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Pellet-pushers of the past

Raised by wolves and rescued by dogs, Emma Kaye decided to repay the favour by making delicious and nutritious food for her pack of rescue dogs. Her dogs did so well on it that she started making bigger batches so that she could supply friends. Now she is launching Happy Hounds to the public.

Call Off The Search was not able to verify all the above allegations but Emma swears that she was a ‘cat person’ – you know those lazy, sneaky, selfish things – until a rescue dog came along and … well … rescued her. And she definitely is making Happy Hounds dog food, the most (certifiably) delicious and nutritious food, for Cape canines.

Emma’s rescue by dogs, the story goes, involves ‘mountain therapy’, hours and hours of living in the moment and exploring tiny corners and large crevices on the mountains. There are also daily lessons in vulnerability, forgiveness and living in the moment.

“I had no understanding of this thing called forgiveness, in the way that dogs showed me. They can suffer the most terrible abuse and forgive and forget and relearn to love again,” says Emma.

“Dogs have also given me a window into loving unconditionally, as twee as that might sound. It has opened my heart to being vulnerable, to being wide open.”

As for payback, Emma started wondering why she was spending a fortune on dog pellets, which resemble nothing an animal eats in nature and which required disguising with wet food and gravy and #LawdKnowsWhat to make them palatable.

She started doing some research into how the food was produced and realised she was paying a lot of money to feed her dogs with food that that was totally at odds with the principles and values she so carefully applied when deciding what to put in her own body.

Home delivery from Happy Hounds

Unless you go out of your way to avoid meat with chemicals, hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and so on, you can be pretty sure you are taking in spoonfuls of the stuff with every plate of food.

“No wonder the dogs push those pellets around the bowls. It just didn’t feel right,” says Emma.

Emma chooses to live gently, she doesn’t want to make too big a dent or leave too many scratches and bruises on the Earth. She grows her own veggies and eats only a little meat that has been raised carefully and kindly. She turned her swimming pool over to nature and keeps bees in her garden. Her property is a little piece of paradise in the suburbs, with frogs and birds and fish and even an owl hooting and hoo-hooing at night.  

When she buys food she pays attention to its provenance, always favouring produce that has been grown nearby by micro/organic farmers, people who support the Cape’s unique and fragile bio-diversity.

Emma’s desire to be an active member of a collective, “a community where we are helping one another, aiming for sustainability”, has been heightened by Covid-19 and lockdown.

“Those small farmers are still producing in the field but access to markets and demand has been disrupted,” she says. “So I am delighted to be able to support micro-farmers in places like Philippi and Khayelitsha right now.”

She was surprised to discover that making food for her dogs, even applying her high standards, ended up costing more or else the same as feeding them the recommended brands that are available from upmarket pet stores and veterinary surgeries. It helps not to pay for long-distance transport, packaging, marketing, shareholders and so on.

Happy Hounds is made from ethically sourced meat and locally grown herbs and vegetables. The food is at least 40% meat and that meat must have been farmed in a way that is sustainable and kind, no mass production, no cruelty.

The packaging is fully compostable so no tins and plastic bags that will outlive the dogs and even the owners.

Emma has done a lot of research around a balanced diet for dogs and makes sure Happy Hounds contains all the protein, oils, roughage, fibre, carbs, vitamins and minerals they need. She does not use grain, the carbs come from sweet potatoes. She includes herbs, like thyme parsley and basil, that are good for dogs, olive oil and sunflower oil, eggs and their shells for the calcium, and a whole lot of love.

Emma has watched her own beloved dogs thrive on their new diet plan of fresh, natural food. She was not surprised to see shinier coats and sparkly eyes, less bloating and more energy.

What she has been surprised by is the improvement in mood, and a general skip in their step.

“What I am noticing is that their mood has changed. They are happier, more playful.”

“Overall happy dogs, happy home and happy planet,” says Emma.

She will be adding dog treats from pasture-fed animals to her range, as well as beautifully crafted handmade ceramic waterbowls made by local artists and hopefully blankets made by another community soon.

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