In my younger years, I used to make all manner of declarations. I would never do X. I will always do Y. I’m not sure if it is age or simply life that has shown me how ridiculous I sound being so rigid, so certain. Because there have been plenty of times when I was wrong. I always assumed we would be a single-dog family, and I always thought it would be a Labrador retriever in my house.
It was several weeks ago when I saw a cute little puppy cross my Instagram feed. Her name was Abbie, and RezDawg Rescue, based in Denver, was trying to find her a home. She had a very serious look about her 4 month old face and there seemed to be a hint of sadness in her eyes. So cute, I thought. She’ll be snatched up in no time. Then a couple of weeks ago, Abbie came up again in my Instagram. I couldn’t understand how she hadn’t been been adopted yet. Throughout the day, I mulled over this little girl and began to feel personally wounded that no one wanted her. For the next few nights, I would read her description after Jeremy had fallen asleep, and then I would cry quietly in the dark. I kept it to myself, until I didn’t.
I mentioned Abbie to Jeremy just over a week ago. The look he gave me was one of dread. We had only recently arrived at the point where we could live semi-normal lives with Neva. I knew Jeremy did not want a second dog, but he asked me if this was what I wanted. I didn’t know. I didn’t want a second dog. I didn’t want to introduce uncertainty and potential chaos into our delicately balanced life with Neva. But I knew we could give Abbie a good and happy home and I felt I just wanted to love her. I already loved her. Tears. What to do?
Jeremy suggested to find out if she had been adopted.
She hadn’t been.
Then we asked if we could meet her.
meeting puppy in her foster home
puppy with her foster family
Abbie’s foster family had two of their own dogs, a cat, and a handful of foster pups. Linda, Abbie’s amazing foster mother, told me if she didn’t already have two dogs, she would have kept Abbie. I could see why. Abbie was a calm, sweet, gentle girl when we met her. A little shy, definitely puppy, and interested in people and animals. We left after our visit feeling that she was a good fit for us. It was clear that Linda loved Abbie and had provided a safe and nurturing environment for her. I was told by RezDawg Rescue that Linda wanted to make sure Abbie went to the best possible match. Suddenly I worried that we wouldn’t make the cut. Driving home, I stared ahead into the night and said aloud, “We’re good dog owners, right? I mean, we can give her a good life, right?”
The next 24 hours were a whirlwind of cleaning Neva’s old puppy crates and toys, writing down new items we needed to get for the puppy, getting the house ready for a puppy, and running through my long list of potential puppy names. It is my tendency to want to name the dog before I meet her, but with every dog we have, Jeremy insists that we get to know their personality before choosing a name. He is right, of course.
Abbie came home with us Thursday night. She took in the new surroundings cautiously, but adjusted quickly. Neva freaked out. WHAT IS THIS PUPPY THING YOU BROUGHT HOME?!?! Neva was scared of the puppy, and yet Abbie seemed to feel comforted by Neva’s (spazzed out) presence. Linda had noted that Abbie would do well with another dog to give her some confidence. We could see that right away. She would shrink from the yard the first night unless Neva was out there with her.
Over the next two days Abbie became Yuki. We tested other names, but they didn’t fit. Yuki can mean snow or happiness or courage in Japanese. We like all three. Little Yuki is the dream puppy we never had until now. At 5 months (and 32 pounds), she sleeps through the night in a crate, has a very generous (to us) potty schedule of 6-8 hours, learns quickly, and walks quite well on a leash. She likes our vet. Yuki is adjusting so well and beginning to spread her wings.
yuki at the soccer field
she looks sad, but she’s really happy
resting easy in her forever home
My greatest concern was Neva. Would a puppy push Neva over the edge? The first night seemed to stress our girl out – a little puppy jumping on her head and sleeping in her beds and dragging her toys around. If Yuki tried to squeeze into a doggy bed with Neva, Neva would immediately jump out and run away. When we took the dogs to the soccer field for a fetch session, Neva was elated to chase her ball and utterly dismayed to find Yuki stalking and chasing her every move. The two really turned a corner on their first hike. Both were well-behaved (amazing for Neva!). We could see that Yuki sought out Neva’s presence when she wanted reassurance – like when that really tall male hiker passed her – and Neva didn’t mind the little pup sidling up to her with a gentle body check. As Yuki bounded clumsily down the trail chasing butterflies, Neva patiently waited in the shade with Jeremy until we caught up.
I worried that getting a good and sweet and calm puppy, basically the opposite of Neva when she was a wee one, would make me love Neva less. But after observing the way Neva has put on her big sister pants and is helping Yuki navigate this new mountain life, I love her more than ever. I think the addition of Yuki to our family has been good for her, for Neva, and for us. Just a few weeks ago I was certain that we’d always be a single-dog family. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
we are now a pack of four
yuki in the flowers, ready for a treat
Training Yuki has been easier than training both Kaweah and Neva at the same age. The number one priority on our list was house training Yuki because she wasn’t housebroken when we got her. She knew how to use potty pads, but we needed her to be able to potty outside and to let us know when she needed to go. That involved a combination of crate training, constant vigilance, and positive reinforcement. That first 24 hours we took Yuki out to the yard almost every hour because of our very stressful experience with Neva as a puppy. But Yuki only needed to potty every 6-8 hours – the rest of the trips she spent sniffing the yard and lazily walking around, sometimes lying down and turning her belly up to the sun. We were amazed and impressed and overjoyed. When she did actually potty, we immediately praised her (“good potty!”) and gave her a treat. Our favorite treat to work with happened to be a homemade beef jerky I made for Neva back in May.
Unlike many of the other treats or kibble, the homemade beef jerky wasn’t oily or sticky or crumby, which made it particularly easy to carry around in our pockets. It didn’t have a strong odor and broke into small pieces easily. And both dogs absolutely love it because… beef. I started making beef jerky because I recently acquired a dehydrator for preserving wild mushrooms. I typically purchase 3-4 pounds of eye of round at my Costco because it is lean and relatively inexpensive compared to other cuts they carry. You can also use flank steak or sirloin – as long as it is lean because fat reduces the shelf life of the jerky.
eye of round
trimming any excess fat
After trimming the fat, I put the beef in the freezer to firm it up for ease of slicing. You want it to be firm enough that it doesn’t deform or slide under your knife, but still soft enough to slice without having to saw through ice. It took about an hour for the beef to get to this stage. I recommend cutting the beef into 1/4-inch thick slices at a minimum. Remember that the pieces will shrink quite a bit in the dehydrator (or oven if you are using one). Any thinner than 1/4 inch and you will have beef chips. I also cut my beef against the grain. I think beef jerky is usually cut with the grain so that you have something to really chew, but I know Neva isn’t a huge fan of chewing food and I could imagine her trying to choke a strip of jerky down. Cutting against the grain makes for an easily chewable and breakable piece of jerky. But if your dog is good about actually chewing its food, then cutting with the grain might make for a satisfying chew and treat. And while humans like to season or marinate their beef before drying, my dogs are perfectly happy with and probably healthier eating plain old beef without added salt or seasonings.
semi-freeze the pieces of beef
slice against the grain
arrange the slices in a single layer
The guidelines in my dehydrator booklet suggested setting the temperature at 155°F (the maximum on my device) and running it for 4-8 hours until a piece of jerky cracks on the outside, but remains intact inside when you bend it. The more humid your environment, the longer it may take to dry your beef. My jerky took about 6 hours. If you are making your jerky in a conventional oven, it will take anywhere from 10-14 hours – and remember to leave the door cracked open so that the moisture can escape. I’ve only made this with my dehydrator.
load the dehydrator with the racks
monitor the jerky from time to time
after six hours – lots of shrinkage
cracks open, but holds together inside
These jerky pieces store well in an airtight container or bag at room temperature. I think if you have somewhat chewy pieces (as in, some moisture in the jerky), you should probably store them in the refrigerator or freezer. And if you plan to store the jerky for long term, definitely keep the airtight containers or bags in the freezer. Three pounds of beef were converted into a single pound of jerky. I thought they would last Neva through the summer along with all of her other treats, but it looks like I’ll need to make another batch since Yuki loves them and they work so well for training.
homemade beef jerky for my pups
good treats, great dogs!
Homemade Beef Jerky for Dogs
flank steak, round steak, or sirloin steak
Trim the steak of any fat (fat reduces the shelf life of the jerky). Place the steak in the freezer for an hour until it is firm, but easily sliced. Cut the steak into 1/4-inch thick slices against the grain for ease of chewing and breaking, or with the grain for a treat to be chewed.
Arrange the slices in a single layer on your food dehydrator trays. Dehydrate the beef for 4-8 hours (I did ours for 6 hours) at 155°F. The beef jerky is ready when the outer layers break, but the center holds together when bent.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use an oven. Arrange your meet in a single layer on aluminum foil lined baking sheets. Set the oven to 165°F and bake the beef with the door slightly ajar (to let moisture escape) for 10-14 hours.
Store the jerky in airtight containers or bags. If longer than 1 month, store in the freezer.
3 lbs. of eye of round translated to 1 lb. of jerky.
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