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.

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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.

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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:

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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