Thursday, 22 September 2016

Sheep in wolves' clothing?

When I was physically growing up, if we did have a pet, it was always a cat.

Is that the best start to a blog post you've ever seen? I've been considering shutting this thing down for a while now, and if I was going to go out on a high, now's probably a good time.

Nope, not today. Back to cats. 

Actually, there was the time our family thought it was a brilliant idea to bring a wild rabbit, from our uncle's farm, into suburbia. As you can imagine, that didn't end well.

The absence of dogs suited me fine because school holidays invariably involved a visit to one of my Uncle and Aunties' sheep farms, where the border collie working dogs provided enough dog exposure for me to realise that city life for an active dog would be mind-numbingly boring unless they had some sheep to round up. I loved those dogs and their names and faces are burned into my memory – as well as their speed and intelligence and their bright eyes that exposed their zest for life.But they were not born for city life, something that was clear, even to a little kid.
A dead-ringer for "Scottie"
My wife, on the other hand, always had at least one or two mutts in her family, which is probably why she’s been very keen to expose me and our progeny to the wonders of dog-ownership. After years of stalling, because I like to think I'm not stupid, and realised that I would probably end up feeding them and cleaning up their shit (I am clearly psychic), nearly 2 years ago I succumbed and we bought a little black spoodle* and a brown one followed about a year later.

No, I'm not about to blather on about the pros and cons of dog ownership, how cute our dogs are and what funny things they get up to, or discuss whether, like cats, dogs simply pay us attention because we feed them. 

No, this is another food and nutrition thang. As a virgin dog owner, it became obvious very quickly that vets are on par with General Practitioners in terms of what they say should be entering a particular digestive system. I would have thought vets have less of an excuse for being idiots, because any person with intelligence greater than a handbag full of bubble gum should realise that a dog…is not even remotely close to something resembling a herbivore. 

The teeth should be a dead give-away here, with not even the most ardent militant vegan being able to suggest, with a straight face, that dog’s teeth are suited to rice and broccoli. I'm clearly not a canine anthropologist, but I thought most, if not all, domestic dogs evolved from the Grey Wolf, and I don’t believe they were considered a pest by early man because they ate everyone's potatoes.

I admit, I may be full of shit and totally wrong there, but it suits my argument and desire to put a post up, so...on we go.

One of the most confusing instances of being a new dog owner occurred when, on coming home from a visit to the vet for routine needles, my wife presented to me some dog toothpaste and a thimble-like instrument for brushing our dog’s teeth. 

My darling spouse is not known for elaborate jokes, but I had to stop and consider the possibility for a minute. No, apparently the vet thought it vital that we torture our puppy by sticking our fingers in its mouth on a daily basis. 

I'd never heard of the concept of brushing dogs' teeth, but my confusion was allayed to a certain extent when I realised what the ingredients were in the ‘vet recommended’ dog food.

Cereal, vegetable fibre and vegetable oil doesn't sound like something a dog would eat voluntarily, but I s'pose there must be enough animal product or flavour in there somewhere to resemble 'food'.

Just as it is with human nutrition internet content, you can't get too far without some expert suggesting processed bullshit is essential for your dog, otherwise they will not get their required nutrients. It all sounds terribly familiar.

I'm pretty sure the sheep dogs on my Uncle’s farm were fed mostly kangaroo and lamb off-cuts and you couldn't stop them from lapping up the blood when a ewe had been freshly slaughtered. I can’t remember them eating food from a tin, but I s'pose they did from time to time. All had great looking teeth and were in peak physical condition – they had to be to do their job.

So, call me negligent and an animal hater, but I resisted the urge to brush our dogs' teeth. I don’t stick my fingers in their mouths and we are all quite happy about that. Incidentally, one of my boys has this strange habit of picking the sleep out of their eyes. Yes, they hate it, but a kid's gotta have hobbies.

Our dogs' diet consists of raw chicken necks and hearts and some biscuits with the least amount of rubbish we could find. 20% fat, 28% protein and I imagine the rest is probably nonsense. Believe it or not, but that's about as good as you'll find. 

Look, a dog is not a human, and what they eat isn't terribly high on my list of things I like to think about, but when it determines whether I have to dodge sloppy shit in the garden or get the hose out to help relieve a constipated animal, it becomes a priority. The quickest way to clog up our dogs' digestive systems is to feed them some lean meat when I've not had a chance to get chicken necks from the shop. No fat or bones = clogged up sphincter. 

I'm not a vet. I'm not an expert in dog genetics or nutrition. I'm just reasonably observant. I'm not expecting anyone to pay for a study on the incidence of obesity and diabetes in dogs any time soon, but I imagine the results wouldn't be particularly surprising.

Of course the obvious solution to the canine obesity and diabetic epidemic should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway - feed your dog smaller portions of the celebrity-vet-recommended food and make them exercise more. 

Or perhaps...feed your dogs food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 

Carn, it's not rocket science. 

*A spoodle aka cockapoo are a mix between a poodle and a cocker spaniel. Being new to dog ownership, I was a little surprised at the nastiness that certain dog ‘lovers’ can spew in regard to this and similar designer breeds. Apparently selectively breeding a dog is cruel and we should only buy unwanted dogs from the pound. To those people I say "I'm not responsible for all the dogs at the pound, so go fuck yourself". We paid a shitload of cash to have dogs that don't shed hair everywhere and I'm quite OK with that. 

Dragon Fruit Farm at Sunset - totally relevant