Meet Sophie: A Bull Mastiff With Formerly Debilitating Food Allergies
It’s a warm August day and Sophie, a 105-pound Bull Mastiff, is alert and full of energy.
Sophie runs and jumps across eight acres of a lush Maine backyard under the watchful eye of her owner, Keri St. Peter. The property is nothing short of a dog heaven. The sun is high and hot, and the green blades of grass offer easy footing and an earthy place to lounge.
First bred in the 1800s in England, Bull Mastiffs are nicknamed the “game keepers of the night” and were bred to protect estates from poachers by barking, chasing and pinning an intruder down until the estate holder would arrive. But if they can do the minimal amount of work—just barking—they usually opt for it.
“They are big, giant couch potatoes,” says St. Peter, “but they are very intelligent—you just have to know what to do to motivate them.”
Food Allergies Made it Tough for a Food Lover
Food and play are big motivators for Sophie, so when severe food allergies got in the way during the first two years of her life, St. Peter had a difficult time finding ways to motivate Sophie to train. But she was up for the challenge.
St. Peter says Sophie picked her, not the other way around. Out of a litter of 13, Sophie was a mere 14.7 pounds at 7 weeks old. At the time, and for the months that followed, it was hard for St. Peter to imagine Sophie gaining any weight at all. A healthy weight—and a healthy Sophie—seemed nearly impossible.
Kibble Wasn't Working
Sophie’s severe food allergies caused ulcers and lesions in her stomach. “She was eating 9 and a half cups of dry kibble a day, and her stool was very loose, comparable to soft serve ice cream,” St. Peter says. “At that point, I didn’t understand the importance of food in a dog’s diet.”
The vet told St. Peter to find a food that only used fish as the protein, and to give Sophie some Pepcid twice a day to help with the acid reflux and inflammatory bowel disease.
It took two full years before Sophie could stop taking the twice-daily medication.
Introduction to The Honest Kitchen
After a lot of research and several fish-based diets, the For Dogs Boutique in Holden, Maine recommended St. Peter try The Honest Kitchen products. It wasn’t long before Sophie’s commercial food was augmented with The Honest Kitchen’s Grain Free Fish Recipe, made with wild, line-caught white fish and produce like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and parsley.
“Sophie loved it,” St. Peter says, “she was always looking for something more, and Zeal helped sustain her. She wasn’t hungry as often, which has to do with the quality of ingredients.”
Soon after starting Sophie on The Honest Kitchen, St. Peter was able to stop the medications, and Sophie’s overall health seemed to improve dramatically.
“Her coat is nice and shiny, she has a nice steady weight, and her stools are solid,” St. Peter said, noting that she also likes that The Honest Kitchen's food is made in the U.S. and the products are GMO-free.
The Right Food = The Right Attitude
Another major indicator that Sophie had improved was when St. Peter started noticing progress in obedience classes.
“She was more active,” St. Peter says. “When she was a puppy, she would just lay in class and not get up—she would constantly try to eat things to soothe her stomach.”
Today, Sophie competes in the World Cynosport Rally Limited (WCRL), an affiliate of United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. (USDAA), the world’s largest independent authority for the sport of dog agility. This year, Sophie and St. Peter are going for rally championships, which, for WCRL, would make Sophie only the second Bull Mastiff to receive a championship.
“You don’t really see Bull Mastiffs do anything but lay on a couch, and I wanted to be a good ambassador for the breed to show that they can do anything,” says St. Peter.
St. Peter knows having a healthy dog is key for successful competitions. Time, dedication and training are major aspects, but without a healthy dog, nothing would be possible.
“We basically train and snuggle and that’s about it,” St. Peter says. Sophie’s next competition is Oct. 31, and The Honest Kitchen wishes them the best of luck!
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Claire Jeffers is a freelance writer living in Portland, Maine.