Is he spoiled rotten? I sure hope so. It’s my job as a dog mom, after all. If by spoiling you mean providing a happy, loving home where he can be the best doggo he can be for the longest, healthiest life possible. I started this post with that particular question for a reason. It’s because it’s the first thing most everyone says/asks when I tell them I cook for my dog rather than feed him commercial pet food. It’s said with a snuffle and smirk, like “oh, you’re one of those…”
Crazy lady. Crazy dog lady.
Then I tell the story of Cody.
Cody joined our family in the fall of 1999. A rescue, of course, like all of our “kids.” He was one of the more challenging rescues: extremely high energy, scary smart, willful af, and had no. manners. at. all. At 4+ years of age with zero training along with an absolute belief that he should be in charge (as a Sheltie, herding dog, it was a genetic attitude), he required some serious remedial work and every drop of patience we could muster to once again enjoy a harmonious home with three dogs.
He was so worth it. That beautiful boy – and he was, breathtakingly so – became my single best friend, protector, and savior in a quite literal way. After my husband’s sudden death and, within months after, the loss of our two other dog kids (Jojo and Gypsy, RIP my precious girls) it was in a seeming instant only Cody and me left. Just the two of us. Alone in what was now, to me, a terrifying world.
Cody kept me going. He joyfully pounced me in the mornings to get my depressed, grief-stricken, and often hopeless ass out of bed. He brought me his leash several times a day, “Come ON, Mom! Let’s go for an adventure!” It was never just a walk with Cody. Between his beauty and gregarious nature, he brought people to us, forcing me from my self-imposed cocoon of misery and grief to push me forward. It was my promise to him that kept me alive during the darkest days: “I will always take care of us. I will find a way.”
Cody wasn’t my emotional support dog – he was my emotional Guide Dog. He was in charge when I needed him to be, when I was too weak to be. I was unfortunately in that place a lot for several years. Cody never, for even a moment, let me down. He took care of his mom, by god, and he was so proud of the good job he did.
So what, pray tell, does this have to do with cooking for my dog? It’s late 2006 and Cody is 11 healthy years old. Still thunder and lightening with no signs of slowing down. It was a Saturday evening I noticed that Cody didn’t seem to be feeling that great. I wasn’t too alarmed but figured I’d get him to the vet on Monday if he wasn’t feeling good still. He went quickly from that to too weak to jump on the bed by Sunday morning. I was freaked. I found a vet close by who was open on Sunday – we were waiting there in the car when the vet arrived that morning.
Cody’s blood test was grim. Everything had gone to hell: his kidneys, liver. He was hospitalized, tested for everything but no answers, treated as best they could. It seemed to be a toxic response but I am obsessed with keeping anything critter toxic out of my home. I wracked my brain, examined every corner of the house and yard where Cody would be. Nothing.
My boy crossed the bridge the following Wednesday. There are no words to describe my devastation. The why of it haunted me. WTF happened?
Moving along a few months to early 2007. The FDA announced that tainted pet foods were sickening and killing cats and dogs. Many pet foods were recalled, some of them high end brands like the one I was feeding Cody, believing I was giving him the very best I could afford. Wait, not like the one I was feeding Cody, the very one. It was at the top of the list.
OMG. I poisoned my dog to death with the food I was giving him so lovingly every day, promising “I’ll take care of us.” By trusting a company with my dog’s health and life without question, I failed him. Could I have known? No. Not about the melamine, not before it hit the news. Those who deliberately sold the poisoned gluten to the pet food companies killed my Cody – it wasn’t an accident, it was greed. That’s 100% on them and I will never, ever forgive it.
But I am not entirely absolved. It was what I learned when I started information digging after that – learning that I had been feeding my dogs garbage and worse (like you don’t want to know) for years in the form of commercial dog foods. And I’m not just talking cheap brands. Are they all bad? Aren’t some of them actually high quality like they all claim to be? I don’t know. That’s the point.
How many recalls of pet foods and treats have there been since 2007? This incident is hardly standing alone. I invite you to check out this reputable list of animal food recalls and their reasons from just 2018, going on right now. Prepare yourself if you’re a pet mom or dad.
That’s why I cook for my dogs. Still think I’m crazy?