07 May 2009

It's a dog's breakfast...

The title of this post is derived from a British slang phrase meaning "a mess or muddle"..."an unappealing mixture of many things"... a "hodgepodge". It comes from the idea that a hungry dog will eat anything and feeding it a mixture of whatever is on hand will do. Sometimes people really aren't much different in that regard. I remember when I was a kid I used to make some awful sandwiches out of things like mustard, pickles, and onions and my Ma would say to me in Polish, "Dobra świnia wszystko zje"... "A little pig will eat anything". The truth is that I like dogs and when I feed them it is because I want to help them and not hurt them. I would never feed them a breakfast of mustard, pickles, and onions. I do not have a dog of my own...too much responsibility. However, I do go around feeding dogs and I run through about ten pounds of dog food every week.

At the shop where I work we have a large dog run that contains two Rottweilers. They are a backup for our night watchman. When things go "bump" in the night he just leans over and unlatches the gate and lets the dogs out. We don't have much trouble these days but about seven or eight years ago nights could be very "interesting". It is just another sign that Mexico is getting better all the time. Other than being a bit bored these days the Rottweilers do okay. They are fed dry dog food supplied by my employer and occasional table scraps and butcher's bones given to them by the watchman and they are more or less fit. Let's just say that you wouldn't want to meet up with Coochyflies or Booger in the middle of the night. There are other dogs at the shop also but the number ebbs and flows. They show up one day all bedraggled and nothing but matted fur and skin and bones and you can count every rib. At first they act very fearful and they hang back ready to jump and run away. They are hungry. You can see the hollow look in their eyes. They look pitiful. I feed them. I can't help it. Perhaps I shouldn't but most of them don't live long anyway. They are either lost or abandoned and there are no shelters to receive them. It's not that they are breeding more dogs either. If these dogs have puppies the puppies usually die within days. For that reason I don't give any of them names unless they are true survivors. Most of them either die of some ailment or parasite or get hit by a car or truck or else some careless person runs over them with a forklift...or any number of things.

When I come to work in the morning the dogs know the sound of my car. By the time I reach the front gate they are all lined up with tails wagging and they escort me to my parking place. They walk so close to my car as I enter the gate that their tails hitting the car sides sound like Gene Krupa playing the drums. I throw them some dog food from a bag in my trunk and cast it out on the concrete like you would cast chicken feed to chickens. In this way they can't fight over it. If they want to eat they better get busy and eat and not fight. I know it isn't much but it tides them over until they can beg table scraps from the workmen at lunchtime. Weekends and holidays are the toughest for them. When I return to work on Mondays they are especially excited. I feel appreciated. Hey, these aren't dog show dogs. They are beggar dogs. Nevertheless they are my friends.

Now comes the sad part. Times are tough. The cost of dog food has doubled in just the past month. I have no idea why either. Several years ago we had a Price Mart in Irapuato. I could buy dog food in bulk for only four pesos per kilo at first and it gradually rose to about six pesos per kilo. It wasn't fancy stuff but the dogs seemed to like it. Then Price Mart went out of business and I had to look around for something else. To my surprise the dog food in the supermarkets had risen to about twelve pesos per kilo. I was paying up to 50 pesos for a four kilo bag which would last me about a week. I collected table scraps and bones from my friends and relatives to supplement this. Mostly I just bought whatever dog food was on sale. A few times I bought some four kilo bags of dog food at Comercial Mexicana that came from Argentina and they cost only twenty-eight pesos. The dogs really liked that stuff too. Lately, however, I have had to pay one hundred pesos for a four kilo bag and I am afraid that I am going to have to announce to the doggies that it is time that some of us may need to go on a diet.

I imagine this situation doesn't bode well for the canine world. Many people who have dogs just won't be able to afford them if this keeps up and there may be many more strays to feed. I suppose I could buy dog food in greater quantities but then where would I store it so that the mice and bugs couldn't get at it? I didn't want to keep that much in my car trunk. I decided that I would have to look around for some alternative source of dog food. Little did I know how difficult that would be. The Internet is absolutely useless for information about dog food. There is just too much information and most of it is either bogus or it is designed to play on your fears and rob you of your money. I found out the dog food is really big business. In North America people spend about sixteen billion dollars a year on dog and cat food alone. Most major pet food companies in the United States are subsidiaries of just a few gigantic multinational corporations:

Nestlé’s bought Purina to form Nestlé Purina Petcare Company
(Fancy Feast, Alpo, Friskies, Mighty Dog, Dog Chow, Cat Chow, Puppy Chow, Kitten Chow, Beneful, One, ProPlan, DeliCat, HiPro, Kit’n’Kaboodle, Tender Vittles, Purina Veterinary Diets).

Del Monte gobbled up Heinz
(MeowMix, Gravy Train, Kibbles ’n Bits, Wagwells, 9Lives, Cycle, Skippy, Nature’s Recipe, and pet treats Milk Bone, Pup-Peroni, Snausages, Pounce).

MasterFoods owns Mars, Inc., which consumed Royal Canin
(Pedigree, Waltham’s, Cesar, Sheba, Temptations, Goodlife Recipe, Sensible Choice, Excel).

Procter and Gamble (P&G) purchased The Iams Company
(Iams, Eukanuba).

Colgate-Palmolive bought Hill’s Science Diet
(Hill’s Science Diet, Prescription Diets, Nature’s Best).

Yup, there you have it folks. The same people who make your tooth paste and your pickles and your mustard, and your candy bars, etectera, make your dog food. Dog food is sold to the owners who buy it, not to the dogs who have to eat it. On the outside of the bags there are pictures of plump whole chicken, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains, vegetables and all the wholesome nutrition your dog will ever need (even though dogs have thrived on leftovers and scraps from their owners for thousands of years). How do we know that what is on the inside of the bag is the same thing that is pictured on the outside of the bag? Oh, if you are a trained chemist and nutritionist and mathematician you can always read the label. The rest of us however just have to believe that the pet food companies know what is right for the dogs and that they have the dogs' best interests in mind. Yeah...right!

So, where are we? We need to brace ourselves for the coming dog food crisis. I would like to make basic, inexpensive dog food just for dogs, not for people who have dogs. I would have a test lab and look for ingredients that are not expensive but taste good to the dogs and do no harm. Forget about dogs living long lives. They weren't meant for that. After all, dogs are dogs. They don't even realize that they are going to die someday. They only live for today. What's the difference if they live five years or ten as long as they are healthy and happy? We need to think more about what makes them happy and less about what we want. The "plump whole chickens, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains, vegetables and all the wholesome nutrition that we can muster" should go to the children of the world and not to the dogs. In the end dogs just want to be our friends. I think that a little attention like a pat on the head and a ball to chase is all that a dog really needs to be content. I wrote in "A Dog's Life" about a saying in in Mexico that if you are kind to dogs while you live they will be waiting for you when you die to help you cross to the other side. I really expect that my friends will be waiting for me. It will be great to see them all again. For those of you who have lost a beloved pet I feel your pain. Whenever I lose one of my little friends I feel very bad...but take heart, you will see them again someday. God will want you to be happy. It has been said that in Heaven your Mom and Dad will be young again and your dog will be able to talk. What do you imagine your little doggie will say to you? He or she will probably say, "Well, what took you so long? Where have you been? I have been waiting patiently right here just for you."


Leslie Limon said...

God bless you, Bob! You are such a kind soul for feeding those dogs.

CancunCanuck said...

Great post, an important topic. I've noticed the price of pet food rising as well, we're paying a lot more for cat and dog food these days, when we have less money. The pets are tightening their belts too, but they've still got it a lot better than all the poor street animals. Kudos to you for doing your part.

glorv1 said...

That was a beautiful post. Thanks for watching over God's soulful animals. I really appreciate that you take the time to give to these creatures who cannot do without us. Yes, I do hope that my Chorizo is waiting there along with my son and my dad.

I think Chorizo would say, mom, I'm sorry I left you. You knew that I knew that I was dying on that Sunday afternoon, I had no choice ma, I had to go. Remember though when I wagged my tail 3 times, once for you, once for dad, and once for me. That was to let you know I was okay. See you mom, I'm waiting.
God bless you for taking care of these lost and hungry souls.
And Bob, they do know when they are dying, I can attest to that. Take care.

Constantino said...

I have had dogs my whole life and could not imagine living without them.
I ponder daily what a miracle it is that an animal can live in harmony with humans while they mistreat them and abuse them, they still show love and understanding to them anyway,
I appreciate my extended K9 family and will do anything to make their life better.
Sadly there is a large percentage of neglect and worse in Mexico.
By treating animals the way you do, you show your respect for nature and the careful balance that makes life rewarding. My deepest respect goes to people who go out of their way to care for creatures that cannot do for themselves.
Dog food has doubled in price in the last 24 months and will continue to as long as the conglomerates continue, that is a given. At least rice, and leftover chicken along with chicken stock is health for them and I don't mind sharing. After all they are our friends and family.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

Oldest Son is allergic to dogs and has allergy induced asthma so we do not have a dog yet. I had no idea pet food was going up in costs ...

YayaOrchid said...

That is just so kind of you to care for those animals! You have written a very heart wrenching post. On the one hand you mention the food situation for dogs, but more importantly, how there are children who need care in this world as well.

My Abuelita had a dog that lived to a ripe old age. Do you know what she fed that dog? Every day she would buy a half kilo of ground meat, and she would cook it and then throw in the leftover corn tortillas of the day (which she bought fresh every day). This made for a brothy, meaty treat for Fury, her dog. Tortilla soup! He was such a good guard dog, he never allowed anyone near the fence.

Hope your employer will continue to pay for the dog food.

norm said...

Dog food is made from grain, grain is being made into fuel, cheap food seems to be a thing of the past.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.