Canine Cuisine

Once upon a time on an aisle in a grocery store,

Debby Martin searched for the healthiest dog food and treats, wanting only the best for her Dorkie (Dachshund and Yorkie mix) Kirby. Then, one Thanksgiving, after Kirby became sick from eating dressing from the table, Debby was determined to find out what dogs should and should not eat. Her discoveries surprised her – not about table food, but about commercial dog food.

“It’s been proven that some commercial products have tiny bits of the drug used to euthanize pets.” There can also be poisons and pesticides, said Debby. “I think over the years this builds up to the cancers we are seeing today.”

Thus began Debby’s seven-year journey from grocery store aisle to the kitchen. Questioning every ingredient in her canine’s diet, she researched holistic veterinarians and other websites on healthy food ingredients. In turn, she developed her own website to inform and educate others and to provide tried and trusted canine recipes.

“I started making Kirby’s treats and now he eats about 90 percent homemade. I just love creating the recipes. Kirby is very picky and won’t eat just anything.” 

Realizing, however, that one day her website might be gone, she wrote the canine chef cookbook to provide people with the same information and recipes on her website. The book includes sections on Wholesome Canine Nutrition, Recipes, and The Pantry. Within these sections, she includes pertinent information on healthy and harmful ingredients, food colors, tips and tricks, tools in the kitchen, and much more. Her ultimate goal: Pay attention to what your dog is eating. 

Take spices, for instance.

Holistic veterinarians consider garlic very healthy and safe for pets, but certain ingredients can be very dangerous, especially if your dog has health issues. 

“For example, Rosemary is beneficial for dogs, but if your dog is epileptic, it can cause seizures, whereas Nutmeg is extremely toxic for a dog,” said Debby. Always check with your vet first about the ingredients before cooking for your dog. “If you have any reservations about any ingredient, leave it out.” Table foods are fine as long as you know what’s in it.

Debby’s passion and concern for other people’s pets most likely grew when Kirby got sick. Sugar, Debby’s dog before Kirby, lived to be 15 years old. Though Debby did buy dry dog food, Sugar ate mostly table scraps from carefully prepared family meals that were low in sugar and fats. 

“So Sugar was really eating some very good food, said Debby. “He ended up living a long life and never had any illness.”

There is no moisture in kibble and a dog’s diet should be 70 percent water, explained Debby. Food that dry overworks the kidneys to reconstitute and break down that food. Over time, this can lead to kidney failure.

“Would you eat the same dry food every day?” she asked. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that. As humans, we try to avoid fast foods. It’s healthy for your pet to eat fresh foods, just like you.” Even if you don’t prepare every meal for your canine, make treats and supplement the dog food. Juicing is healthy for you and your pet, so pour a topper over your pet’s dry food. 

When Debby provides foster care to neglected and abandoned animals, she feeds them the same food Kirby eats. She admits to being an advocate for healthy pet diets, saying, “I keep a list on my refrigerator of things Kirby can and cannot eat so everyone knows.”

Kirby knows not to take treats from people because Debby doesn’t know what’s in that treat and a well-meaning bite can be dangerous.

“Your dog is a member of your family, so you want them to live longer. Think about what you are feeding them,” said Debby. “You feed your kids well so they will grow up healthy. Feed your dog with the same attitude.” 

BREAKOUT BOX:  –  All recipes in the cookbook are on the website for people who can’t afford the cookbook.  Debby responds to all emails and contact.

the canine chef cookbook is available on Amazon, the Book Store on Main street and at Animal Medical Center, Starkville, Mississippi.


This article originally published in Town & Gown Magazine.


The “People” Problem with Pets

The Hub City Humane Society began as an idea on a laptop in the back office

of a Veterinarian’s clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Now, it provides compassionate care to the thousands of homeless, neglected and abused animals in the area. Hub City Director Virginia Cheatham began volunteering at a local shelter over 17 years ago and has saved many animals from shelters and fostered animals needing a temporary place to call home.

“We don’t have a pet problem,” said Virginia. “We have a people problem. Until everybody gets it and spays and neuters their pets in this country, millions of animals are going to die in shelters across this country every year.”

The Human Society of the United States chose Hub City to be a part of the “End the Puppy Mill” campaign. In 2015, Hub City took in over 3,000 animals. In the spring and summer, Hub can get up to 100 pets a week, said Virginia.

“We are an open admission animal shelter servicing Lamar County and the City of Petal. We engage the public awareness of animal welfare issues, as well as work to prevent cruelty and promote kindness towards animals.”

Hub City collaborates with rescues and animal welfare organizations both locally and nationally

and maintains the highest level of performance through continued training and education for management and staff. Areas Hub City would like to add to the shelter are an equestrian area and after-school programs. Its mission is to provide the best care for the magnitude of homeless and unwanted pets in the community and to transport them to northeast areas with a 100% percent adoption rate.

“The majority of the dogs we move here go to transport in the Northeast,” said Virginia.

Transports go to the state of Philadelphia where a chain of Pets Plus stores adopt the dogs out of those locations.

“We have a 100% adoption rate,” said Virginia. “We also send [the dogs] to Avon, Connecticut, which takes the older and larger dogs that are extremely hard to move, and they are placed in the most perfect homes.”

All animals going to transport have to be current on everything, explained Virginia. “They have to have health exams and their microchip numbers have to correlate with paperwork.” Hub City usually does two transports in one day, which can amount to 40 or more dogs.

“We have two other places that want to contract with us, one in Atlanta and the other in New York.”

Being a non-profit, funding is crucial to the Shelter, which currently receives money from Lamar County and holds a contract for the city limits of Petal.

“We take in their animal control animals and the citizens in Petal are able to bring their animals to this facility.”

Animal overpopulation is so rampant in the Hattiesburg area, there is no way for every animal entering a shelter to leave it. Hub City is open admission, which means it takes in everything, no matter the age, health, temperament, and condition of the dog.

“We are the little shelter that could. Everything we have here has been donated, except for the transport van and computer,” said Virginia. “Community support has been fantastic. We are very close to starting fundraising for a building out here.”

Volunteers are always needed at Hub City in every area,

including the thrift store and bringing in fresh, new fundraising ideas. Still, Virginia says the best thing the community can do for Hub City Humane Society is to be responsible for their pets, microchip them, ID them, and if their pet becomes lost, to look for it. More importantly, spay and neuter your pets.


Hub City Humane Society
95 Jackson Rd
Hattiesburg, MS 39402
Phone: 601-596-2206
Fax: 601-255-5391

By Richelle Putnam

Feature first published in Parents & Kids Magazine – Pine Belt

Choosing the Perfect Pet


With every “bundle of joy” and the pitter-patter of little feet throughout the house

come sleepless nights, strict feeding times, and overwhelmed family members.  But with patience, consistency and devotion, your new pet…you did know I was talking about a pet didn’t you?

The first 4 to 6 weeks in a new home can be challenging for the pet, as well as the pet owners. Pets need time to adjust to the new family, environment, schedule, expectations, etc.

“When looking for a pet, you need to consider your household,”

said Debra Boswell, Executive Director of Mississippi Animal Rescue League (MARL). “Just as a baby’s diaper is changed throughout the day, a six-week-old puppy needs that same kind of attention because its bladder is not fully developed either.”

For instance, if you’re gone 10 to 12 hours a day, it will be hard to housebreak a puppy.

A cat might be a better choice since they’re more independent and content with their own company—most of the time.

Before making a final decision, potential families might visit MARL several times and even bring the family pet to meet the one being considered for adoption.

Dr. Joey Burt, Director of Animal Health at Mississippi State University’s School of Veterinary said, “Pets live long lives, so the children are going to grow up with the pets. It’s an opportunity for parents to provide children the thought process about what it takes to be a pet owner.”

Before choosing a pet, parents must be willing to accept some responsibility for the pet’s care, bearing in mind the age of the children and the household environment.

“One of our adoption guidelines is children under the age of six shouldn’t have a puppy under 4-months,” said Boswell.

She added that puppies are high-energy and need an awful lot of time, so an older pet might be more feasible. Toddlers are energetic and have very high squeals that can excite puppies.  If a toddler gets a little rough, like pulling the pet’s leg or tail or ear, the puppy may say “ouch” with their teeth and a kitty may grab hold with its claws.

“To smaller children, there’s not much difference between a stuffed animal and a live one. These are things to think about,” said Boswell.

Dr. Burt said that, as a general rule, cats are not good for children under the age of three. “Likewise, neither do big dogs and small children mix too well.”

The needs of the family right now might differ from their needs down the road.  Families must realize the long-term investment of a pet, like medical care and nutritional needs. Plus, pets need enriched environments complete with toys and puzzles. Smaller pets, like gerbils, can live up to five years; dogs and cats live ten years or more. However, birds can live up to 40 or 50 years!

Some good exotic pet choices for children are guinea pigs, rats, geckos, rabbits, and bearded dragons.

“[Exotic animals] can absolutely be family pets,” said Dr. Burt. “But most require a little bit more knowledge and a little bit more care than the traditional dogs and cats.”

Many pets end up in shelters because owners didn’t consider the long-term responsibility and dedication needed to care for their pet.  More than 4,000,000 animals die in animal shelters each year.

“That’s the main reason to adopt from shelters,” said Boswell. “You’re helping to save the life of an animal.”

Shelters across the nation are packed, with 20 to 25 percent of the adult population being purebreds. Those considering a purebred should research the breed to learn about its special needs or concerns. However, mixed breeds often make the best pets, said Boswell.

“A pet as a gift is never really a good idea. A gift certificate would be better, because choosing a pet is a personal decision,” said Boswell.

A Christmas gift under the tree for your child can be a basket from Santa complete with pet bed, toys, a book and video on pet care and a gift certificate from the animal shelter where lots of pets anxiously wait for a family and a place to call home.


Richelle Putnam



Previously published in Well Being Magazine