the smell of my desperation has become a stench

These furry children of ours

This post is brought to you in partnership with CANIDAE. You are going to want to read this one. All the way to the end.


Last Saturday was National Pet Day, and it happens to be the 13th anniversary of the day a woman walked into the lobby of the ASPCA in Pasadena, California with a five-week-old mutt on her shoulder. That mutt is now 13 years old and has for most of his life been able to balance strange objects on his head.


Chuck was a rambunctious puppy as most are. Having never owned a dog before he came into my life I just thought he was being awful, like he was choosing to make my life miserable. For example, he’d purposefully flip his water bowl over, look over his shoulder to make sure I had seen him do it and then run like a cheetah around the apartment, bouncing off of the couch and walls. He ate my flip flops and chewed holes in socks. He once yanked on a curtain so hard that the rod came out of the wall and fell on his head. He loved to bite.

A friend in the neighborhood recommended a trainer whom she said was worth every penny of the expense, so I called him immediately. Kevin came over to my apartment and within an hour Chuck was a different dog. Humbled, let’s say. I didn’t know what was acceptable in terms of disciplining a dog, and what Kevin showed me was not physical. It was totally mental: I am the human, he is the dog, and that dog needs to understand the hierarchy.

If a cat had been in the room the cat would have stood up on its hind legs, pointed at me and Chuck and said, “You’re both dogs.”

Kevin also owned a local pet supply store and had me come in to equip me with proper gear. The leash I was using was too long, and the harness I used to walk him was letting him think he was walking me. I hadn’t ever owned a pet, remember? I didn’t know whether or not he was supposed to think was walking me. This is what happens when you don’t do your research.

While I was stocking up on supplies I knew enough to pull Kevin out of earshot from everyone else to ask, “Is there anything I can do about the fact that he smells like a dog?”

Yes. I did. I asked that.

Turns out YOU GUYS that it wasn’t a stupid question. Kevin asked what I was feeding him, and when I shrugged and rattled off something I’d found at the grocery store he walked me over to a specific pallet of dog food. It was called CANIDAE, and he leaned over to whisper in my ear, “I run a business so I can’t sell just one brand of dog food. But if I could this store would carry only this.”

He explained that the reason some dogs smell so bad is because of the crappy food they eat and even promised me that if I fed him this exclusively that he wouldn’t smell at all. So I picked up a bag, slung it over my shoulder and have fed Chuck no other brand since. In fact, when I moved from LA back to Utah I had to call Kevin and ask him if he knew of a place in Utah where I could find CANIDAE. I used to drive 30 minutes out of my way every month or so to buy a bag or two until a small pet boutique closer to my house started carrying it. That’s how loyal I’ve been to this brand.

Chuck and Coco have eaten nothing but CANIDAE their entire lives.

In January I flew out to Southern California for the day to meet with this small family-owned company where every employee’s dog roamed free and greeted me with bellies to scratch. They had reached out to me about collaborating on something having no idea that I’ve been a CANIDAE devotee for 13 years. What I learned there was both simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. I sat down with Scott Whipple, CEO and Owner of CANIDAE and listened to his story, their story.

They are one of the last independent companies making pet food and refuse to sell themselves to some bigger conglomerate because they outright reject the notion that to fulfill demand you have to resort to putting anything into the food that is potentially harmful to animals. Like, say, “chicken” manufactured in China that distinctly resembles styrofoam. Larger pet food brands are manufacturing food that contains things you would not recognize, ingredients you’d never be able to spell, things you’d never want to touch with your hands. And animals are suffering because of it.

This explained so much to me, and it was another one of those moments where I was like DUH!

I’ve taken Chuck and Coco to the same vet in Utah since I moved here in 2002. At every checkup and exam the vets there have always said, “Chuck looks and acts no different than the puppy you brought in here years ago.” His blood work convinces them that he’s at least eight or nine years younger than he is. Yes, he gets walked every day and exercises regularly, but I remember how I felt and how my own myriad ailments cleared up when I stopped eating garbage.

“You are what you eat” applies to your pets, too. This particular bag is what they’ve been eating for the last few years:


And. So…

Last week I took Chuck to the vet… sorry. Hold on. This is really hard to write.

I’ve mentioned that Chuck has been peeing and pooping around the house lately, and for the last six months it’s been intermittent enough that I thought it was a behavioral issue. I thought that specifically because I’ve seen him lift his leg to pee on the couch because I didn’t give him any of the bacon on my plate. He lifted his leg. That’s not incontinence. That’s young Chuck flipping over his water bowl.

However, in the last couple of months it has advanced to the point that he is pooping and peeing in the house all the time. In the last two weeks he has peed or pooped or done both in his crate at night 12 times. Something is wrong.

The vet did blood work and ran every test he could think of to check for anything and everything, and then I waited four days for the results to come in. Every day I examined horrible scenarios in my brain that I know better than to examine, specifically diabetes or some sort of kidney disorder. When he finally called he heard me catch my breath.

“Well, I have the results… and I don’t know whether to say that this is the best news possible or the worst,” he began.

“Okay,” I said. “At the moment that does nothing for my anxiety.”

“Oh, I don’t want to worry you,” he explained. “You see, I haven’t ever seen this kind of blood work in a dog his age, not in my entire career. It’s like I drew blood from a dog ten years younger.”


I think he could hear my eyes blinking very loudly. And all the heads nodding furiously over at CANIDAE headquarters.

“I guess that’s where the bad news comes in. You can’t really fix this.”

“But why?” I pressed. “He’s doing it inside his crate. That’s not normal.”

“I’m certain that it’s his nerve weakness in his hind area. And that just happens with age. There’s really nothing wrong with him except he happened to get old.”

The vet had performed a physical test on Chuck where he lifted both of Chuck’s front feet off of the ground. He pressed one foot in the direction it shouldn’t face and Chuck corrected it immediately. He then performed the same test on his back legs. Chuck never corrected either foot. In fact, he gently sat Chuck back down with his back paw turned under and still, Chuck did not correct it.

Chuck cannot feel much in his hind area anymore. He can’t jump into the back of the car, is very slow to climb stairs, and he can’t run. The vet detected no pain whatsoever due to this nerve weakness, although we’re trying a round of anti-inflammatories to see if it makes even the slightest difference in his gait.

His advice was to continue doing whatever I’ve been doing to keep him so phenomenally healthy at his age and keep taking him on moderate walks.

The Former Congressman is now in diapers for the rest of his life.



I can be sad about this, feel angry and defeated, even indignant about the daily laundry possessing a stench that could melt steel. Or I can take this in stride and continue to keep the promise I made to this dog in April of 2002: I will take care of you for the rest of your life. The best care possible.


I will make him as comfortable as I can and do my best to ensure that his blood work comes back as clean as it did last week for as long as he continues to write moody poetry.


CANIDAE would like to offer some coupons to you and your own pet: $5 off bags, $2 off cans, $1 off treats


Thank you, CANIDAE, for making food that has nourished my dogs their entire lives and your commitment to every animal you feed. #HealthyPetHappyPet

  • kmpinkel

    2015/04/14 at 9:38 am

    Poor Chuck. It is bad enough that he has had to suffer the humiliations that you put him through, solely for the purpose of our benefit (Thank you, Chuck), but now doggie diapers. I hope he takes comfort in the stench you must endure, I am sure its ten time worse than his farts. But the diapers actually look ridiculously cute, not many dogs can pull off that look.

  • LLindeman

    2015/04/14 at 9:40 am

    I have lived with this with two dogs. We lined the inside of their dog beds with the plastic lined sheets you can get for kids.

    We had very good luck with Caneva elk antler powder helping the nerve issue. It improved the life of both dogs for months.

  • Erin Human

    2015/04/14 at 9:49 am

    Poor Chuck. Oh the indignity of adult diapers! We used to feed our cocker spaniel high quality food, in our case Solid Gold was what was available at our local store (though we have tried and like Canidae too). However, at age 8 he developed chronic UTIs and we had to switch him to a prescription dog food to prevent UTI that I don’t think is as good. I wish some of the good kibble companies could make prescription food too, because I know their food is better quality.

  • Michelle

    2015/04/14 at 10:03 am

    Long time reader, first time poster. I have a doxie who often suffers from back issues (IVDD) and when he has a flare, he can’t find his back feet, like Chuck, and will fall over. What has helped in the past is acupuncture (electroacupuncture if you can find it). It may be worth a try. But those diapers are very adorable. Hugs to you and Chuck!

  • JerseyGirl59

    2015/04/14 at 10:06 am

    Poor boy. It sucks when our furbabies get old. We went through the same things with our Peaches when she was about 11. She started peeing while laying down sleeping. We placed a plastic sheet under her doggy bed and that made cleanup somewhat easier, but she was a long haired dog and her fur was a mess. But we persevered. Kept her fur on her back end trimmed close. Bathed her back end daily. Then her front paws got arthritic (so bad that she fell down the stairs), and then slowly, her back legs began giving out. We did the Rimadyl and the Glucosamine Chondroitin chews and they worked for about a year. We had to carry her up and down the stairs to take her out. It got to where we’d get her outside and she couldn’t even stand to go to the bathroom anymore. It was so hard but we knew it was time to let her go. Chuck is so lucky that he has you to care for him at this time of his life. And hey…it’s not like you’ve not cause him indignity before 🙂

  • Karen Bernstein

    2015/04/14 at 10:12 am

    We had a dog with a spinal cord injury who lived happily dragging his hind quarters around for years. One time he managed to crawl out of the doggy door and dragged his butt down the street for a quarter mile, all in the wee hours so nobody knew he was gone until the neighbor brought him back. When he no longer had the strength to get out of his own bed we chose to put him down. I am sorry that Chuck has declined in this way but I’m so glad he has you for his person. And thanks for the coupons – we might check out this food on our next purchase!

  • Elizabeth

    2015/04/14 at 10:15 am

    I agree with some of the other comments I see below – acupuncture or chiropractic care might help. It’s certainly worth a try. My 3 year old dog was lame for a year and these things helped heal her.

  • Catherine

    2015/04/14 at 10:23 am

    Tangent coming. As someone who has read you for years, I ask: Why are there suddenly GIFs in every post? Are you trying to, ahem, draw a “younger audience”? Because this 27-year-old is particularly pissed that one of her favorite writers now reads like Buzzfeed. #teammaketheGIFsgoaway

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 10:39 am


  • Melissa Golding

    2015/04/14 at 10:43 am

    I’m, so sorry, Heather. We lost our 14 y/o lab/great dane in January. He had nerve problems and arthritis but otherwise was super healthy. Acupuncture helps. We did cold laser therapy for the arthritis, which helped help move around better. Our sweet boy was doing the same thing around the house but we were at least able to make sure he wasn’t in pain. It is profoundly unfair that our dogs, who are such sweet, perfect souls, leave us long before we’re ready. Hang in there. You’re doing a great job and I’ll be thinking of you as you make this transition with Chuck.

  • Chai_bella

    2015/04/14 at 10:43 am

    You’re an incredible person. I work at a shelter and you have no idea how many people would’ve brought him in to be euthanized just because “he got too old” or was “too much work.” Thank you for being an incredible advocate for senior dogs and Chuck is SO lucky he has you! (Though I’m sure he’d moodily disagree and then write a sonnet about the horrors of his life.)

  • Rachel

    2015/04/14 at 10:49 am

    I have two large, elderly, incontinent dogs, one because of senility, and one because of that same nerve issue in his hind end. The senile dog is too confused for diapers, and the dog with the nerve issue is such a chewer that diapers aren’t safe. Both have to be in sight at all times because when they have to go, they have to go NOW, and I typically just make life easier by taking them outside every hour, on the dot, to prevent accidents. They nap and sleep through the night on dog-only towels in their crates for when they go in their sleep, and I do heaps of eyeball-melting laundry because of it. I’m looking for a hind-end harness that can be comfortably slept in, because not being able to feel his back legs means walking on smooth surfaces without help is nearly impossible.

    It’s been three years like this, and they are still happy as anything. I know that any day I could look in their eyes and see that they need help to die, or find that they won’t wake after a nap, but in the meantime I just make do, and give a lot of baths and appreciate the mixed blessing of having my boys around much longer than anyone would have predicted.

  • Catherine

    2015/04/14 at 11:03 am

    You responded! Okay, okay–GIF away. Let’s be honest, I’ll keep reading no matter how #teamparticularlypissed I get. #teamdooce4lyfe #evenwithawfulGIFs #teamchucksdiapersarecute

  • KristenfromMA

    2015/04/14 at 11:05 am

    I’m the mayor of gif town, and I approve. You’ve chosen well. Keep up the good work.

  • Carrie Kellogg Wiggins

    2015/04/14 at 11:05 am

    My mom has a much smaller dog, who is just a little asshole and insists on peeing and pooping in the house. She also uses a high quality dog food, which results in nice, firm, easy to pick up poop. As far as the pee is concerned, she made some belly bands and uses maxi pads for absorbing the pee. I’m not sure if this is possible, due to Chuck’s size, but it may reduce the awful laundry. As an aside – I clothed diapered both my kiddos and dog pee is SO MUCH WORSE than baby pee.

  • Michele Behnke-Nead

    2015/04/14 at 11:17 am

    I honestly read “Canidae” at first as “Candida” and wondered why you were writing about yeast infections and your dogs… Thank you for being such a fantastic dog owner. You have no idea how many dogs get surrendered because people don’t want to deal with old age in their pets.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 11:18 am

    I thought it indicated my getting older because I think these gifs are hysterical (like I love a good fart joke). I feel like a little old granny sitting at the computer giggling like a maniac. #TeamWillShowMoreRestraintGoingForward

  • Cynthia

    2015/04/14 at 11:25 am

    I wanted to snag the discount for my furchild, Sweet Potato. I can only type in Sweet Pot on the Canidae website. I feel like I am ordering coupons for a porn star.

    BTW, I had to use belly bands on my dog before he passed. Pads really do help with absorption.

  • Ken P.

    2015/04/14 at 11:29 am

    I lost my Sheltie to lymphoma when she was 14+ but lead an overall healthy life. Cherish every moment with Chuck (and Coco). Rock on, Chuck!

  • Catherine

    2015/04/14 at 11:31 am

    Well now I feel like an old fart for disapproving. A 27-year-old fart. (Ew.) Just think your writing is strong enough/funny enough/witty enough without Buzzfeeding it up in here, and was genuinely wondering (alas, in what now clearly seems a trolly-commenting way) whether there were going to be GIFs all the time. But if I could, now I’d put the “haters gonna hate” GIF right here. And maybe link to Shake it Off for added emphasis.

  • TinaBelchersawkwardmoan

    2015/04/14 at 11:49 am

    Chuck is so very lucky to have you guys, and he knows it.

  • Gerry

    2015/04/14 at 11:57 am

    We just went through this with our 15-y.o. black dog. He wasn’t pooping/peeing in the house, but he had been on pain meds for several years, and the cartilage was just gone from his back hips. There simply wasn’t anything else to be done, and his enjoyment of life had really diminished. With much anguish and tears/snot, we put him down just last week before anything worse could happen.

  • Becky

    2015/04/14 at 12:08 pm

    My doxie has IVDD too, with two spinal surgeries to prove it 🙂 For his flare ups we do a round of steroids (Prednisone) and a muscle relaxant – in a week or so he’s back to feeling awesome. During that week though, the peeing actually gets worse, because of the steroids, but the short term mess is worth the long term feeling better.

  • LFDianne

    2015/04/14 at 12:18 pm

    We lost our 16 year old dog last summer. We’d had him for 14 years. He just got old, arthritis, almost blind, also had the nerve thing and was in pain, and the vet thought he had cancer, but at that age, we wouldn’t have treated him for it. We kept him comfortable until our son came home from college, so he could say goodbye to “his” dog. It was heartbreaking, but he’d lived a good, long happy life.

  • Kim Calland

    2015/04/14 at 12:22 pm

    Oh my goodness, when I read “This is really hard to write..” I LITERALLY had instant tears! I’m so happy that it is just old age. There are so many worse things that could happen to an ASPCA Mutt than to reach old age and have to wear diapers!

  • Becky

    2015/04/14 at 12:41 pm

    hugs and
    lol at Chuck’s diaper 😉

  • Larissa

    2015/04/14 at 12:43 pm

    I did the same thing Kim, automatically teared up. Phew. Happy to hear Chuck will continue to grace you with his stench for quite a while longer Heather.

  • REK981

    2015/04/14 at 12:57 pm

    My Zeus is 11 now. We are headed towards pee pee diapers with him. He is still a delightful little guy. Thank you for sharing Chuck with us all these years.

  • Lana @ The Joy Blog

    2015/04/14 at 12:59 pm

    I teared up. I’ve been silently following your site for years. And fell in love with Chuck balancing some inane object on his head 6 years ago. I think it was the same day that I read the sentence, “Coco is a bigot.”

  • Leslie Ristaneo

    2015/04/14 at 1:00 pm

    I have two dogs going through this exact same thing. My 15 year old Beagle has it the worst. She can be standing totally fine, then the back end just starts leaning to one side, and she has no idea. Sometimes she falls, sometimes she catches herself, but she’s not in any pain. It kills me every time. Both dogs are on Rimadyl, it does seem to help them a bit, but it still goes on. Like you, I made a promise to these two rascals, that I fully intend to keep. I’ll keep you and Chuck in my thoughts.

  • Sarah

    2015/04/14 at 1:23 pm

    My 14 yr old has had this same issue for about 4 years. My vet prescribed Proin for the incontinence (which is due to the nerve issue) and it completely took care of the peeing-while-sleeping issue. I’m not sure if this would help Chuck, mine did not also have the problem with pooping. I also switched to making his dog food myself about 2 years ago and his bloodwork has steadily improved and is now straight down the middle normal.

  • Kate

    2015/04/14 at 1:24 pm

    I too use this brand of food for my cat and it’s had a significant positive impact on her health. I got her at a shelter two years ago, where they were feeding her absolute garbage, and she was really sick until I switched to this brand after going to my fancy-pants boutique pet store and asking them what to buy. It’s a little expensive but it’s worth every penny, and I’m glad to hear that the company is a good one with good values. Thanks for writing this.

  • Beth Rich

    2015/04/14 at 1:26 pm

    I’m tearing up because my Oreo is 13.

  • jillyj

    2015/04/14 at 2:36 pm

    Tears here, too. So sorry to hear this as my sweet Myra-girl (at age 14 and a half) is going through the exact same back-end weakness. I made her the same promise you made to Chuck…care for the rest of her life, the best care. Love to you all.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 2:47 pm

    Insert the heart emoji here. Love to you, too.

  • Chloe

    2015/04/14 at 2:47 pm

    Dammit, who’s cutting onions in here?? I lost my elderly Pembroke Welsh Corgi a few years back to the canine version of MS, so you have all of my sympathy! I am so glad Chuck is doing well otherwise – you are obviously the right person for your dog 🙂

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. They told me story after story exactly like yours, and they showed me some of the ingredients larger pet food companies are trying to pass off as “food.” Some of it resembled charcoal. They are a small company who are *really* passionate about animals and providing the highest possible quality for them when it comes to food. For me the extra cost is so worth it. I love this company.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 3:01 pm

    “It kills me every time.” Yes, this exactly. I’ll keep your dogs in my thoughts as well.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 3:03 pm

    I remember that post! We were actually at the vet and she went insane and started barking at a little person. Everyone in that lobby wanted to die.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 3:04 pm

    The diaper pins add a special touch, I think.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 3:06 pm

    Thank you. My kids are both out of that stage and now one of my dogs is entering it. So much perspective comes from taking care of a pet.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/04/14 at 3:07 pm

    Looking into those now. Also, Sweet Pot is going to love the food.

  • susanfishy

    2015/04/14 at 3:26 pm

    Chai bella — An honest question for you. We put our 17 year old cat down a few years ago when our vet said she was suffering with inoperable cancer. Our choice was to give her a good death after giving her a good life. It’s awful to see people put down pets for their own convenience but I’m curious what you think about allowing a pet a good death instead of suffering. Not that that is what I’m seeing in Chuck’s situation at all, but I am curious to know.

  • Jeanie

    2015/04/14 at 4:12 pm

    It’s pure hell when your dog gets old. I was surely sad to see this happen to Chuck. I can’t tell you how much I admire you for your attitude.

  • ali

    2015/04/14 at 5:52 pm

    Owner of a 16.5 year old Lhasa who also has the labwork and mood of a puppy. She went through the incontinence and weakness about a year ago. So sad…her legs would splay in a way that just didn’t look right.
    A course of glucosamine, reducing her up/down stairs frequency, and keeping her warm really helped.
    I know the struggle of an older dog…she is deaf now and I panick every time she doesn’t wake fast enough for me!

  • amy

    2015/04/14 at 6:46 pm

    DAMN. That video made me tear up! And then I chuckled (sorry) Chuck in diapers. Yeah, huge pain in the ass for you but what is the alternative? I would do it for mine if necessary. Thanks for spreading the message that age and incontinence go hand in hand and it IS doable and only right. Head scratch for Chuck, pat on the back for you.

  • MallyMon

    2015/04/14 at 6:56 pm

    Poor Chuck, and poor you. But thank you for not abandoning him. I wanted to try some cat Canidae but apparently we won’t be having it in the UK until August this year(!) and you’ve had it for years and years over there . . . I think my cat (who throws up more than your average kit but has been assessed by her vet and is healthy in spite of it) would benefit from it and I’ll be trying it as soon as it arrives.

  • davanita

    2015/04/14 at 8:07 pm

    this’ll teach me never to read another chuck post of yours at work. now my makeup is ruined! #cryingatwork

    all my thoughts to your dogs! will hug mine extra hard when I get home tonight

  • Megan Foley

    2015/04/14 at 8:56 pm

    Rachel, try a Help Em Up Harness. Sounds ridiculous but works great.mused it on my lab after each of his 2 knee surgeries.

  • RzDrms

    2015/04/14 at 9:54 pm

    For me, moveable gifs = how you feel about links opening a new window. (!!!) Or interstitial ads! #DownWithMoveableStuff #JustFeedMeWords!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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