I often tell the story about the time my husband Drew and I first moved onto our little raspberry farm—and how the outgoing farmer, Tom Russo, gave us a crash course in how to the grow raspberries. The part of the story I don’t usually tell is that Tom had an amazing half wolf, half German shepherd named Zephyr, who was really more of a king of the neighborhood than a domesticated pet. Zephyr weighed in at over 130 pounds; he was beautiful and brilliant.
Back then, our stretch of Carmel Valley was more rural than it is today, and Zephyr took his daily solo walk along the back river road to the Mid Valley Shopping Center only 1/4 mile away. The little mall had a steak house called Whitman’s, and the chef there would always save Zephyr a really big bone. After he got his bone, Zephyr would visit his human friends at the loading dock behind Safeway on his way home. Zephyr was famous in Carmel Valley.
Tom loved Zephyr tremendously, but he knew that his dog wouldn’t be happy leaving his Carmel Valley home for a new house on a small lot in the often swelteringly hot town of Chico. Drew and I were enchanted with Zephyr, and we asked if we could adopt him and keep him on the farm with us. Tom agreed because it would be best for Zephyr, but to this day he says Zephyr is the best dog he ever had (and Tom is in his mid 80’s).
We’ve never been without dogs since Zephyr. In 1992, when we moved our salad packing operation out of our house and to our first “real” facility 45 minutes away, the hardest part of the transition for Drew and me (besides having to commute) was leaving behind the dogs who had spent their days hanging out in the office with us.
The two dogs we have now (an 11-year-old half lab, half golden retriever named Jack, and a 7-year-old lab named Oscar) enjoy our farm’s harvest almost as much as we do.
They both love to eat raspberries right off the vine, and even pick apples off low branches.
The funny thing is that a year ago our vet told us to feed our dogs vegetables with every meal. Oscar had some skin inflammation issues and Jack some arthritis, so the vet wanted them both on hypoallergenic diets that excluded all grains. Their dog food is 100% dried meat, and they needed produce for fiber and vitamins. Both dogs happily embraced this new regimen. We serve them fresh zucchini and roasted winter squash (we were told to avoid sweet vegetables like corn and carrots), and give them lots of Earthbound Farm’s frozen spinach and string beans that we defrost before serving. I never expected our frozen vegetable line to be such a big part of our pets’ daily eating routine!