First, some background: I went vegetarian my freshman year of college (1996) and vegan approximately eight years later. Currently, I'm an adopted mother to five rescued dogs, whom I've been feeding a vegetarian diet (consisting of both store-bought and homemade food) for about seven years. In the past year or so, I've been trying to transition them to a vegan diet. The Book Publishing Company kindly sent me a copy of THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK for review on my blog.
Michelle Rivera's THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK is a quick, easy read. Part cookbook, part nutritional primer, part lifestyle guide, the book is divided into several sections:
1. "The Vegan Lifestyle" briefly examines the reasons for and benefits of veganism for dogs (here called a "vegan lifestyle," since dogs are not "vegans" in the ethical/moral/philosophical sense of the word). Throughout this chapter, Rivera offers anecdotes from several guardians of vegan dogs, detailing how and why they decided to transition their dog-kids to vegan diets. She also includes some basic information about canine nutritional needs.
Though Rivera did consult with veterinarians while writing THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK, the book is not intended as a comprehensive nutritional or health guide. Rather, it helps to provide encouragement and support to those parents who have already decided to transition their dog-kids to veganism. In this way, the dog parents profiled within these pages function as a sort of support group for those already on the path to canine veganism, instead of an impetus to begin the journey.
That said, if you're still struggling to decide whether veganism is the right choice for you and your dog-kids, THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK isn't for you. Instead, I recommend searching your local library for books on canine nutrition - and not, necessarily, books specific to veganism and dogs. (To the best of my knowledge, no such books exist. Publishers, are you listening? *wink*) I think you'll find that most veterinarians, while generally opposed to vegetarian and vegan diets for dogs, will begrudgingly admit that such diets can be healthy, as long as they're formulated with care and knowledge. For me, hearing these words from speciesist omni (nonhuman) animal medical and nutritional professionals is what ultimately compelled me to make the leap to homemade vegetarian and, eventually, vegan foods.
2. "Hazardous and Safe Ingredients" is as straightforward as can be. Here, Rivera offers information about which foods you should avoid giving your dog-kids, and why. She also gives a few suggestions for healthful and tasty foods.
3. "Getting Started" seems a rather odd chapter to me. In this section, Rivera introduces five staples - beans, rice, lentils, barley and oatmeal - along with suggestions on how to prepare and store these items for later use. Thus, she explains how to soak and cook each item (good), directing readers to store and freeze the extras in single-serving containers (not so much "bad" as it is puzzling). Preparing beans, rice and the like doesn't strike me as a big enough inconvenience that I'd need to cook a huge batch at a time and waste valuable, energy-sucking freezer space to store the extras. Plus, these items on their own are just ingredients; they don't constitute entire meals, so these frozen foods still require extra prep. I don't see how this strategy is advantageous, that is, unless one cooks a new meal for one's canine kids every day? In which case, dog bless ya!
4. "Biscuits" begins the recipe portion of The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book. Here, we have four appetizers, if you will: Yeasted Gourmet Dog Treats; Basic Vegan Dog Biscuits; Bulldog Bulgar Biscuits; and Oatmeal and Parmesan Biscuits.
5. "Main Dishes" features eight hearty dishes: Barking Barley and Wheat Surprise; Snoopy's Great Pumpkin, Rice and Beans; Canine Cashew Casserole; Oats, Rice, Veggies and Lentils; Rover's Risotto; Fruits, Veggies and Oats; German Shepherd's Pie; and Chihuahua Chili sans Carne.
The theme in this section is flexibility. Many of these recipes are jumping-off points; readers are encouraged to experiment with different grains, fruits and veggies in order to create their own dishes. In particular, "Main Dishes" illustrates just how easy and enjoyable cooking for your dog-kids can be, given a little time, planning and creativity.
My only real complaint with this section is that many of the recipes call for store-bought, low-sodium, no-onion vegan gravy and vegetable stock. While vegan gravy and veggie stock are readily available in stores, finding versions that are both low in sodium and onion-free is, dare I say, impossible. Thus, recipes for each of these ingredients would have been greatly appreciated. Instead, I improvised and came up with low-sodium, onion-free versions of each myself.
6. "Special Treats" is the final grouping of recipes in The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book. Nom noms include Banana-Nut Crunch Bars; Apple Pupcakes; Bowser's Birthday Cake; Pekingese Pumpkin Pops; Snickerpoodles; Cheese Dog Delights; Hound Dog Delights; Puppy Part Hors D'oeuvres; and Peanut Butter Banana Treats.
Of these recipes, I've sampled the following thus far: Barking Barley and Wheat Surprise; German Shepherd's Pie; Snickerpoodles; and Peanut Butter Banana Treats. All were a big hit with the dog-kids, and the husband even liked the German Shepherd's Pie!
So, to summarize: THE SIMPLE LITTLE VEGAN DOG BOOK is just that - a simple, little book about vegan dogs for their parents and guardians. If you aren't already inclined, it won't convince you of the merits of a vegan diet for your dogs. But if you're already on the path, it might help to make your journey a bit more enjoyable.