Let Them Eat Loaf

The story of Lottie Fox

Lottie Fox doesn't talk about her past – or much anything else. But evidence suggests she was not born with a gourmand's palate. When I first met her, she was running with the rest of the reservation dogs in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, playing chicken with the 18-wheelers plowing down the interstate. Losers of this game littered the side of the highway. Lottie and a border collie friend ran right in front of our truck, then down the median, then back through the whizzing traffic to the side of the road. Despite the fact that my friend and I, on our way from Austin to Salt Lake City for her art-show opening, were already late, we couldn't help but pull over and stuff the filthy, flea-infested pups into the already-packed cab with us. Subsequent pit stops along the way revealed that Lottie's most recent meals had included plastic bags, dried corn, and bird bones.

No wonder she'd been flirting with suicide.

Lottie's companion, Eleanor, was adopted by a receptionist at the art museum. Despite Lottie's celebrated attendance at the art opening, where she was as elegant and sociable as any freshly bathed dog you'd want to meet and where she collected many admirers, she didn't find a permanent family. So, she came back to Texas with us. And that's where she met and wooed chef and soon-to-be restaurateur Lisa Fox.

A less-confident dog would not have attempted this courtship. Not only had Lisa never owned a dog, she was completely immune to their charms. Okay, let's be frank: She didn't like dogs or dog hair or wet noses at all. She didn't like dogs to touch her. But that all changed one day when Lisa and her husband, Emmett, stopped by my house. From the instant Lottie met the couple, she decided that Lisa – and to some degree, Emmett – was the one for her. Lottie forced herself and all her plentiful fur and her very large wet nose into their car, wedged herself next to a surprised Lisa, and rode off into the sunset with them.

That's the story of Lisa and Lottie, which in due course begot the story of Lottie Loaf. Lottie Loaf is both what Lottie eats and semisolid evidence of Lisa's complete conversion to gaga doggie person. (As if her gushing praise of the dog, especially after a couple of glasses of Italy's best Barbera, isn't proof enough.) While Lisa had always been repelled by the smell of commercial dog food, the impetus for her homemade canine fare was a Canadian television program she saw while on vacation in Vancouver that detailed the nefarious ingredients in most dog food and highlighted the complete lack of regulation in its manufacture. Anything and everything could and did go into dog food, such as meat byproducts that even a vulture would reject. Lisa was especially repelled by the revelation that before these already marginal parts were added to the mix, they were rendered to the point that they became strange compounds rather than food. (Just remember how they used to make soap down on the farm.)

As soon as she came home, Lisa decided to start cooking up Lottie Loaf. "I didn't do a lot of research. I did talk to my vet, who said meat is good and rice-based is good," Lisa says. "Sometimes I add eggs or chicken livers. I do some with celery, carrots, and garlic. Sometimes peas and spinach. And I'll substitute quinoa or pearl barley for the rice."

She bakes two large pans of the loaf at a time, which will last two weeks and cost around $25 for ingredients. Lottie, who has kept her trim 50-pound figure after seven years on the Loaf diet, can run like Seabiscuit, and boasts a shiny coat that a Westminster-winning Afghan hound would envy, has never complained. In fact, she stands up and dances backward, waving her front paws in the air when Lisa pulls the food out of the fridge. When is the last time you got that excited about supper?

Of course, I had to ask Lisa if she'd ever eaten the Loaf. "No, but let's just say Emmett had a meatloaf sandwich once and thought it could use a little salt."

Lottie Loaf

(Lisa recommends checking with your vet before switching to Lottie Loaf.)

6 lb. ground meat (mix of beef, turkey, and/or lamb)

Optional: Add 1 lb. chicken livers as a treat

6-8 cups brown rice (or barley/ quinoa/pasta), no cornmeal

4 eggs

4 cups finely chopped vegetable mix (carrots, celery, spinach, garlic, tomato, peas), no corn or onion

2 cups water or chicken stock

Mix well. Divide into two deep 8-by-8 pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour. Internal temp should reach 135 degrees. Cool completely. Refrigerate one. Freeze the second.

One pan equals 12-14 servings, two per day for a week for a 50-pound dog.

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Lottie Loaf, Lisa Fox, Emmett Fox

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