I have a raw-fed dog.
We’ll talk more seriously about the choice to go raw and how to do so without sacrificing optimum nutrition later, as well as about the home-cooked alternative, but for now I’d like to share some of the wacky adventures I’ve had while seeking out the right meats, bones, and organs to feed to Augustin. If you’re a fellow raw feeder, you probably have similar stories of your own. If you’re considering raw, here’s what you’ve got to look forward to! If you’re neither a raw feeder nor likely to switch, go ahead and roll your eyes and chuckle. It’s okay– we rawbies are used to a few laughs about the lengths to which we’ll go to get a meal for our dogs.
Given Craigslist’s reputation, I’m wary of even buying a chair or replying to a writing gig listing there, so it was something of a surprise even to me when I found myself agreeing to meet a stranger from Craigslist and pay him $2.00 per pound for 45 pounds of meat. The cuts of meat ranged from pork hocks from a home-raised pig to ground venison from the deer he shot last fall, and just about everything in between. All told, there was beef, venison, elk, and lamb in the mix.
I met the gentleman in a gas station parking lot next to the highway, and we transacted our business quietly and quickly, somewhat reminiscent of a movie drug deal.
“You got the stuff?” I hissed, flashing my cash with a quick glance to ensure no suspicious Shell clerks were nearby.
“In the truck,” he replied, pointing to a large cooler.
I gestured to my open hatchback. “Put ‘er there.”
The money changed hands with a handshake, and we talked briefly about the raising of livestock and the ethics of hunting. The meat, of course, was safely stowed in my vehicle and the cash in his pocket before we made small talk. He assured me that I’d be informed when this year’s steer and hog are slaughtered, in order to collect the organs and scraps before the butcher tosses them. I mentioned that I would also be interested in some human-quality steaks, if the steer’s more than his family can eat.
After a few minutes, we went our separate ways. The entire deal lasted perhaps ten minutes. My dog ate and enjoyed the Craigslist meat. I never did hear from him about this year’s steer and hog, but there’s time yet before winter.
The Tripe Dealer
I caught wind of a group order of green (unprocessed) lamb tripe on a local raw feeders’ email list, and put my name down for 20 pounds. So, that’s how I ended up driving 50 miles round trip, to a total stranger’s home, to pick up a grocery bag full of frozen lamb guts.
She met me at the door with the tripe in hand, frozen but still emitting the distinctive odor of partially digested contents of a ruminants stomach. I was warned about the dreadful consequences of defrosting it in an area without adequate ventilation, while two friendly older Huskies, one blind, sniffed me up and down. There followed a brief chat about domestic autos versus Japanese imports. When the tripe began to reek a little more than I liked, I bid my tripe dealer adieu and headed for the car.
I was, at the time, in search of a couple dining room chairs to go with a sturdy table from a garage sale. It just so happened that as I exited the tripe dealer’s neighborhood, I saw two clean, newish dining room chairs of just the type I needed set out by someone’s garbage cans.
With lamb guts thawing a little faster than I’d like in the car, and covered in Husky hair, I knocked on the door of the house and asked sheepishly if they’d mind my absconding with the chairs left for the garbage man. I obtained permission and took the chairs. After a good wipedown with Clorox wipes, they fit right into the kitchen, and I feel great about recycling.
The tripe, however, is still in the freezer. As smelly as it is even frozen, I’m still nervous about thawing it! My plan is to purchase a kiddie wading pool and thaw it in a pool of cold water in the front yard, but I’m concerned the neighbors will catch a whiff and think I’ve taken to burying decomposing bodies nearby.
No, I’m not feeding my dog leftovers from the high school cafeteria. On the contrary, the mystery meat in my freezer was purchased at the grocery store. However, that’s about all I know about it.
Acting on a tip from a local raw feeder, I made a day trip to a neighborhood with a large Asian population and wandered into the first grocery store I saw. True to my source’s word, I was greeted with a wide array of organs unavailable in most grocery stores. A variety of organ meats being essential to the well-being of raw fed dogs, I was delighted… until I realized that none were labeled in English.
I approached a few employees, and did locate some who spoke a little bit of English, but none who could translate the names of the unusual animal organs on display. I was told that no English speaker has ever wanted to know what those items are, and thus they had never needed to translate their names into English. So, faced with a dazzling array of presumably tasty organs of unknown origins, what did I do?
If you guessed that I bought a pound of each, congratulations, and here’s your Kewpie doll! It’s all in my freezer now. I know I’ve got some liver (liver of what?!) and a heart that I think comes from a pig. There’s tongue, presumably bovine in origin. Then, some sort of a stomach that’s not tripe but not anything else I’ve ever seen, and something that was just labeled “meat” but is obviously some sort of organ. I’m hoping it’s spleen.
I’ve tried to find someone to help me identify my mystery meat, but to no avail. If, after it’s been frozen for a couple of weeks in order to kill off parasites, I still don’t know what it is, into the food processor it goes name or no name, and Mystery Organ Mix will be on Augustin’s dinner menu.