An Interview with the author by Pam Free, author of 'Come Home to your Body.'
When I first met Verona ReBow many years ago, she had three dogs and was feeding them a vegetarian diet. I felt sorry for them. It sounded completely unnatural to me. Dogs are carnivores, right ? Then I met the dogs. They were obviously not only exceptionally healthy, but quite happy as well. She would put together a concoction of vegetables and grains, which they ate enthusiastically, unlike my cat, fed on the same, dry cat food day after day, who hardly bothers to come when I call for dinner. Over the years I have known Verona, her animal family has grown and she has become an animal activist, working to raise the consciousness of those who see companion animals as disposable toys and other animals as a necessary food source. Through careful experimentation and research, she developed a diet for her six dogs that gives them all the nutrients they need. This diet not only keeps them healthy in the present time, but also may prevent some chronic diseases that dogs on commercial food diets are prone to.
So many people asked Verona for her recipes, that she and Jonathan compiled a cookbook: Vegetarian Dogs. Verona has been a professional artist for many years and has included paintings of her dogs in the book, making it both useful and beautiful. I think there are many people who do not realize the negative impact of commercial dog food on the long-term health or their own animals and the natural resources of this planet. It doesn't make sense for individuals who have valid ethical reasons being vegetarian to buy food with meat byproducts for their animals. Talking recently with Verona , I ask some questions about their book.
What was the primary reason you started to feed your dogs a vegetarian diet?
We were trying to act out in our own lives the concept of harmlessness. As compassionate people, we are concerned about all suffering. The way humans treat other living creatures of this planet, especially those raised for consumption, is cruel and inhumane. We could not endorse this cruelty by buying meat products for the dogs to eat.
Isn't it natural for dogs to eat meat?
We began to research the official dietary requirements of dogs and the process of producing commercial dog food. We discovered two things: first, the vegetarian food we were currently preparing for the dogs lacked nutrients which are important for optimum health. Second, the unhealthy nature of some dog food was based on the meat itself. In fact, several commercial, meat-based foods will actually produce clinical deficiencies (Morris & Rogers, Journal of nutrition, 1994).
After adjusting the dogs' vegetarian diet to meet all health needs and watching them thrive on it over many years, the whole concept of whether the diet is „natural‰ or not became unimportant. To us, avoiding cruelty to lambs, rabbits, chickens, cattle, and horses takes priority over providing a semblance of naturalness in our companion animals' lives.
How were you able to adjust the diet to meet all nutritional requirements?
We used the guidelines of the American Association of Feed Control Officials, in conjunction with specific research findings, and added calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, and vitamin D to the diet.
Is it easy to prepare the food?
Vegetarian or not, preparing these foods is hassle-free and straight forward. Large quantities of grains can be cooked in advance, enough for several meals. There is also a recipe in the book for a multi-grain dish which requires no cooking.
Is it more expensive to make your own food?
No, even with the supplements it is much cheaper. We buy bulk supplies through a local Food Co-operative. Like most vegetarians,we add food to the animals' diet that is in season.
How can I tell if my dog is healthy?
Just like humans, a dog's health can be observed clearly by shiny hair, bright eyes, and a loving disposition. Most of our dogs were abandoned by others after being abused and neglected, making them poor candidates for adoption. When brought to our home, they adjusted easily to their new food and environment. Our dogs don't fight, sharing their food and attention willingly with each other. Dogs do not enjoy solitude. In fact, much troublesome behavior stems from loneliness.
Is there any packaged vegetarian dog food available?
Yes, there are companies that produce vegetarian or vegan dog food, but read the labels carefully. Some products claim to be "natural," but contain meat from lambs, rabbits, etc. nonetheless. There is a list of sources in our book.
If you are not ready to commit to changing your companion animal's diet, you will enjoy the information contained within this book, and as mentioned, the artwork is incredibly beautiful.
The book is available at www.vegetariandogs.com, or call (805) 481-8581.
At this time, Pam Free has a semi-wild cat, a hundred quail, gophers, and moles in her life, but no dogs.