There are two kinds of people in this world; dog people and everyone else. I’ve always fallen in the former category. Before having a dog of my own, I would actually stalk strangers down the street and cross over roads in the wrong direction just to be able to stroke their dog. I’d visit friend’s houses just to spend time with their dogs, and on occasion I’ve even made friends with people just because they had a dog.
Now that I finally have a dog of my own, I’ve entered a new group of people; the “dog parent” category. This is a whole new level of dog-obsessed. And there are a few things that only a dog parent will understand. Your dog is your “baby” (yes, I am Flora’s biological parent). Your parents become their grandparents – you’ll send them daily pictures of their “granddog” and expect them to remember birthdays. 98% of the photos in your phone are of your dog – the other 2% are selfies with your dog. You never eat alone, you never sleep alone, and you can never pee alone without your dog following you into the loo and watching you. You even become immune to your dog’s morning breath.
And chances are you’ll get replaced as little spoon.
Picking up your dog’s poo and carrying it around with you should seem weird, but it doesn’t. Sharing a bed (or even bath on occasion) should seem weird, but it doesn’t. You’re the only one that knows exactly what your dog wants and needs at any time in the day. Their irrational fears make total sense. You wish you could text them to let them know when you’re on your way home to them. And while friends and relatives send Christmas cards with pictures of their family, you send out cards with a picture of you and your dog – that may or may not have been taken by a professional (you’ll never tell).
Sometimes you’ll find yourself cancelling plans because you’d rather spend a night in with your dog, and the old adage is true that they are 100% your best friend. There is nothing you won’t do for your dog. They come with you everywhere you go, all restaurants, pubs and hotels need to be dog-friendly and so your life revolves around where you can and can’t go.
They’ll come with you in the car, train, tube, bike, or even boat.
You can’t be friends with people who don’t like dogs (or more specifically, your dog – seriously what is wrong with them), and you’ll even find yourself rustling up home-cooked meals for them. This last point is something that we’ve had to accept as it’s the only food Flora will eat. In that respect she’s the exact opposite of what we were expecting from a rescued stray dog; we were expecting food aggression issues to some extent, like being permanently hungry and snatching food at any opportunity, but she turned out to be the other extreme. Like a fussy toddler, she flat out refuses to eat – hunger-strike style. Sometimes she’ll even turn her nose up at a home-cooked fish pie or shepherd’s pie. Regular dog food is out of the question – she’ll sniff at her bowl and look up with such disdain you almost feel you should apologise for giving her such rubbish.
It makes absolutely no sense. One minute you’ll find her chewing on the bristles of the loo brush (finding specks of residue splattered across the bathroom – that was not a good day), or chewing on old discarded snotty tissues found at the bottom of a bin, or destroying a new pair of high heels (Every. Single. Pair.), but give her a bowl of dog food to chomp on and she’ll look almost insulted.
It’s come to the point that I was cooking separate meals for my dog, scouring the reduced section of the supermarkets for unwanted steak, meatballs, fish etc and cooking it in bulk at home to last the week. It actually ended up working out cheaper than buying canned dog food, and she was more likely to eat it (plus it’s far healthier and better for her), but realistically who has the time to keep that up?
Even dog treats she’ll spit out. She’ll follow you around looking up with hungry eyes, but give her a piece of sausage or cheese and you’ll find it forgotten and burried somewhere in the bed at the end of the day – if you don’t search the bed at night you’ll risk waking up with a sweaty piece of cheese stuck to your back.
A little worried about her lack of appetite, I did some research. Many articles by vets and behavioralists compared dry dog food to ‘fast food’ for pets, ‘promoting obesity and chronic disease’ and full of preservatives, ethoxyquin, colourants and other additives with very little nutrients. Dry kibble is hardly appetising for a dog – imagine eating a box of dry crackers for every meal of every day. Two words; dry and boring. Canned wet food wasn’t much better, as many cans are meant to have at least a 3 year shelf life, and is therefore pumped full of preservatives. Look on the back of a tin of dog food and you’ll find that most of it is grains or “meat meal” with “mystery meat” – with a blurred line around what that includes. So not only is the food unappetising, it doesn’t even give a dog the basic nutrients it needs, and these types of food are being linked to obesity, cancer and diabetes in dogs.
In contrast, and rather unsurprisingly, research shows that dogs eating a natural, home cooked diet can live up to 32 months longer than those who were fed industrial canned products. So, if you could extend your dog’s life by changing their diet — even if you have to pay more in the process — wouldn’t you?
After a bit of searching, I came across a dog food brand who’s ethos matches my own. “Our dogs are a part of the family and deserve to be fed as such”, the Butternut Box motto reads. I read on. After being in a similar position to myself, and cooking home-cooked meals for their dogs, the founders launched a dog food brand that delivers home-cooked nutritious meals that are human grade – and tested by humans. Made with good cuts of quality meat and vegetables, with no additives of any kind, the food is cooked inside pouches in a sort of sous-vide way, therefore keeping all the nutrients, and are delivered frozen. The ingredients are mixed, cooked, labelled and then frozen and sent to your house in weekly installments in an insulated box –and although you’d expect the service to be unaffordable for most, it works out as just £16 per week (including delivery) for a medium sized dog. The final convincing was that they also give away free Butternut Box meals to homeless and sheltered dogs across the UK for every new dog that registers.
I was sold. I ordered one week’s worth and received emails with details and instructions as well as delivery status updates, and then finally my Butternut Box: an insulated box packed with a variety of different meals; lamb, beef, turkey and chicken.
As promised, the box arrived with smaller sized portions to start with, moving on to full size portions once Flora had made the ‘adjustment’. Although in my case, I didn’t need to wait for any adjusting.
As per usual, she approached her bowl with caution, sniffing with disapproval.
A moment of hesitation, then for the first time dove full face into the bowl, coming up only for gulps of air and lots of lip smacking.
She inhaled the whole meal in under a minute, licking the bowl clean!
She even went so far as to lick the outside of the bowl and around the bowl in the vain hope of finding more.
Having licked every surface, she stretched out with the biggest smile on her face.
Since then, every mealtime is the same – if she’s lucky I’ll heat up a bowl for her to make it extra appealing, but I’m just thankful that her fussy days are over. She’s eating more, is a healthier weight, and doesn’t beg as much for scraps. She’s even started wagging her tail every time I approach the fridge – something she’s never done before!
And although it’s only been a matter of weeks, there have been no further loo brush or snotty tissue incidents and my high heels have even been left intact. For now.