Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aria's Diet

On January 1, 1998 we drove home from the Granite State Dog Training Center with our new puppy. She was 12 weeks old, one of two puppies still available from a litter born September 30th. Aria, as we named her, immediately came to me when we entered the center, climbing on my lap. We had not yet decided for sure to go home with a dog, but that sealed it. Aria's parents were large and beautiful. Although her mother, Misty, was a bit nervous, they both had good temperament. In the years since, we learned that like mother like daughter.

Aria at 12 weeks old

For most of her life, Aria -- now 12 and a half --  has been a bit of a nervous Nellie like her mom. On the drive home with her that first day, we stopped at a bookstore to buy The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete. We decided we better learn how to train this little bundle of energy. While Srini went in to buy the book I stayed in the car with Aria. She sat quietly at my feet. After a while I looked down and noticed that she had silently coughed up her entire meal of dry dog food. Nerves. For many years Aria hated going anywhere in the car. She literally would get car sick. Loud noises -- especially thunder -- bothered her too. And she was a picky eater. Sometimes she would go several days without eating. Watching her buddy Fargo, our 2 year-old lab, inhale his food did not seem to teach her anything about eating. But she loved chewing on him.

Aria chewing on her best friend Fargo, winter 1998

For many years we fed Aria a mix of dry food and canned food made by Iams or Eukanuba. When she felt like eating, she would eat this food. Sometimes, she would pass it up entirely or leave half in her bowl. Over the years Aria often got urinary infections and in winter her skin was dry and itchy; she scratched a lot. We gave her baths and fish oil. Not until about three years did we change her food to Nutro Natural Choice. Suddenly she liked to eat and she has eaten nearly every meal since. Her coat in winter is gorgeous and she never scratches. Summer is another story. Aria loves to swim. If her fur remains wet she gets a little mildewy. Regular brushing and an occasional bath helps. It seems unlikely that it is connected to diet, but it was also about that time that she started to like car rides.

Aria, May 2009

We should have thought of a diet change sooner. All of are other dogs -- Bradie, Fargo, and Bella -- mostly inhaled their food and then looked for more. Aria was never motivated by food, which made training a little challenging. These days she has a taste for Iams dog biscuits and sweets. With a modest nudge she also eats most of her meals.

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