Thanksgiving is a great holiday, always a major Big Deal here on the mountain. We average at least 24 people every year, which is a heck of a crowd to host in a 28′ square cabin complete with dogs. And we often have 7 or 8 dog guests too, friends of our dogs, part of our many friends and family’s families. They get Thanksgiving Dinner too. It is a family supper, after all, and the dogs are family.
We usually have a couple of turkeys, sometimes three. Not everybody eats turkey – some here are certifiable vegetarians, others are vegetarians who make a special exception for holiday feasts. I usually cook one a day or two in advance, slice up nicely and pack into tupperware for seconds and thirds. That way I only have to cook one for presentation’s sake, whether the food table’s on the deck, out in the yard, or inside the cabin because it’s raining (or, God forbid, snowing). It can get really crowded when that happens, so we feed the dogs in the shed and quite a few guests will choose to consume their meal there too.
Now, dogs can’t eat everything we make for Thanksgiving. It takes some thought and preparation to concoct them a fine feast that won’t hurt them. By cooking the extra turkey beforehand, I’ve the neck and giblets as well as juices and pickings to use for the dog meal. To that I can add the neck and giblets from the T-Day turkey too. I boil these good, pick off any meat from the neck, and discard the bones. I get an extra bag or two of bread stuffing mix (it’s cheap), sometimes go ahead and cook up a cake pan of cornbread the night before too. The bread and cornbread gets crumbled into a big tupperware container with some regular dog food and I pour the giblets water and roast drippings over it, mix it all up well.
Trick for the dogs is not to add any salt, any butter, any cooking oils, any chopped onions, celery or herbs that I use in preparing stuffing for humans. You can add turkey skin to the giblet boiling water too, but this has to be removed from the mix because it’s hard for dogs to digest. Don’t make gravy out of this stuff, the dogs will like it just as it is to have moistened the bread and dog food chunks. While making up the side dishes you can put a scoop mashed potatoes (un-buttered) or some hopping john (un-salted) into the bucket to mix in well too. Chop those giblets up so they’re the size of the picked turkey meat.
I divvy this all up in old pie tins according to how many dogs are present. Feeding them down in the shed while we’re eating keeps them from being underfoot and begging food they shouldn’t have from the human diners. Dogs shouldn’t have anything sweet, fruity, highly salted or with large butter/oil parts. They should of course never have turkey bones either.
The links below offer useful information about what dogs can and can’t share of your Thanksgiving dinner. Plan ahead and your canine family members won’t have to be left out of the celebration.