By Kolby Garrison
“I don’t hear a heartbeat.” On Thursday November 8, 2012, those words forever changed my life. My beloved Guide Dog, a female Golden Retriever, had passed away unexpectedly from Hemangiosarcoma. She had just turned nine in September. We worked together for nearly four and one-half years. Partnership with a Guide Dog taught me how to be independent; helped me find self-confidence that I did not know I possessed; graduate from college; hold my first job; learn how to advocate for myself; and most importantly, I began to understand the importance of nutrition for dogs.
My first Guide Dog ate kibble for the four and one-half years that we were together. I fed grain-free kibble; rotated brands and protein sources; and only gave her grain-free treats. I thought that I was giving her the best nutrition possible. Her sudden and unexpected passing is the reason that I discovered my interest in dog nutrition. I began to learn about how kibble is processed; different ingredients and their definitions; how grain-free does not mean carbohydrate or starch free; probiotics and digestive enzymes; fish oil versus feeding whole fish; et cetera. I wanted to provide my next Guide Dog with better nutrition.
I feed my current Guide Dog a raw diet. I transitioned to feeding raw after feeding dehydrated, air-dried, and freeze dried foods for a while. I remember feeling very overwhelmed when I was trying to decide if feeding a raw diet was something that I would be able to do. Was I making the right decision for my dog? Could I afford to feed raw? What if I did not do something correctly and unintentionally caused nutritional deficiencies? Dr. Karen Becker’s YouTube videos; Dogs Naturally Magazine; Facebook groups; and especially Kimberly Gauthier’s Keep the Tail Wagging blog, are excellent resources that helped me to not feel as overwhelmed. I started out feeding raw using a pre-made raw food, and I used a pre-measured raw food service offered by a company for a year. Now, I portion my dog’s raw food myself and weigh out her food each morning using a talking kitchen scale. I feed a wide variety of protein sources; use whole food supplements; and give her pasture-raised eggs from a local farmers’ market every few days. I have seen positive results with feeding my Guide Dog raw food. She is healthy; does not experience food sensitivities; loves her food; has clean teeth; and only sees her veterinarian for annual visits. I am always learning and growing in my knowledge about dog nutrition. I do not judge others for what they feed their dogs, nor do I appreciate being judged for how I feed my dog. I often have to remind myself that it is okay to try something new; change my mind about an approach or a supplement; and that doing what works best for my dog is most important.
Healthful Dog 4:27