April 2013

I recently stopped off at the new pet store in Berlin to pick up food for Buddy. While wandering the isles, I must be honest; I was overwhelmed by the selection. Grain free, low fat, high protein, raw, canned, dry, holistic, even foods with antioxidants and glucosamine. A few years ago Buddy gave up on the high-end dry food he’s had his whole life. It’s true; old dogs, like old people, can get very picky about what they eat; and for good reason. In Buddy’s case, I think he was just fed up with the same old same old all these years. When you think about it, wouldn’t you be? What resulted was somewhat of a fasting protest by my finicky friend.

Pet nutrition is big business, and anyone who’s selective about what they feed their pets knows this. In addition to what I’ve been taught by vets, I’ve done my own homework on dog food, and over the years this knowledge has sucked my wallet dry countless times. Just when I thought I’ve landed his favorite flavor, he changes his mind and loses interest.

Combined with consistent exercise and proper nutrition, it’s true you can get many years out of your dog. With eating and drinking the basic foundation for survival, our vet recently put it layman’s terms for me; “Look, it’s no longer about finding the perfect healthy food for his liver to process and keep his coat shiny, it’s about him eating whatever he’ll eat to get some weight back on”. This realty struck me. After all, I wasn’t used to just feeding Buddy anything. I had to learn to change it up and be creative.

So here I am, still on the search for a food he’ll not only eat, but also has at least some nutritional value. Cost is almost a moot point now. If it means I must go without something in order to afford a food he’ll eat, I’m buying. If it’s back to the canned prescription food from the vet and it means I must rob a bank, then so be it.

Contemplating the agonizing decision of which canned wet food to mix with which bagged dry food, I noticed a woman enter my isle with the same puzzled look on her face. We both stood there blankly starring at the shelves. After a few minutes of silence, I blurted out, “It’s overwhelming isn’t it”? Her response stayed with me for the rest of the day. “Yeah, and to think they’re only dogs”. I was dumbfounded by her words and couldn’t return with anything. Clearly, she was referring to the overwhelming cost of dog food and not the variety like me. “Only dogs”? I wanted to ask, while wondering what her dog meant to her. Was he or she simply just a dog, or companion and member of the family? I bit my tongue instead, loaded up my beef with gravy and made my way towards the register. 

On my way home, I wondered why she was even in the same isle as me and not at the grocery store instead. Respectfully, I wanted to ask if she felt dog food was just dog food and if dogs were just dogs. I wanted to share my emotional and financial investment in dog ownership along with my running total in vet fees over the last fifteen years (which would easily equate to a luxury sports car by the way). Considering the price of dog food alone I can only imagine what I’ve spent. And not for a second would I question if any of it was worth it.

But just by chance, if this lady is reading my column, I offer her this suggestion: if it means skipping that pricey bottle of wine or that monthly manicure for the sake of your dog’s good nutrition, do it. It seems too many of us continue to live the life we’re living, while having the nerve to complain about the cost of feeding what should be considered our most devoted and loyal companions. While I agree that vet bills and dog food can add up to startling figures, it’s all part of properly caring for your dog (or any pet for that matter). If you can’t commit to pet ownership on all levels, don’t take on the responsibility. But if you do, know this: the return on your investment won’t hold much monetary value but you’ll be filthy rich with love that you’ll carry till your last day. At least that’s how I feel.  


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