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don’t be so certain

Recipe: homemade beef jerky for dogs

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
[print recipe]

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.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

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33 nibbles at “don’t be so certain”

  1. Jen says:

    I am so happy for you all! What a wonderful new addition to your family! I look forward to many more double-pup pics. :)

  2. Trish G. says:

    Thanks so much for the great recipe, Jen, and I love the new addition to your family. You are right…such a serious little face! Congratulations to you all!

  3. Deborah says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes. Looks like Yuki is a great fit for your family. Congrats and bravo to you for rescuing her!

  4. Susan says:

    Your mom told me about your website and I have real it for several years and used lots of your recipes. And followed all the posts about your dog(s). This one is great and Baxter and Carrie (both res use terrier mixes) will be so happy when I make the jerky for them. You guys will quickly learn that actually having two dogs is easier than one. They learn good behaviors from each other, calm each other, and play together. A win all around!

  5. Kristin says:

    This is so wonderful on so many levels. If only there were enough good people to adopt ALL of the animals.

  6. Marcia says:

    I couldn’t love this post any more! So happy for you all. Especially Yuki! Now will you adopt me?

  7. Melanie says:

    You won’t regret adding Yuki to your family. Dogs are pack animals and they love having companionship (in addition to their human family). Neva’s behaviors are very normal adult:unrelated puppy behaviors. Many adult dogs don’t like puppies following or jumping on them. It won’t be long until they will be completely bonded and won’t want to be without each other. A self-assured dog like Neva can be just the confidence-builder a shy-ish pup needs. I’m so glad you took the plunge. You are a foster-mom’s dream owner. That helps the foster family more than you know to see their beloved charge get the best home ever. Looking forward to Neva/Yuki adventure photos!!

  8. Cheryl says:

    Congrats on your new addition, so cute! Obviously, meant to be. Enjoy!

  9. Emy Monroe says:

    What a great story and a happy ending for Yuki and all of you. I really identified with the change in your “certainties” of your earlier years and find myself having the same things happen to me. Changing views, seeing the good along side the bad in situations or people, and considering things I’d never have before. I just love your blog, everything about it. Thank you for sharing your creativity, gorgeous photos, and wonderful recipes.

  10. angelitacarmelita says:

    Recently the phrase “I am certain of nothing” has been playing over and over in my mind. Its funny how the younger me felt pretty certain of most things, and the older me now feels less certain of things. That life in general is organic and happens as it’s supposed to, no matter how much planning you put into it is more where I am now. The fact that you now have a puppy when once you felt as though you were only a “one dog family” is proof! and I’m so excited for you! She’s beautiful and so lucky to have you and Jeremy as her people. So happy for you and your pack!

  11. Cindi says:

    She is absolutely adorable. You made the right decision. I predict they will be lifelong pals. And I know what you mean about kind of falling in love when you least expect it. Last Wednesday morning I had no intention of adopting another cat. By Wednesday afternoon I was looking at available cats online thru the Dumb Friends League. Two hours later we were driving home with our new Kukki Cat (Kukki = Cookie in Japanese). And like you, we are amazed at how easily and quickly he has fit into our family like he’s always been here. Wishing you four much happiness!!!

  12. Erika says:

    I know exactly how you feel about bringing another dog into your household. I had Charlie a 40 lb lab chow mix happily as an only child for 10 years when a tiny little rescue dog suddenly came into our lives. My mom called me and said there was a Yorkie puppy that needed a home or she would be put to sleep. I certainly had my doubts given that the dog was 2.3 lbs and Charlie, while not one to start a fight, did not back down when confronted. Well, Fergie, Duchess of Yorkie came into our house and they actually got along great. Charlie was gentle and even when Fergie finally crossed the line with her, treated Ferg in a manner appropriate for handling a little dog, never hurting her. Ultimately they found their places and Fergie, in true little dog form, ruled the roost. Charlie was ok with that and they coexisted great for another, almost 9 years before we lost our sweet Charlie. Now Fergie is the boss of us but I can tell she is bored and lonely so we are contemplating another dog. Much happiness to you both and your pups, they will be very happy together. Your house will be a tad more chaotic but also better for the additional puppy love.

  13. Alison says:

    I can see why her sad/sweet/serious face spoke to you. Congrats!

  14. hungry dog says:

    This post breaks my heart in the best possible way. Congratulations on your new perfect family of four! xoxoxo

  15. Melissa says:

    Every time I read about her, and her and Neva, and her and you guys, I cry. Love you all so much. <3

  16. Lisa says:

    Congrats, she’s adorable!

  17. Nan says:

    What a lovely story, so happy for all of you. I found your blog Eleven years ago while recovering from a double mastectomy and found it comforting. I’ve read and enjoyed it since. I made your dad’s awesome massaman curry a couple of years ago and loved it. Thank you for sharing your photos, recipes and stories of your life in the beautiful mountains.

  18. Carole says:

    Congrats mama and papa! Yuki is one lucky dog to get the 3 of you as her new family. All the best and looking forward to more pics.

  19. Emily says:

    What a beautiful post. Happy tears! Yuki is one lucky pup :)

  20. Alanna says:

    So right, on so many counts! Our “Luka” is your Yuki, especially the face, the black eye patches that often makes him look, yes, sad. (No docked ears though.) Luka was the dog in the next kennel when we were looking at puppies late last year. Right away, my husband said, What about that dog? He looks like a nice, steady dog. Nope, I answered without really giving him a look. We need a girl dog plus that dog’s going to be bigger than we want. Days passed and we “lost” our chance at not one but two puppies and said no to a wild girl who was identical (including the same calming tickle spot) to my own Lady, the lovely sweet dog we lost **sniff** a year ago. I kept checking the Humane Society’s website and that “steady” dog with the CUTEST FACE kept popping up and I kept looking at him. It was the FACE! Finally, I said, Okay, let’s go meet him. And needless to say, Luka came home with us and is a wonderful dog and is truly a joy to live with. He is a boy dog but really, no telling, and he added a couple of pounds but not much more. Off to play fetch with the Red Duck, the Blue Squeaky and the Orange Bone.

  21. Jessica says:

    Congratulations on your new family member!

  22. Deb says:

    Any idea what breed she could be? Such a cutie.

  23. Lisa says:

    What a sweet little puppy. <3

  24. jill hyde says:

    A pack of 4! I love it! Yuki does have a sad expression, but I bet that changes daily. What a perfect forever home. I’m so happy for you. xo, jill

  25. Sarah says:

    This is so wonderful on many levels. Your honesty and fears ( all absolutely right to consider what the down sides of a second dog would have been) and how you came to your decision and introductions to Neva. What good pals they will become once Neva is certain that things will still be great for her. And a sweet sweet puppy rescued to the most amazing family. The homemade treats and dog biscuits! The hikes and nature walks in the snow and mountains. I am pretty sure they both hit the lottery! And you two as well.
    Will be fun to see this unfold.

    Thanks for the recipe. If you ever come up with cat treats I am in! Have 2 rescue cats running our home!

  26. farmerpam says:

    I’m so , so happy for you guys! You just know when it’s right. You’re pups are going to be best friends in no time!

  27. Emmarie says:

    Thank you for rescuing! There are so many dogs out there that need good homes. Glad she is settling in well & what a cutie. You will love having 2 dogs. Enjoy!

  28. Debbie says:

    So very, very happy for all of you. Yuki is absolutely adorable….she has a wonderful forever home with you!

  29. Paige says:

    OMG, so cute! I’ll bet this pair will turn out to be “two dogs is easier than one.” Looking forward to Neva and Yuki pictures and stories!

  30. jenyu says:

    Jen – Thank you!

    Trish – You’re welcome! And despite her serious expression, she is such a silly, sweet, happy little girl :)

    Deborah – xxoo

    Susan – I hope Baxter and Carrie enjoy the treats! And we are starting to see the benefits of having Yuki in our family – she is a good influence on Neva and vice versa!

    Kristin – I completely agree. xo

    Marcia – Ha ha ;)

    Melanie – Thank you, dear. It’s reassuring hearing from dog-loving friends that they have had good experiences with 2+ dog families!

    Cheryl – Thank you!

    Emy – I’m glad I’m not the only one who has evolved over time and watched once distinct boundaries grow fuzzy and uncertain. Thanks for reading!! xo

    angelitacarmelita – I agree. I think it means we have to sometimes go with the flow, although I still believe it’s important to fight for what is right. Either way, we’re so happy with Yuki! :)

    Cindi – So very happy for you and your new fur baby <3

    Erika - Great story! I hope you find a new pal for Fergie soon xoxo

    Alison - Thank you!

    hungry dog - Aw, thanks. It's a happy story for Yuki and for all of us <3

    Melissa - Love you right back, Mel *smooches*

    Lisa - Thanks!

    Nan - Love hearing that the blog is a place of comfort and happiness for you. And I hope you are in good health now xoxo

    Carole - Thank you!

    Emily - :) xo

    Alanna - Glad you found your boy and he found you <3

    Jessica - Thanks :)

    Deb - We don't really know, but we suspect possible hound, setter, pointer, maybe even some terrier? We'll probably get a test done out of curiosity :)

    Lisa - She really is!

    jill - Thank you, friend! xo

    Sarah - I bet if you dehydrated salmon or chicken, the kitties would love it!

    farmerpam - I really hope so! Thank you!

    Emmarie - Thanks :)

    Debbie - xxoo

    Paige - It's been a bit of an adjustment with two dogs, but Yuki is already helping Neva relax more, and THAT is a wonderful thing :)

  31. Judy says:

    I’m just now getting caught up on reading blog posts, although I’ve been following your ‘new’ dog adventures on IG. I love the story, and I’m filled with such joy that this all worked out for everyone! I will definitely have to give these dog treats a try. (wanda.sue48)

  32. Chef V says:

    Jen, thanks for sending the introduction link for Yuki! Adorable, those eyes make my heart sink. Happy Spring!


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