Rescues, Fosters, and Puppy Woes – A Bland Diet Recipe for Dogs

MadTastes is about memories, and travel, and fun places to go… with lots of yummy recipes thrown in since we haven’t been able to “go” much since I started the blog. But I can’t do a true look back at my life without talking about my work with dogs (and cats), rescuing, fostering, and raising. I’ve had as many as 5 cats in the house at once (when Beth and I merged households, we had her three: Blue, Kooper, and Cliffy joining my two: Pepper and Ozzie) and as many as 3 dogs (along with the cats!). I also drive for a rescue, Freedom Train Animal Rescue Transports, although it’s been a while since we’ve done a run. We also foster pets as needed for Peace and Paws, which is where we adopted Quinn.

My rescue Quinn and I
Quinn with her bell to warn birds she’s coming!

Our two current dogs, Lindy and Quinn are both rescues, and I’ve rescued a Westie from a puppy mill situation, a dachshund mix from Puerto Rico where she was running around with her family, but in the wild. And we’ve provided homes for abandoned or unwanted animals. One of our cats, Wilder, was abandoned along with a whole litter of kittens, but no one wanted her because she’s all black. So, this post will reflect on the various experiences, and one which we’re currently dealing with; sick puppy tummies that may have gotten into acorns, or eaten a wasp, or perhaps snarfed up a squirrel or rabbit, or just plain have an anxious tummy (our Quinn has that occasionally for sure!). And the recipe is one I’ve created for a bland diet with some good bone broth twists to add healing and ongoing support “magic” for the puppies in your household.

Two dogs cuddled up on the couch.
Our current two, snuggling.

Cats and dogs and what happens when they don’t get along?

When we first bought our house, back in 2005, we purchased it with the understanding that my mom was going to be moving in with us. Beth and I had 5 cats, and 1 dog at the time (a young corgi named Tucker who you see featured on my hiking posts). My mother also had a dog, Daisey, who was a rescue I’d had flown up from Puerto Rico back in the late 90s. She was a feisty little dachshund/Pomeranian/Sato mix. Her mom was Sasha, a purebred long-haired dachshund, but her father was whoever happened through town that night, and in fact, was probably a family member. Daisey was rescued through my brother-in-law’s family down in Puerto Rico. We had her flown to MA in April just before the Boston Marathon. I snuck her into the office that day by carrying her in a tote bag, zipped up tight against the commuter rush on the T. She and I went for a stroll in the Public Garden at lunchtime and from the moment all three pounds or so of her reared up at a mounted police officer and gave them what for, I knew she was a very large dog in a very tiny body.

Here’s Daisey tucked in with our corgi Tucker

When the fur is flying!

We also knew was she was cute, happy go lucky, had some strange feral tendencies (like hoarding treasures in the ash of our fireplace), and was NOT a fan of cats. We tried half gates in the doorways, given the fact that the cats could jump, and she was little. Until the afternoon early on, when Ozzie (my 17-pound tuxedo) got himself over the gate to lie on the kitchen floor. Daisey saw him and went into attack mode. All 12 pounds of her (she’d grown by then to her full fighting weight!). It sounds like a simple equation, and since Ozzie has all his claws, should have been a quick “over and done” and boundaries set. But for Ozzie, when he panics, he plays dead. Plus, he was used to playing with Tucker and didn’t realize Daisey was someone to be feared. So, he just laid there and Daisey jumped on top of him, took a mouthful of fur, and yanked. She swung her head to look at me as I yelled, and the fur hanging from her mouth just floated in the air. I heard a quiet “miaow” from Ozzie, as though he was asking for help. I flew across the room while Ozzie looked at me, and Daisey, ears back and glee in her eyes, was just warming up. She had the poor guy pinned to the floor and her tail was wagging as she yapped and prepared to take another bite. I grabbed her off, put Ozzie behind the gate again and we installed a fully louvered door in that opening… and installed a fence along one side of the stairway to keep everyone safe.

Ozzie on top of my head
Ozzie has always been addicted to my hair

From that point on, the cats had their own suite; two bedrooms, a bath, a bonus room, and the stairway. Daisey learned quickly that she was not allowed behind the door. Tucker was, however, and he happily climbed into bed at night with cats sleeping all over him. Some dogs have a prey drive that, while possibly trainable, probably isn’t something you want to do if you’ve got multiples in the house, work full time, and have a mom living with you who won’t abide by the rules.

Driving for the Transport and so many sweet puppies (and kitties) looking for a home

The rescue we drive for had regular monthly (or more frequent) runs from down SC way. I’d get an invite a week or so before the run and could sign up. The pups or dogs, and even a few kitties, were loaded into crates and drove north, stopping every two hours to switch vehicles for the next leg. They did an overnight part way up, and we usually picked passengers up in Marlborough. Once, due to a bad nor’easter expected, they got to fly up in a private plane! Usually, we’d drive them through to Manchester, but depending on the rescue taking them, we might drop them off along the way. A few of those trips were particularly memorable.

Mohawk – A dog with a true mohawk hairstyle. He was such a sweetheart and rode on my lap all the way to Manchester. Beth wanted to keep him, and we did watch his progress from shelter to furever family!

Mr. Mohawk. So sweet!

The littles – one trip we picked up two chihuahuas. I love the breed, and these little guys were adults. But they came from horrible circumstances, and we’d been warned ahead that they were NOT happy in the car traveling and were frightened out of their minds. We met the driver in the agreed-upon parking lot and her car was a total mess. These two little ones had basically been sick, and were too afraid to do their business during rest stops. Her car suffered for it. We got paper towels to help clean up, and she picked one dog up to hand off to me. He peed as soon as she picked him up, with his tail stuck between his legs and his eyes wide with fear. So we spent a good 30 – 45 minutes just sitting with them in the grass, talking, patting, and in general trying to calm them down a bit. Their ride to Manchester was a pleasant change for them because they were used to us to some extent and fell asleep in our arms. Beth had one sleeping on her arm as she drove, and the other fell asleep on my shoulder. I so wish we kept them!

No fighting in the back seat!

When we picked up Mohawk, we also got a chocolate lab mix (maybe not lab but that’s what they said). “He’s great with other dogs,” they said. “He loves to ride in the car,” they said. We got out some biscuits and enticed him into the back seat, and buckled Mohawk in next to him. No sooner than our car started to pull out of the parking lot than all hell broke loose in the back seat. The lab had pinned Mohawk to the seat and was growling and Mohawk was yelping. We stopped, I got out and separated them, and the lab mix went into the way back with some biscuits and my eye on him in the mirror. Mohawk snuggled up on my lap and we got everyone to the shelter in one piece.

Mohawk meets his seatmate

Finding homes on the way home

We also managed to place one dog and one cat WHILE we drove one trip. We usually posted photos as we drove, sharing them on Facebook and tagging various people. On the way home during that trip, friends emailed me about the kittens we’d transported, and my cousin Jennifer asked about one of the dogs. Within a week the dog had joined my cousin’s household, and one kitten had gone home with a friend from work. Happy endings all around!

Rescues, patience, and sad stories

We’ve been fortunate. Beth worked as a Practice Manager for a few veterinary hospitals. One provided chemotherapy for Daisey when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma right around her 10th birthday.

On her way to chemo in her comfy seat

Bait dogs, new babies, and allergies

We also came into contact with unfortunate owners who couldn’t afford to pay or didn’t want their dog any longer when it got sick and needed extra care. One poor little pit bull mix came in to the emergency hospital with a shattered leg. They figured out pretty quickly that he’d been used as a bait dog. Especially when the “owner” commented that he’d rather just put the pup down since “he’d be no good to me with that leg anyway.” We paid for his surgery and Beth brought him home to recuperate with us for a night before he headed off to his new fur-ever family. The poor little thing sounded like an alien being in his crate that night, crying and whining with his leg all bandaged. Until Beth brought him out, rods, pins and all, and slept with him on the couch all night

Another unfortunate pup, later named Saffron, was a golden mix who had swallowed a finger puppet that got stuck. The owners didn’t want her anymore as they didn’t have time for her, with a new baby in the house, and she spent most of her days in a laundry room, eating socks, and being bored. Beth emailed me photos and within minutes we’d agreed to take her. While they hesitated to sign her over for surgery and rehoming (they were worried she’d be used for medical testing), they did say goodbye. We paid for her surgery and helped her recuperate in our dining room for a few weeks. Once that 12”+ incision had healed and the staples were out, and she was able to get up and walk around comfortably, she went home to a new family and lived a very happy life with her new sister, Rosie the bulldog. When Beth was fighting breast cancer, she got a picture postcard from Saffron, with a big sign and pink ribbon, “Get Well Beth!” Months later, when we were cleaning that room out, we moved the dining table and discovered she’d chewed the hem off one floor length drape! Thankfully we know for certain she did NOT have a recurrence of the blockage episode though!

Fostering – A difficult but so important responsibility

We’ve also fostered dogs, whether from a formal rescue, or belonging to family and friends who just plain couldn’t keep them anymore. From a corgi mix who backed into rooms because she was fearful of strange places (she’s happily settled with her new family and we see pictures of her from time to time), to an elderly terrier with chronic bronchitis, unable to walk because his owner was also elderly and unable to care for him (he regained the ability to walk and enjoyed his final year playing outside with our other dogs, and lying in the sun). Dogs (and cats) are living beings with their own personalities, inherited health issues, sad beginnings, or sudden changes and we believe they all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and given the best life possible with all the love and attention we’d want if we were in their shoes.

Kai, one of our fosters who almost
joined our family

Sick Tummies in the House

And now the main inspiration of this post, our own two dogs, thankfully on the mend, but who came down (a few days apart from each other) with a terrible stomach issue. Terrible in that it involved blood, constant trips outside, one not wanting to walk, and the other feeling just plain miserable. Lindy got sick first so she got the vet visit, which is another adventure altogether during quarantine. She was cleared for parasites, and had no other symptoms, so we got some medication and she was put on a bland diet. Rice and chicken. But I’m not one to take it at that, so I did some research. I found a few different sites that recommended a bone broth for dogs, to assist in healing the digestive tract. So I made the following fairly simple soup and we started feeding it to Lindy, then Quinn when she came down with the same thing a few days later. Based on test results, their tummy troubles probably came from eating too many acorns, or perhaps a mix of acorns, and a few other crunchy things like leaves, sticks, and possibly a chipmunk or part of a bunny they’d found in their races around the yard. In any case, a week plus later, Lindy is doing great, and Quinn is slowly being transitioned back to her regular food, with a special probiotic. But they’re both feeling fine! And the recipe has morphed into an additive to their regular food. I’ve expanded the ingredients to include:

  • Yams
  • spinach
  • Zucchini strips
  • Oatmeal
  • Cauliflower

Making dog food at home

Keep in mind, making your dog’s food really isn’t that basic. They need a lot of nutrients and the balance of protein to fiber and all the rest is very important. So if you’re doing the bland diet, speak to your vet. Quinn is getting a supplementary probiotic, and her bland diet is mixed with half Blissful Belly for sensitive stomachs. Lindy is getting a probiotic topper and slowly working her way back to her full dry raw food diet. It’s nice to make food for your pets, and if you have the time, it may be worth it. But please, check with your vet first. I’m providing some of the resources I used in developing this “soup” as well as a source for what vegetables are safe for dogs. There are definitely a number of them that are not okay. And remember, do not add salt, sugar, or any spices. Even garlic, in the wrong quantities, can cause issues. Bland diet means bland diet. But for our two, the following really helped get them through those first few days when they were feeling rotten!

Bone Broth Chicken and Rice Soup for Dogs


  • 1 ½ – 2 lbs chicken thighs with bones and skin
  • Chicken and beef bones (including chicken feet) I used leftover turkey and beef bones I had in the freezer
  • Water (sufficient to cover the bones plus a couple inches in your pot
  • 3 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 4 ribs of celery, strings removed, chopped into 1” slices
  • 6 – 7 carrots washed and sliced
  • 2 cups of medium grain white rice (instant won’t work and brown rice is good, but not til your pet is feeling better) You can also substitute plain white macaroni, or egg noodles.
soup pot filled with ingredients
Doesn’t look that appetizing in the beginning


  • Place bones, water, and cider vinegar in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then lower the temp and simmer for two hours.
  • Remove all the bones, and skin and discard. Do not give these bones or the skin to your dog. Break up the meat into the broth. Then add the celery and carrots and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Let this mixture sit until cooled, overnight preferably in the refrigerator. In the morning, skim off the fat and discard. The broth should have turned into a combination of jelly and broth, which is the best part of this mixture for your dog!
  • Make up the rice per package instructions and stir into the soup.
  • Once everything is cooked, I go in with a masher and chop/mash everything together til it’s pretty soft and easy to chew/swallow

This “soup” can keep in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 days if it lasts that long. The rice will soak up the liquid, so I add warm water and mix it around before serving, and sprinkle the probiotics on top.

Upset tummies can’t be rushed

When your dog has an upset stomach, take it slow. Don’t expect them to eat their regular quantities. Feed 3 – 4 times a day in smaller amounts and keep an eye on them. Ours have been on multiple smaller meals for the past week or so, and are now starting to increase the amount and decrease the frequency. But take it on their time, and let your veterinarian know how things are going. I am not a veterinary health professional and am just sharing what we’ve done that has worked. Now that both dogs are on a regular schedule with “their business”, we’ve changed up the last batch of food to include yams and spinach, and today’s batch is low-fat ground turkey with cauliflower, zucchini, and just a few TB (for the entire batch) of curly leaved parsley. They’ll probably get 1/3 cup of this mixture along with their other food as we slowly transition them back to their full raw diet.

Soup before I go in and mash everything

If you’ve got a puppy with a gut issue, please contact your vet. It can be serious as we learned with the one we saved who’d swallowed a finger puppet. Not eating? Not drinking water? Passing blood? Talk to your vet! Stomach troubles are nothing to ignore. But when you know everything else is fine, and a bland diet is what’s called for, this might just do the trick!

In my life I’ve fostered, transported, and even found homes for a litter of 12 german shepherd puppies. But there are definitely some who stay with you far longer than others. I don’t have pictures of them all at hand, but hoping you enjoy the following mini gallery. And thanks for putting up with a post totally off the main topic of this blog… but it does have a recipe and includes so many memories!

Clockwise from top left: Daisey, Dunkin, Pepper, Tucker, Tucker and Quinn after a hike, Tucker and Quinn and church, and Quinn on “Gotcha Day”