Quincy was 4 years old when he started wetting the bed. Tests showed his bloodwork was off. Diagnoses were considered like Cushing Syndrome or Addison Disease, both hormone disorders that can affect the kidneys.
Beth Schofield spent $5,000 on medical tests and diagnostic procedures before a friend suggested food allergies might be at fault.
"We changed his dog food," Schofield said of her Weimaraner. "All of a sudden his bloodwork started coming back."
Quincy turned out to be allergic to chicken, a major dog food ingredient. Between Quincy and Birdie, her other silky gray Weimaraner, their overwhelming food allergies include physical aversions to corn, flax seed, soy, peas, turkey and pork.
That experience sparked an obsession with dog food purity for Schofield. Long recovered, Quincy has since returned to strut as a champion on the dog show circuit, like the upcoming Kentuckiana Cluster of Dog Shows this weekend in Louisville. Schofield will be there, too, sharing homemade dog treats and her cookbook, The Everything Dogs Cookbook.
"I want to control what my dogs eat. The only true way to do it is to make it," said Schofield, a retired pharmaceutical representative. In 2014, Schofield, 55, earned a diploma in baking from Sullivan University, a nine-month course that produced dog-friendly Christmas cookies and "Peanut Butter Pupcakes."
"I learned how to commercialize the operation, how to buy ingredients in bulk. It helped legitimize what I do," Schofield said of that $18,000 culinary education that has turned into a business on the side. "It has given me a chance to make the things I love."
More and more, pet owners are scrutinizing what's in their dog's food and when possible, making their own treats, said Linda Coates, a Louisville-area dog trainer since 1980. Recalls and warnings about hazards in store-bought animal feed are so common, they have their own page on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration website.
"More people are trying to feed their dogs a healthier diet," said Coates, who teaches a dozen classes per week at Shamrock Acres Training Center in Pewee Valley.
From Thursday through Sunday at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center, the "cluster" is expected to attract more than 3,000 competing canines daily this weekend, making it one of the largest dog shows in the U.S., according to its website. In Broadbent Arena, Shamrock Acres dog lovers will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day Friday night with dog-friendly shamrock cookies tinted naturally green from spinach inside. Schofield has already baked up 200 of those biscuits.
Fish-based recipes in the book for "Stinky Treats" and "Tuna Fudge" are favorites for the four Manchester toy terriers and a Rottweiler who dwell in the Highlands with semi-retired human resources manager Debbie McDonald.
"My dogs will sit in front of the oven when the tuna fudge is baking waiting for me to take it out," McDonald, 64, said. "It has gotten to the point where I have to ban them from the kitchen."
Chris Ellicott bakes up a batch of Schofield's "Canine Crunchies" treats recipe every three weeks, blending organic flour, locally-sourced honey, Quaker oats and Jif Creamy Peanut Butter.
"You would feed yourself healthy. You should feed your dogs healthy," said Ellicott, whose two fluffy Pomeranians will compete this weekend in agility courses at the dog show. When not munching on home-baked cookies, Temper and Simmer enjoy homemade meals of ground chuck, eggs, pumpkin and oatmeal that Ellicott buys from the supermarket.
Apart from their dog food, Ellicott said she's already spent $12,000 on training and care for the two registered "Poms." On the dog show circuit, many owners scrutinize nutrition. Some subscribe to Dog Food Advisor, a privately owned website that issues alerts for food safety recalls. That website, Ellicott said, helped her find a dog food for her Pomeranians untainted by a history of food safety recalls.
"If you have dogs, especially if you have performance dogs, you go out of your way to educate yourself just like you would for a family member," Ellicott said. "We are pretty much over the top. We know we have crossed over. We have no problem with that."
Peanut Butter Pupcakes
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups water
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk together flour and baking powder in large bowl. In a second bowl, combine other ingredients and add to flour mixture. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Spoon batter into muffin liners at three-quarters full. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Source: Beth Schofield, The Everything Dogs Cookbook
Follow Jere Downs on Twitter: @JereDowns
(© 2017 USA TODAY)