Friday, July 16, 2010

Your dog is not a gourmet.

Whenever I take my puppy, Freyja, out for a walk, people often compliment her on how pretty she looks. They also remark on how much energy she has and how nice her coat is. I don't take Willy out as much as I do her, but the last time I took him to the vet, he got a few compliments his way as well.

Of course, there's a reason why my dogs look so healthy. That's because in the morning, I start them off with a meal that I put together that consists of chicken breast, barley, carrots, and Vitamin E supplements. In the evening, I give them some commercial food. I usually alternate between the frozen dog dinners that you can find at PetCo (and some grocery stores) and other varieties of premium food, always making sure that no matter what it is, it's organic. After all, it's been scientifically proven that anything that's organic is a million times healthier than things that are not.

Okay, while the first paragraph was true, the second is total bull. I feed them Purina Dog Chow. (Actually, Freyja is eating Puppy Chow.) That's right - the cheap stuff. The stuff you can find at the grocery store. The stuff that doesn't have the word "organic" anywhere on the label. That's what I fed Argos too, and he was running and jumping up until the day that his cancer finally creeped up into his lungs.

One time I went to PetCo to buy some Dog Chow, as they were advertising it at a good price. There was some lady there who was giving out coupons or something who asked if she could help us. (Why don't you just say employee, Lance? I don't think that she worked for PetCo.) When I told her that I was looking for the Dog Chow, she looked at me like I just confessed to being a Nazi war criminal. (I'm Mengele, by the way.) She gave me this whole spiel about how bad it was, and how I would be better off buying this or that brand that made all sorts of claims as to how healthy it was on the packaging.

My response to her was that my vet had actually recommended Dog Chow. She looked at me like I just said that my vet was a doomsday cult leader. (He's Manson, by the way.) She said something along the lines of how my vet didn't know what he was talking about. That was interesting, considering that he had told my wife and me that his whole area of expertise was in nutrition for dogs.

How did it come up that he recommended Dog Chow to us? The thing is, we used to buy into the hype of "premium" dog foods. In fact, I think that the last brand we were buying was even called "Premium". I started getting it at Pet Food Express, and I remember some guy there making all kinds of claims as to how much healthier it was. They'll poo less! Look at the ingredients! Meat is the first one!

Guess what? That stuff was making Willy fat. When we told our vet about how we couldn't understand, considering we were feeding him such high quality food, you could tell that he was trying hard not to roll his eyes. He explained that there were only so many brands out there that had actually undergone any kind of scientific testing. He then named off a lot of brands, and I believe that Iams and Science Diet were on that list. Much to our surprise, he also said Dog Chow. He told us that most people are surprised to hear that, as it tends to have a bad reputation - a bad reputation that's wholly undeserved.

He also told us some horror stories about how some dogs were suffering from bone loss due to being fed the BARF diet. (No, that's not when you give your dogs vomit. It's when you give them nothing but raw meat - and perhaps some veggies as well.)

After that, we switched to Dog Chow. I also started to think about some of the anti Dog Chow arguments out there. Somebody once told me (so I doubt if it's true) that they put road kill in it. They said this as though it should be a turn-off. That's funny, because I remember taking Argos to the park one time, and he was insistent on chowing down on what was basically the remains of a gopher. All that was left was its head, spine and hide. (Think of a bear skin rug where the bear's head is still attached - only think of it with a gopher.) As far as a dog is concerned, road kill's good eatin'.

I now snicker when I see those frozen dinners (I wasn't making that up) that you can buy for your dogs. I also get a kick out of anything that uses the word "gourmet" on a pet food. Do you know why I have to make sure my cat's litter box is always clean? It's because my dog will eat the poop if given the chance. Not only that, but Willy is obsessed with eating Freyja's poop - no doubt due to the higher protein content that's in there due to her still being on puppy food. When my cat, Oliver, pukes on the laminate flooring, I don't have to worry about cleaning it, as both dogs make short work of it. They are not gourmets, I can assure you. They have worse taste than people who eat at Sizzler. (Okay, maybe they're not that bad.)

I recently looked at some online product reviews for Dog Chow. It's funny because there are all sorts of negative reviews. Some of them basically accused people of essentially abusing their dogs if they bought that for them. The positive reviews all seemed to have something in common, and that was something that the vast majority of negative reviews lacked - they were written by people who had actually given it to their dogs.

I suppose that there might be instances when buying some more premium stuff might be in order. I understand that some dogs have really sensitive stomachs - especially when they get older. I can say that as far as my cat is concerned, I need to buy him Iams weight control, as the cheaper stuff makes him fat. (My last cat ate the cheap stuff, and she got along just fine.)

Here's the thing - realize that your dog is a dog. That doesn't mean that you don't love them any less. Realize that out in the wild, they'd be chewing on all kinds of scraps; they wouldn't be eating chicken breasts and T-bones. (I remember the book, Never Cry Wolf, where the guy saw that the wolves got by mostly on eating whole mice - not exactly a lot of meat on those things. They were getting a lot of bone, hair, and vegetable matter from the guts of their victims.) If you need to save some money, you can have a perfectly happy and healthy dog if you give them the cheap stuff. I wasn't kidding when I say that people often compliment Freyja for her shiny coat. I don't think that she and Willy are sneaking out at night and raiding the butcher shop.

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