennels and training center are beautiful cukkatoo cottages that are rented out. )

As the dog matures the decision to spay or neuter is often at the top of the list. Sterilization surgery is often cited as the demarcation between “responsible” and “irresponsible” dog ownership, but that is a political and moral judgment, not a practical one. However,sterilization has many advantages: spayed bitches never drop estrus fluids on the carpet or unwanted litters in the closet, don't develop reproductive cancers or uterine infections, and don't require management skills to separate them from male dogs, and castrated male dogs don't get testicular cancer, macho attitudes, or stud dog wanderlust. However, if a family wants to keep a dog intact, exercises common sense precautions to prevent unwanted litters, and understands the risks of infection and cancer, they should not be considered “irresponsible.”

Close on the heels of the decision to spay or neuter is the decision to breed. This one requires at least as much care as the selection of a breed, for the determination to bring more puppies into the world should be based on more than wanting the kids to see the miracle of birth or aiming to make a few dollars for the vacation fund. Puppies are not cars or toasters; they should be thoughtfully produced, thoughtfully raised, and thoughtfully sold.

Responsible Breeders often study their breed for years before producing a litter. Dog breeding is animal husbandry every bit as much as the breeding of race horses . In dogs, the aim is to package the genes into a healthy animal that is representative of its breed, not merely to produce more Labradors or Rottweilers or Jack Russell Terriers to sell for a fast buck. The original developers of these breeds knew what characteristics they wanted and carefully mated dogs to get them; breeding today should be approached with the same care.

Breeding a healthy litter is expensive. Sire and dam in all medium-to-giant breeds and mixes should be checked for hip dysplasia even if they show no signs of problems, and they should be screened for other genetic diseases that are prevalent in their breeds and for which tests exist. Toy breeds should at least be checked for slipping patellas (kneecaps). These precautions do not eliminate the potential for inherited disease or abnormality, but they do improve the odds for a healthy litter.
Finally, the decision to breed a litter should include consideration of the puppies' need for socialization and careful screening of potential buyers. Since the puppies will be pets, they should be accustomed to living with people and their noises, smells, and activities from the beginning. Gentle handling is recommended from birth onward, handling that can be done during the three-times-daily cleaning of the whelping area. When puppies begin to move around freely, they should be given toys to play with and spend some time outside the whelping area each day. At five weeks, they can spend time outdoors every day, weather permitting.

Potential buyers can visit the puppies from six weeks on, but no puppy should go to a new home before seven weeks and preferably not before eight weeks. Breeders of toy dogs often keep the litter together for 10-12 weeks or more.
No dam should be bred before 18 months age and for large breeds >2 years. There should be a gap of 2 years between litters and not more than 3 litters in its life span.
Life span of a dog varies from 8 to 14 years depending on breed, the care taken and several other factors. When in old age, dogs develop joint problems, reduced vision, sores, tooth loss. This is the period when people simply drive the dog away from home for it to die on the streets. This is the most inhuman act. If the dog is suffering, consult your vet for mercy killing rather than drive away the dog that has given you happiness for years.
Be a responsible dog owner.

Dog Trivia

•Irish Wolfhounds are the largest dogs among all breeds (in height).

•Most dogs have pink tongues except for two...the Chow-chow and the Shar-pei. Both have black tongues.

•The only barkless dog in the world is the Basenji, an African wolf dog.

•Dalmatian puppies are pure white when they are born and develop their spots as they mature and grow older.

•The Pekingese was a favorite dog of ancient Chinese royalty. They carried these small dogs along in their sleeves of their royal robes.

•German Shepherds have 225 million cell receptors in their noses, making them ideal for police work and search and rescue activities.

•Humans have 5 million cell receptors for smelling while most dog breeds exceed 100 million cell receptors.

•Saint Bernard’s were originally trained to rescue lost travelers in the Swiss Alps.

•Dachshunds were bred to fight badgers in their dens.

•The original reason behind the Poodle's "haircut" was to improve their swimming abilities as a retriever. The pom-poms were left to keep their joints warm.

•A Greyhound can reach speeds up to 45 miles per hour for short periods of time.

•Large quantities of chocolate can be fatal to your dog, especially the type used in baking.

•Dogs curl up with their tail covering their nose to keep it warm in the winter.

•Not all dogs' eyes reflect the color green in the dark; some reflect orange or red.

•The world's first ever space astronaut was a dog named Laika. The Russian Government sent Laika into space in an artificial earth satellite in 1957.

•Cerberus, a 3-headed dog of Greek mythology, was said to guard the gates to Hades (the Underworld). The only person to ever get past his guard was Heracles (or to use his Roman name, Hercules).
•The first dog show was held in England in 1859.

•Two dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic...a Pomeranian belonging to Miss Margaret Hays (in lifeboat 7) and a Pekingese belonging to Henry Sleeper Harper (in lifeboat 3).

•The Saluki breed is the oldest known breed of dogs. They were raised by ancient Egyptians as hunting dogs. Saluki is an Arabic word meaning noble one.

•1990 was the last year that a breed other than the Labrador Retriever finished 1st overall in American Kennel Club dog registrations for a single year. The Cocker Spaniel edged the Lab in 1990 by almost 10,000 dogs. Since then, the #1 spot has been all Labs.

•The term dog days of summer was coined because the hottest days of the summer in Rome coincided with the night sky when the Dog Star (Sirius) could be seen. The Romans believed the brightness of the star added to the heat of the sun.

•A dewlap is the pendulous fold of skin on the neck, like you would see on a Bloodhound.

•Did you know there is a dog museum? In St. Louis, Missouri, you will find The AKC Museum of the Dog, founded by the American Kennel Club. There are paintings, sculptures, and other works of art that are about dogs or have dogs in them. Dogs have been in artworks that date back thousands of years!

•The United States and France have the most pet dogs. Almost one in three families in these countries own a dog.

•What countries have the least amount of pet dogs? Germany and Switzerland only have one dog for every ten families. They need more dogs!

•A dog's temperature is between 100.2-102.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

•Contrary to popular belief, after the first year of life, a dog is equivalent to 16 human years. After two years, they are equivalent to a 24 year old, at 3 years a 30 year old, and each year after, add 5 human years to determine your dog's age.

•Dogs breathe 10-30 breaths per minute.

•It is illegal to crop your dog's ears and dock the tails in the UK & Australia.

•The English Romantic poet Lord Byron was so devastated upon the death of his beloved Newfoundland, whose name was Boatswain, that he had inscribed upon the dog's gravestone the following: "Beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and all the virtues of man without his vices."

•Dogs and humans are the only animals with prostates.

•More than 40% of pet owners talk to their pets on the phone or through an answering machine.

•Twenty-five percent of pet owners blow-dry their pet's hair after a bath.

•More than 50 percent of dog and cat owners give their pets a human name, such as Molly, Sam or Max.

•Dogs have 42 teeth, cats about 30.

•The maximum speed of a Whippet is 35 miles per hour.

•The name of Superman's dog is Krypto.

• Three dogs -- an American Foxhound, a St. Bernard, and a Great Dane -- have each given birth to a litter of 23 puppies. The record remains unbeaten.

•Pollsters say that 40% of dog and cat owners carry pictures of the pets in their wallets & mobiles.

•In the original 101 Dalmatians movie, Pongo has 72 spots, Perdita has 68 and each of the puppies has 32.

Requiem for a Friend

Requiem for a Friend

It was a normal morning like any other summer morning. I was on my morning walk with my dog when the cell phone rang. The call was from my village and a hysterical voice told me Siva is no more. He met with an accident. I couldn’t believe it. The caller confirmed that the body was positively identified. It was like a bolt from the blue. I rushed to my village to have a last glimpse. Mercifully the face was intact and he appeared to be in deep sleep. He was cremated on the same day.
I was 10 when I first met him in my village during summer vacation. He was a month older to me. He came from a nearby town to visit his grand parents. He came in an amby and was a sport to accept my exciting suggestion to take a side seat while I test drive the car. He stole the car keys when everyone at home was taking the afternoon nap and gave them to me. Together we were off. Not far though! Before I could manage to start and roll the car for a few yards, both of us were dragged out and a sound thrashing given. That day a bond of friendship sprang between me and Siva and blossomed for 35 years till a few days back when he rammed his car into a stationary truck from the rear during the dead of the night on NH-5 and died on the spot.

A few years after our first meeting, his family permanently moved to my village after his father lost a fortune in business. We met during every holiday, started our jobs same time in Hyderabad, shared a room and shared everything. We had similarities as well as differences. He was a religious person and I was an atheist and later a convert to the concept of Almighty. He was a conformist, while I was a rebel. We both chucked our jobs and started our own businesses, tasted the headiness of success and the pain of failure. Finally he settled in Chennai 15 years back. We used to plan out trips to the village to ensure both were there at the same time.

During the last 5 years, the meetings became infrequent as I was not able to make it to my village when he visited. I traveled to Chennai scores of times but there too didn’t find time to stay back for a day to spend with him. I visited him only a couple of times for an hour or so. He used to say that work will always be there and heavens will not come crashing down if I take a day off to be with him. How I wish now that I had done it. How I wish now that I had met him every time I visited Chennai. How I wish now that he lived for some more years for me to make amends. Alas, if wishes were horses beggars like me would be riding them.

I am left with emptiness in my heart. I am left with a guilty consciousness. I am left with a deep sorrow for not being able to meet him more regularly when I could have done it easily.

Siva is survived by his wife and 13 year old son.

May his sole rest in peace.