Lately, dog food has gotten me down.
Before we got a dog, I was anxious about how much pet ownership was going to cost. I knew that dog food could be very expensive or it could be very cheap, but I wanted to be a Good Dog Owner. I was afraid that my desire to be a responsible pet parent would conflict with my desire to not spend very much money on anything ever. I did a little research online. Consumer Reports told me that dog food is dog food, and that as long as it says "nutritionally complete," then it was fine. I felt like a savvy customer, not falling for clever dog food marketing.
I went to Wal-Mart to scope out the options. Next to every name brand was a bag of Ol' Roy that was meant to compete with it. So if you were a Purina kinda person, right next to it was a bag of Ol' Roy in the same color, a couple of bucks cheaper. Or if you were Iams all the way, there was an Ol' Roy for you, too. It's a pretty clever strategy. They're assuming that people are attached to their dog food brands. So if they only made Ol' Roy to compete with Purina, those Iams folks would walk on by and never even consider the store brand option.
I was disappointed that while I could get Ol' Roy in a variety of knockoff flavors, it still was only a couple of bucks less than the name brand. And then I found Twin Pet. Man, that is some cheap dog food. While the Ol' Roy bags come in a variety of bold colors, featuring happy and energetic family pets, Twin Pet comes in a beige bag. On the front is a beagle that looks sort of sad and plaintive, as if he is saying, "Gruel again?" While the name "Ol' Roy" conjures up an image of a faithful hunting dog, "Twin Pet" doesn't give you any sort of picture at all. What the heck is a Twin Pet?
I bought the Twin Pet. I bought 15 pounds of it for $4. It's funny that there is this ultra-cheap option for the ultra-cheap (or ultra-poor). Maybe Ol' Roy costs the same as Twin Pet to manufacture, but I bet they sell more of it if they put the price closer to the name brand options. I know from experience that buying Twin Pet makes you feel like a jerk.
Consumer Reports or not, I felt like a bad owner for spending so little. I normally don't buy into the idea that you have to pay more to get more; in fact, in any other case, I would feel superior and smart for not falling for that myth. But no, I just feel bad. Here Remix, I only love you $4 worth.
She seemed to eat it; in fact, Remix can set records for eating speed. And she seemed healthy and energetic. She was enthusiastic at feeding times, and in my mind, I tried to imagine her saying "Twin Pet! Twin Pet!" like a dog in a commercial. Then she said a bunch of other silly things, because I sure do like pretending my dog can talk.
At some point, I read an article about dog food. Reading an article about anything is a dangerous activity. The article talked about corn in dog food. Basically, it said that most dog foods have a high corn content, but that is a waste of your money. Because dogs can't even digest corn, so it's basically just a filler. Dogs are naturally supposed to eat mostly meat with just a little bit of vegetables ("roughage" - yum!), but not grain. So the dog is not getting good nutrients, and is basically just a machine that turns corn into poop. Also, they will age faster and die sooner (but only after racking up a lot of expensive corn-related medical bills). I was already feeling a little guilty about the Twin Pet, and now I was feeling worse. Because if anything was chock full of useless filler, it had to be the Twin Pet.
So I went back to the dog food aisle to check out the various Ol' Roy options. I was even thinking about more expensive brands, depending on just how expensive they got. After all, I love my dog. I want her to be happy and healthy, to reach her full doggy potential.
Guys, all the dog food has corn in it. ALL OF IT. Ninety percent of them had corn as the first or second ingredient, even the snooty organic ones. I found one brand that did not have corn in the first five ingredients. It was made by Rachael Ray, who appears smiling on the cover with her rescued pitbull. However, I happen to know that her pitbull bit somebody, so maybe she's feeding it too much meat.
I checked every single bag. I got pretty frustrated right there in the dog food aisle. Finally, I gave up and bought a bag of Ol' Roy that had corn as the fourth ingredient. It was $11 for 18 pounds, more than twice the cost per pound of Twin Pet. I took my relatively expensive dog food and my irritation home. Then I looked on the internet to find out what kind of mixed up world will only sell you dog food that your dog can't even digest.
The thing is, there is not really a consensus on the corn issue. There are articles going either way, and then below them are comments calling the authors of said article an idiot. Dogs can't digest corn, they're carnivores! I've been feeding my dog Purina for 15 years and she's healthy as a horse! I make my own dog food! I run a kennel and have never had a problem!
Nothing sounded particularly authoritative. No one seemed to have any data beyond anecdotes or vague ideas about what was "natural." At the end of it, I pretty much sided with cost and availability. I am not going to cook my own dog food, nor am I going to pay $2 a pound for some stuff that I can only get over the internet. At some point I realized that most of the pets in the country were eating the corny stuff, and they managed to live pretty happy, healthy lives. At some point, you have to decide that it's probably good enough. That's the kind of practical thinking that makes me sound like a terrible person. You know, the kind that feeds her dog Twin Pet.
However, I have switched to Ol' Roy. I'm just a sucker that way.