Some people look at me a little strangely when I talk about how leaving the corporate world and simplifying my life has lifted the fog from my mind and allowed me to see things more clearly. What do I mean by that? What fog? What’s not clear?
The thing is, when you’re so busy just going through the motions of living your life, you have very little time left over to actually live, and almost none at all to think. Take dog food for instance. Talk about a no-brainer; what is there to think about? Well, bear with me for a moment.
We’ve owned dogs for well over 12 years. For the first 10 years or so, when I was living a mainstream life, we went to the store and bought dog food for them. Sometimes the cheap stuff, sometimes the “high end” brands, depending on our financial shape and how much we wanted to “treat” the dogs to something good. Nothing abnormal about that at all. I mean, what more is there to think about, right? It’s dog food. And that’s exactly how I thought myself for well over a decade.
But I don’t buy dog food anymore. I make it. And I’ll tell you why.
We had an 8-month old dog die on us about a year ago that I still suspect I poisoned to death. The day after Christmas I had bought a bag of Pedigree dog food, and exactly 1 week later she began dying of what would turn out to be massive renal (kidney) failure. Just like that. Healthy and active and full of life one minute, dead the next. Boom.
This was a few months before the massive dog food recalls that occurred in the spring of 2007, and Pedigree was not one of the brands named in the recall, but to this day I still have to wonder if I didn’t kill my own dog by feeding her manufactured poison that was labeled as food.
Even if that had never happened, however, I’d still be making my own dog food. I was talking to a veterinarian some months back and I told him that I was now feeding my dogs mostly leftovers and table scraps. He immediately started to chastise me. “Oh, you shouldn’t do that,” he said, “you need to get them on a good, quality dog food; table scraps aren’t good for them.”
“So what you’re telling me,” I said, “is that the food I feed my family is good enough for my wife and children, but it’s not good enough for my dogs?” That completely caught him off guard, and as he sat there open mouthed trying to think of something to say, I posed another riddle to him.
“Let me ask you a question,” I said. “If scientists developed the perfect “people food” that was nutritionally perfect in every way, and maybe even tasted good too, would you eat that food 3 times a day – every day – for the rest of your life?”
You should have seen the look on his face as he struggled to come up with a reply. He couldn’t say “yes” because he knew that would have been a blatant lie, however, he couldn’t say “no” either because it would have proved my point for me.
I let him gape like a fish for a few seconds and then bailed him out and changed the subject. Please know that I wasn’t being nasty to him, but I think these are perfectly legitimate questions, and it was interesting to me that he had no answer to either one of them.
If anything, I felt sorry for the guy, because he was just reading from the same book of conventional wisdom as everybody else. What I mean is that his profession – along with all of the other prevailing aspects of society – continually reinforces the notion to all of us that if you have a dog, you must feed it dog food. Period.
Just as I had done for the first 10 years that I owned dogs, this veterinarian had never actually stopped to think about it for himself. If he had, he would have realized how absurd the whole “dog food” thing really is. It’s convenient for people because it requires almost no effort on our part (and we like that), and it’s also convenient for business, because they have another way to make money. But what about the dogs?
Commercial “dog food” wasn’t invented until the mid-1800’s, and did not become popular in the United States until a century later, shortly after WWII. What did all of these dogs eat for the thousands of years before that time? And isn’t it interesting that in just the past 60 years, we have gotten to the point where we do not even question the concept of “dog food”?
If you’re still not convinced that dog food is not such a good idea for your pet, try some yourself and see what you think about it. That’s right; eat some. I have. You know what? It doesn’t taste very good. In fact, it’s terrible. I have to wonder, are the taste buds of dogs so very different from our own that they would think otherwise? It seems pretty convenient (for us, that is) that dogs don’t have the ability to tell us themselves.
By the way, if the very thought of eating some dog food repulses you, you don’t have to actually go through with it. Just ask yourself why you would force your dog to eat this sole-source of nutrition – and nothing else – when you won’t even put it in your mouth.
So how do I “make” dog food? It’s not that hard, it doesn’t take much time, and it’s not that expensive. I usually start with a base of 2 cups of rice (one of the same ingredients touted by many “high end” dog foods), and then I add stuff to it. Maybe a couple cans of tuna fish (water & all) and a can of cream of mushroom soup. Or a half dozen scrambled eggs and a handful of shredded cheese. Sometimes I’ll add a handful of rolled oats, a can of pinto beans, or whatever leftovers are in the fridge; extra hotdogs, stale bread ends, etc. Get creative**.
The point is to make it something that will actually taste good, give them a good variety of food in their diet, and not cost a mint to make. Each batch I make with that “2 cups of rice” base takes only a few minutes to make and will last for 2 days; a morning and evening meal for both of my dogs. It costs almost nothing if I make it with leftovers and never more than $2 even if I use “purchased” food, which works out to about $30 a month at the very most. I don’t think that’s too expensive, especially since I would have spent at least $15 on commercial dog food anyway.
And I’ll tell you this, that “extra” $15 is well worth it, because you should see Otis & Ellie at mealtime. They get so excited they literally jump up in the air and do 360’s when they see me with their food bowls in my hands. And they don’t just eat their food; they attack it. It’s so incredible to watch them.
They are both healthy and strong, their coats are shiny, and they have boundless energy. Mealtime is truly the highlight of their day, and I feel like a much better steward. I’m happy to do it for them.
It makes me sad when I think about the first two dogs Cat & I got so many years ago; good old Rusty & Rosie, both now dead and buried. I loved those dogs, they were part of my family. They showed us unconditional love, they played with & watched over my children from the time they were babies, and they provided me with peace of mind every night as I slept, knowing that they would alert me – and sacrifice themselves for me if need be – should anyone enter my home with evil intent.
And for all of that, my reward to them was giving them the same old crap to eat every single day of their lives. I feel so ashamed of myself.
Just one more area of my life where the fog has been lifted, and one more opportunity for me to say “never again”.
** Note that there are some "people foods" that are not good for dogs, but there aren't many and they are easy to avoid. Do a little research, check around, and be sure not to put all of your trust into the first website (or blog) you come across.