Wet Dog Food, Love and Prolonging Life

Feb 20, 2021 | Death, Dying, Loss

There are many things in life that we say we’ll never do. Serving wet dog food to our dog is definitely one of them. Alas, she is 16 and we are facing those dreadful declining dog years when we carry her down the stairs to go out in the morning. Sometimes we carry her back up, she only weighs ten pounds so this isn’t a big sacrifice, but wet dog food?

The home I grew up in had a “little kitchen” right off of the main kitchen, basically a pantry with a large white ceramic sink. When we skinned our knees, mom attended to our boo-boos in that sink and the blood dripping across the stark whiteness made me a little queasy — not as queasy as feeding the dog in this room. For most of her life “Duker,” our black lab ate dry dog food – simple, no smell, chunk it in the bowl and walk away. As she aged, my mom switched her to wet ALPO. Before the can opener dug into the metal I could smell it, a harsh combination of vomit and leftovers molting in the fridge. I held my breath the entire time I scooped it out and filled her dish. Often I couldn’t hold it long enough so I ran out of the room, took another deep breath and came back in. If the smell graced my nostrils I gagged or threw up. I swore then that if I ever had a dog I would NEVER feed it wet dog food scooped from a can. We all know the quote, “never say never.”

Fast forward to 16 year old Snuggles – roughly 112 in human years. Where do those doggie years go? I adore her, but I did not know that adoring dog owners should brush their dogs’ teeth. The groomer did it four times a year so I thought that I was absolved of this disgusting ritual, i.e. dog breath is always gross no matter how young or healthy the dog is. Now her teeth are in bad shape and it is time for easier to chew wet dog food. I scoured the store and came upon delectable varieties in the Ceaser Home Delights line which looked like something that I might eat for Sunday dinner and the dog on the front looks like ours, although Snuggles is cuter. This switch went well for me. The food does not smell disgusting and she loves it. Problem solved.

Grilled New York Strip flavor – delicious!

Fast forward to 16 and a half years. I decide to invest and I’m talking invest serious money in a professional vet cleaning of her teeth because my groomer tells me it is necessary if she is to “live out her full life.” Isn’t 16 and a half a full dog life? Before this can happen you need to pay for a chest X-ray and blood work to make sure your dog is healthy enough to survive the anesthesia needed for the vet to do the job, i.e. note – don’t neglect your dog’s teeth so that this does not happen to you. Several hundred dollars later I get the email, “I’m so sorry your dog is in stage 3 of kidney failure and she won’t be able to have her teeth cleaned until this is abated.” WHAT? Aside from taking more naps Snuggles does not act sick and she is pooping and popping along on her walks as usual. I am in a state of shock and guilt. Our guinea pig died because we quit feeding her alfalfa (it was already in her pellets), now this! We learn that there is special wet, canned food for kidney failure dogs and now I am flash-backed to the “little kitchen” of my nightmarish, bad smell event.

Friends, I am doing it! I am scooping gross smelling K/D healthy kidney stew out of a can. At this point I could launch into a diatribe about how American culture has gone off the deep end with their dogs because they are truly the only relationship we can handle due to the fact that they love us unconditionally and they don’t talk back to us, but I won’t. The bottom line motivation here is LOVE and my groomer’s “live out her full life” statement. Of course, we want her to live her best life, her full life. Our oldest son thinks that dog ownership is an enormous, inefficient waste of thousands of dollars. We who love dogs know this the farthest perspective from the truth. But the question remains, how far will we go? Should we give her a kidney transplant from the doggie organ donor bank – probably wouldn’t go that far. All this is to say that during this month of reckless love our dogs can teach us new things about the lengths of love. My engagement with wet dog food certainly speaks of the truth that “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. Obviously, I’m not laying down my life, just my nose for man’s best friend and that change in behavior doesn’t seem like such a big deal in the grand scheme of our world today. What changes for the sake of love are you making this month? Long live Snuggles the dog!