Monday, June 18, 2018

Home-cooked pet kibble as easy as click, mix, dish

Like man, the way to a dog's heart is through its stomach.

No one knows that better than Kris Rotonda and Denise Fernandez, the couple who conceived the Doggy Cooking Network and founded online dating service YouMustLoveDogsDating.com, where pooch-loving singles can connect with potential mates.

Their Doggy Cooking Network on YouTube taps into the popularity of cooking shows like "The Pioneer Woman" and "Barefoot Contessa" to show pet owners how to dish up fresh, homemade alternatives to commercial kibble. It struck a chord as serving safe, wholesome food has become important to people putting more time, money and energy into pet care.

Some animal lovers have emphasized home-cooked canine cuisine following complaints of tainted food sickening and killing pets.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received reports that dog and cat treats made in China have killed 1,000 dogs and sickened more than 4,800 pets since 2007. The agency has not been able to prove the chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats are causing the illnesses, but large retailers PetSmart and Petco plan to pull them from shelves.

Worried pet owners can find easy recipes in Rotonda and Fernandez's cooking shows. In their videos, they use simple ingredients like chicken, rice and eggs to make everything from frozen yogurt bars and sweet bean rice to meatloaf birthday cake, and they incorporate food trends like organic and gluten-free snacks.

"The idea is simple. Food brings families together," Fernandez said. "Only people who are really devoted to their dogs are going to cook for them."

She and Rotonda are not professional chefs but display quick ways to please a pet's palate after testing the dishes out on their four dogs.

Viewers mix along with the couple as they joke, banter and show off their finished dishes during the four-minute cooking segments. Shows are being posted once a week on YouTube, but they hope to expand soon.

They started their one-of-a-kind show about three months ago. With the holidays coming up, at least one episode a month will spotlight ideas for pet recipes and gifts, Fernandez said.

Mary Montufar of Mountain View, California, will build on the show's recipes to make her own creations for her 11-year-old Maltese mix, Phoebe. If the Doggy Cooking Network features chicken with carrots and peas, she will try similar alternatives, like turkey and sweet potatoes.

The fresh food helped combat Phoebe's extensive allergies. Mont ufar tried all kinds of store-bought food, but none of it stopped the dog's scratching and discomfort.

So she decided to give the online cooking shows a try. The ingredients are simple and cheap and the recipes are so easy that she can make a week's worth of food at a time, Montufar said. She can also get it done in the same amount of time it would take her to go shopping, she said.

Best of all, the food has cut way down on Phoebe's allergies.

"It's all fresh food, so there's nothing you would be afraid to eat yourself," Montufar said.

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