In 2008, Gayle Pruitt, a Dallas-based nutritionist and chef, decided to adopt a couple of dogs, one male, one female, from a shelter. The female had spent most of her life on the streets and was badly malnourished. The male had been kept in a crate 17 hours a day and had stress issues. “I gave them regular commercial dog food and I tried to get the best I could, but it just wasn’t doing well for them,” says Pruitt. “So I thought, I like to cook and if it’s just me, I may as well cook for me and my dogs.” She saw a huge uptick in their health and moods. “Their coats are beautiful, their eyes are sparkly, they’re full of mischief, their noses are really soft and moist,” she says. “They’re extremely healthy and very muscly and they’re very happy.” Her idea to prepare meals suitable for both humans and canines is now “Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast, and Easy Recipes for You and Your Pooch.”
Q. A lot of the book seems to focus on what dogs can eat. It’s a bonus that it’s good for us too.
A. To me, this is just regular food. It’s not food for dogs, it’s not food for humans, it’s just good food. The recipes are very simple, very easy, and the way I make them [different for dogs] is the seasoning. We cook the food and don’t season theirs but then season ours. There’s a section that is just for dogs but humans could actually eat that food.
Q. A lot of people give their dogs “table food” or scraps and the dogs love it. Why the need to cook them elaborate meals?
A. They’re going to like what you like. They like real food. And the whole point was, if you think about it, you don’t want your child or anybody else eating out of a can or a bag for the rest of their lives. And even though commercial dog food is good and you probably need it in a lot of cases because with large dogs it might be cost prohibitive to cook all the food for them, adding fresh vegetables and fresh meat and sharing with your dog on occasion is really my whole point. I do believe that you wouldn’t want to have to eat out of a bag or a can for the rest of your life. That would just be awful.
Q. What do you think about commercial dog food?
A. I did a lot of research on that, and it really just upset me a lot. Even the good dry dog food has been cooked to the point that there’s no nutritional value at all. And they have to have starch in there and dogs do not have anything to break down carbohydrates like we do. They don’t need the corn, the wheat, any of that junk. They just really need vegetables and meat. And the vegetables need to be cooked or pureed if it’s raw because of their digestive systems. But we need that as well and we don’t really need all of the corn and the grains that we’re eating. My whole point is to get healthy dogs as well as healthy people.
Q. Are people afraid to cook for their dogs because they don’t know what’s safe?
A. I definitely believe that. They really don’t know what kind of vegetables [dogs] should have. And the whole point is variety, it’s so important if you’re going to have a balanced diet for these guys.
Q. What are the go-to recipes that you and your pets eat?
A. A lot of times, we do just plain chicken and vegetables and I’ve got a whole bunch of different kinds. I like sugar snap peas with roasted sesame seeds — I do strain them though for the dogs because you don’t want those strings in there. We do a lot of soups and they do like the soup because it’s really easy on them. And I like the beef sliders, and on the beef or lamb sliders what I do is I don’t give them the buns. I give them everything else and they love it. I like the tomato-carrot soup too as a side dish. When we have salad, I do puree it for them. No onions at all for them. The black rice paella, that’s one of my favorites, and that doesn’t happen but every three or four months. I don’t have shellfish or pork in there. It’s just not good for dogs or humans.