Two dogs and a blog

Between playing professional football, working a full-time job, maintaining an active social media presence and taking care of two dogs, John Rush has a lot on his plate — but he’s not done yet. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers fullback can now add food blogger to his lengthy resumé.

Earlier this month, Rush launched Rescue Dog Kitchen; a website dedicated to sharing vegan recipes and raising money for animal shelters. Blogging is something he’s wanted to do for a while and the downtime created by the coronavirus pandemic was the opportunity he needed to get started.

“I love writing, I love dogs, obviously, and I love cooking, so I figured what better way to combine some of my passions,” says Rush, while sitting in the kitchen of his Winnipeg home; his dogs Bone and Bailey lounging on the floor nearby.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p>
<p>Blue Bombers fullback John Rush, with his dogs Bone (left) and Bailey, turned a month-long experiment with veganism into a lifestyle.</p>
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MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Blue Bombers fullback John Rush, with his dogs Bone (left) and Bailey, turned a month-long experiment with veganism into a lifestyle.

When he was nine, Rush adopted his first dog, a 100-pound black lab, and his affinity for large pooches has carried over into adulthood. His current charges are Great Pyrenees-St. Bernard crosses who tip the scale at 150-pounds when fully grown.

“I have a thing for helping out the bigger dogs, the dogs that are harder to adopt,” he says.

Two-and-a-half year old Bone (full-name Bon Homme, a.k.a Good Boy) is the size of a small horse and was days away from being euthanized when Rush found him on a pet listing site while visiting his parents in Niagara, Ont. Bone’s previous family got him from a breeder then gave him up when he got too big.

Bailey, the newest member of the pack, has a similar backstory. The eight-month-old pup also came from a breeder and was abandoned on a farm by her first owners. Rush was already fostering two dogs when Bailey came up for adoption, but it was love at first sight.

“She’s rambunctious, but she’s a big cuddly, loveable girl when she calms down so it didn’t take much time for us to fall in love with her,” he says. “And Bone loves her too.”

Greek Pasta Salad with Tofu Feta

Tofu pasta salad is one of John Rush's featured recipes. (Supplied photo by John Rush)</p>
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Tofu pasta salad is one of John Rush’s featured recipes. (Supplied photo by John Rush)

By John Rush, via rescuedogkitchen.com

INGREDIENTS
4 cups dry rotini pasta
1 cup cucumbers, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
1 cup red/green pepper chopped

By John Rush, via rescuedogkitchen.com

INGREDIENTS
4 cups dry rotini pasta
1 cup cucumbers, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
1 cup red/green pepper chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives
1/2 cup queen stuffed olives
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup arugula
4 sprigs dill
3 green onions, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup oil from sundried tomato jar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tbsp dried parsley flakes
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 brick extra firm tofu *optional*

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, chop all of your vegetables (all the way up to lemon on the ingredient list).

When the pasta is done cooking, remove it from the heat and rinse under cold water.

Transfer the pasta to a big mixing bowl. Add all of the veggie ingredients on top and mix in. Don’t add tofu feta yet.

Add your liquid ingredients and herbs and mix in.

Last, but certainly not least, add your tofu feta. Mix lightly.

Rush’s first introduction to a vegan diet came by way of an athletic trainer who was helping him lose weight during an off-season. As a lifelong athlete, Rush had tried every diet under the sun, but was wary of giving up animal products.

“At the time I was very skeptical,” he says. “In sports, by the time you’re nine you’re getting told you need chicken, you need meat to eat to get your protein in, so we’re all kind of brainwashed into thinking that the only thing that has protein is meat, when in reality that’s just not true.”

What started off as a month-long experiment three years ago has turned into a lifestyle. During that time, Rush has grappled with his own preconceived notions about food and has noticed a shift in how veganism is viewed by the public; especially by other men.

“It used to be that you had to eat meat to be a man, and there’s still a lot of that toxic masculinity out there,” he says. “But there’s also a growing portion of the population that is really open and receptive to it — maybe we don’t need meat and maybe this has nothing to do with our masculinity.”

He’s also watched acceptance grow in the world of professional sports.

“In sports, by the time you’re nine you’re getting told you need chicken, you need meat to eat to get your protein in, so we’re all kind of brainwashed into thinking that the only thing that has protein is meat, when in reality that’s just not true.” – John Rush

Rush is the only vegan on the Bombers and he kept his foray into veganism a secret from staff and players for an entire year. When it did come out, his dietary preferences were met with support and curiosity from teammates.

His team has been particularly helpful with recipe development.

“I’ve been bringing in my treats for the guys on the team for two years now,” he says. “So I do have a good network of people who will help me tweak recipes and do taste-tests for me, which is always nice because sometimes what I think is delicious other people might not enjoy.”

Rescue Dog Kitchen is a one-man operation, which means Rush has had to learn how to code a website and how to take appetizing food photos in the makeshift studio in his living room. The blog is still in its infancy, having launched at the beginning of July, but he hopes to build enough of a following to be able to donate a portion of his ad revenue to local animal rescue groups.

Rush’s go-to vegan dish is oatmeal. He’s posted multiple protein-packed oatmeal recipes on the blog and started an #oatmealgang hashtag that has hundreds of posts from fellow oat lovers.

“It’s super quick, it’s super easy, it has a ton of nutrition in it, it’s basically how I start every one of my days.”

Other dishes on Rescue Dog Kitchen include vegan skewers; a pesto, tomato and faux mozzarella sandwich; and a clam-free caesar mix. Beyond recipes, Rush is developing a “how-to vegan” section of his website, geared towards athletes considering going vegan.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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