Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

On Chuck, his health, and those who care so deeply about it

This post is brought to you in partnership with CANIDAE®.

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EDITED TO ADD: 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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Last week I had an appointment to have my eyebrows waxed—yes. You read that right. WAX. Simple plucking would not even make a dent in these things:

#tbt Senior photos, summer of 1992. You could use those eyebrows to upholster at least seven couches.

A photo posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

My aesthetician also happens to be a very good friend of mine whom I met at a dog park when I was pregnant with Leta. Her name is Heather as well, and her boxer Oakley and Chuck would play for hours while we chatted about life, relationships, and the latest episode of “The Sopranos.” On several occasions after Leta was born she’d offer to pick up Chuck and take him on playdates knowing that I was overwhelmed with new motherhood, and because of this Chuck developed a not-so-subtle crush on her. One time she pulled into the driveway, and when I opened the door I wasn’t quick enough. Chuck ran past my legs, out into the yard and then threw his body at her car.

It made a “thud” sound.

As Heather began prepping the wax, we started talking about Chuck’s health, and she asked how he’s holding up. I told her about the outrage certain people expressed when I traveled to California with my friends, people who left rather nasty comments on social media and in email disgusted that I would leave him. One reader said to me, “Not sure what to say to you at this point.”

I didn’t respond to that email because my energy was required elsewhere, but my answer would have been, “You don’t get to say anything.”

As important as Chuck is to so many people who have never met him, no one but Chuck and I get to have a say in his care. I realized that there are many camps around “what should happen to Chuck” and they are all very divided. I am getting bombarded with opinions about this. Some people cannot believe that I have not put him down already. No dog should have to wake up in a wet or soiled diaper, they say. That’s not a life a dog should be living.

Other’s say that they are happy that I’m giving him this care, but that I should not ever leave his side. While he’s showing very serious signs of slowing down and spends entire days in his dog bed, there are also days when he seems to be bouncing back, days when he is eager to go outside and soak in the sun, days when he lingers near the counter where the girls are eating lunch in case Marlo drops a goldfish cracker, days when his mood is clearly upbeat:

Leftover cinnamon roll dish. Sunday fun day.

A video posted by Heather B. Armstrong (@dooce) on

I’ve decided that I am going to listen to no one but him. He has always owned a part of my soul, and we’re communicating now more than ever. So I check in with him constantly. He and I know what’s up, and that’s all that matters. That is and has always been my commitment to him. And it is the same commitment I am offering to you, you who love him but have never met him. I am always going to do what’s best for that dog.

According to the vet, in fact, he’s healthy enough to live for years. When I mentioned this to Heather she said that her vet says the same thing about Oakley who is only a year younger than Chuck, and Oakley is demonstrating the same kind of behavior. I told her that in Chuck’s case I know for a fact that he could live on for years because of the food I feed him, CANIDAE®, and her mouth dropped open.

“Shut up,” she said. We are friendly enough that I took that the way that it was intended. “That is the only food I will feed my dogs.”

“YOU shut up,” I said in return.

“No, seriously,” she continued. “I thought I was the only person who knew about that stuff. Like, I ran out of it one time and couldn’t make it to the place where I buy it, so I had to buy this cheap stuff at the grocery store for a night. It grossed me out so bad.”

I am not making a word of this up or exaggerating for effect.

I told her that I had met with the company back in January, and that I wish she could hear how passionate they are when it comes to making the food. They clearly care about animals. They care about Chuck. They care about Oakley. I’m currently in a partnership with CANIDAE®, one, because I absolutely adore the company and their dedication to the people who work for them and the people they serve, and two, because it, too, is the only thing I will feed my dogs. That conversation got me thinking. Anyone who has a pet should hear about the current state of the food that’s being peddled as “healthy” and “organic” and “good for your animal” and why that is pretty much a bald-faced lie.

So I arranged a call with CANIDAE®’s co-owner and co-founder Scott Whipple who through the phone expressed the same fervor I witnessed earlier this year.

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Me: Let’s start with the ingredients inside a bag of pet food at the grocery store.

Scott: Let’s talk about ingredients! Yes! What is normally used in traditional pet food? Pet food is created by byproducts of other industries. For example: the potato chip industry. When they peel the potatoes to make the potato chips they’re left with tons of skins. What do you do with a million pounds of skins? You sell them off to the animal industry because they can put it in the food.

So dog food companies take these scraps, basically waste, put it all together and make pet food. The customer goes to the grocery store and buys a grocery store brand of pet food that contains those ingredients. That food is also per bag very appealing price wise. Byproducts are cheap. The consumer is used to spending that type of money.

Me: Right, they see a bag of dog food that costs $40 and are like, “What a rip off!”

Scott: Exactly! I have seen brands of dog food that sell at a price point lower than one single ingredient that we could buy. What is in that food? Figure out how much the ingredients you buy cost per pound. Times that number by a 24-pound bag? 30-pound bag? How are they selling that food for $1 per pound? What costs a dollar a pound? Go to the grocery store, walk around. NOTHING costs $1 per pound. Tomatoes are $2.50 a pound! Times that one single ingredient by 30 pounds and think about what’s in that pet food.

Potato chips, I always use this one. Look at what a potato chip bag costs. It’s potatoes, it’s oil, it’s salt. Take that potato chip bag and figure out how many ounces it is. Figure out the price per ounce. Multiply that by 30. Figure out how much it would cost to buy 30 pounds of potato chips. It would cost you $300 for a bag of potato chips! Potatoes, oil and salt!

How is pet food $30 per bag when the same amount of potato chips is $300? If you do even more math it costs you, what? $1 per day to feed your dog? What is your dog worth? I have a Chihuahua and a Yorkie, and I would gladly pay $5 per dog to feed them every day if it’s going to make them live a happy, healthy life.

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Me: How is CANIDAE® different from what you see on the shelf at the grocery store?

Scott: 19 years ago we said, let’s make a product using whole, pure ingredients. We believe in using only the most natural and raw natural ingredients in their purest form rather than scraps.

99% of pet food companies are owned by huge conglomerates who own many businesses in other channels. They’re already making potato chips and crackers and bread with huge amounts of leftover waste. And what do they do with it? Put in the pet food. That is not food in it’s purest form. It’s been processed. There’s no nutrition left in that ingredient.

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Me: So would you say that the idea to start CANIDAE® come from a love of animals?

Scott: Absolutely. When John and I started it we worked at a feed store. We sold all these brands, we sold other people’s products, we heard what they did and how they acted and it just wasn’t right. Pets… you know, these are people’s babies, these are people’s family members.

Each one of these huge entities that owns a pet food brand is driven by margin and profit, right? What’s the one way you can increase margin and profit? Ingredients. If they can save 5% here, 10% there buying cheaper, inferior ingredients, they can increase profit.

Corporations are held to one standard: creating margin and profit for the stockholders. The health of your pet is never brought up in the meetings with those stockholders.

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Me: And the health of my pet is important to me.

Scott: Of course it is! As a private, family-held company we don’t have to have those difficult meetings. We’re not driven by private equity money. We don’t have stockholders in a board room going, “How are you going to make us 20% more margin?” We aren’t faced with that. That’s not a concern for us.

We think totally opposite of that. We make the best product we can, and where the price point ends up it ends up. The quality of the food is what will make us successful, period. These massive companies aren’t even using the food that is on their labels. And consumers should be furious. I don’t know why this isn’t getting more attention than it is. They have the money for the marketing to hide it. It goes on every day.

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Me: You’re thinking about the health of my pet?

Scott: I’d like to say we care more. People’s trust has been put upon us, and I would not ever want to be part of harming or making even one animal sick. Our protocols are around food safety and quality.

We are one of the last surviving independently owned pet food companies, and we’re fighting every day to remain that way. That keeps us in control of the ingredients, supply chains, and more importantly, testing. In our plant we put in a lab that tests every single incoming ingredient before it ever gets unloaded into our facility. There are toxins that grow naturally in grains, and if no one is searching for these things, then they get into the pet food and can harm your animal. If you’re not testing for bacteria and it gets into the food it can actually kill your pet.

Me: I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a bit and come at you from someone who doesn’t understand why anyone would let an animal sleep in their house. Dogs and wolves? They scavenged. Why would a dog need healthy food?

Scott: The answer to that? Dogs are domesticated. They are not wild. A wild animal only eats every three-five days in the wild and lives about 10% the lifespan of a domesticated animal. We want our domesticated animals to have healthy nutrition on a daily basis so that they live for long periods of time. Comparing the way wolves eat and dogs eat is a twist of reality.

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Me: Do you ever hear from consumers? Like, I told you guys in our first meeting that the smell of my puppy completely changed once I switched to CANIDAE®.

Scott: Every day we hear the most amazing stories. We get so many emails a week thanking us for changing the lives of people’s pets. You can see the difference. Their coats glistened, their eyes got brighter, teeth got whiter. These are huge noticeable differences when you switch from an inferior product to a product like ours.

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Me: What would you say to a pet owner about what you are trying to do for them?

Scott: What’s important to us and should be to the consumer is knowing who is behind the brand. That’s probably more important than reading a bag.

There’s lots of great marketing messages, brilliant marketing firms who spin out these beautiful packages and tell such beautiful stories, right? But what’s really in the food? Who’s behind the brand?

We use better digestible ingredients, period. That’s where the proof is. It’s not in the marketing, the TV commercials, not in the fancy packaging. All of that is a façade.

We want to ensure that our consumer’s pets are healthy and safe. And that’s a huge responsibility. That is the number one most important thing to us. I mean, if we can’t do that then I don’t want to be in this business.

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EDITED TO ADD: 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

  • Jamie

    You listen to Chuck and you just keep us posted <3

  • kmpinkel

    The Senator will always have the final word.

  • cathyburke

    I just went through this with my dog of 15 this past November. You will know. it will be super hard for you, but you will know. Chuck knows you are there for him even when you are away on a trip. Keep living your life as he has lived his! The haters can stuff it. They don’t get a vote.

  • It’s so important that people become more educated about what they are feeding their dogs and change their expectations about what it should cost. My dogs eat a rotation diet of high quality brands, the very best that I can afford.

    That picture of baby Chuck is IMPOSSIBLE. As a dog blogger I always look forward to your dog posts, even the hard ones. I lost both of my 14 year old dogs within ten days of each other and I know all about the daily evaluations, the rallies and the minute by minute decisions. Love to you and Chuck.

  • Kim

    EXACTLY right. It’s between you and Chuck and no one else. Judgy McJudgersons have obviously never been in your place. Eff em.

  • Amanda

    Been there, did not have an international audience of “expert dog owner” opinions judging me though so I really feel for you. I felt guilty when I chose to leave for various things & reasons, but knew I needed to. I also felt 100% confident that I gave him the best care & best life possible. Hell, he probably needed a break from me hovering over him all the time & enjoyed me being gone here & there. Thinking all the positive things for you & Chuck. Also, the puppy picture is precious. Love seeing him before his body grew into his attitude.

  • Denise Wallace

    I switched to Canidae for our Lilly after I read your last post about it. I did my research and switched her right over. I, too, do the very best I can for our furry little love and I’m so grateful to you for posting about this food. And, Long Live Chuck! o:)

  • MsP68

    I’ve put down many elderly animals so far in my adult life. Listening to them is exactly how I did it. You keep listening to Chuck and keep ignoring people who advise anything else. You’ll know when he’s ready.

  • Cynthia

    I switched also. My cat eats their dry food. She doesn’t like their wet food. My foster dog is eating it too. If I decide to keep her, I want her healthy. If someone chooses to adopt her, I want her as healthy as possible for the new owner.

  • Cynthia

    I know a lot of people started reading Heather because of the post-partum depression. I started reading her because I loved her photos of Chuck and her musical tastes.

  • misszoot

    It never occurred to me that you should be doing anything other than exactly what you’re doing. (For the record, even if I had though you should be doing something else, I would never have the audacity to tell you that.) I watched one dog deteriorate with cancer and another deteriorated mentally – it was tough both times and I don’t wish that experience upon my worst enemy. I know I don’t actually know you or Chuck, but I think of you both often right now with my own senior dog who could also “live for years” if I’m lucky.

  • Melissa

    Okay, so people just suck. Our Labrador retriever, Otis, had the same problems as Chuck. You do the best you can and make life as easy as you can for him AND for you. It’s hard and it’s emotionally draining. You can’t just quit your life and stay home every single day. These people who say “How could you leave?!” are actually saying “You should be sitting at home every minute waiting for your dog to die.” They have NO idea. Geez. I’m getting pissed off. =) You listen to Chuck. The two of you together will know what to do. There will be doubts, we had them, but know that, in the end, only you know him and everything that you do or don’t do when it comes to making him as healthy and happy and comfortable as this wears on is the right thing. Love from us and our labs to you and Chuck.

  • Sarah Lawton

    My now 5 year old dog got very very sick last year. So sick the vet told me to either put him down or give him all my money and keep my fingers crossed. I went with the second, he recovered, but has not been as healthy since. I’ve been switching foods, trying to find the right kind to keep him as healthy as possible, and then I read your first post about Canidae. I’d never heard of it, but checked it out, ordered it, and haven’t looked back. He is so much happier, and his butt no longer makes smells that curl your toes. Thank you for sharing what I hope will give my dog his best life.

  • KimFunk

    One of the side-effects of not sharing everything in your life with everyone online is the tendency for us to think you have nothing better to do than sit by Chuck’s side. 😉

    You go on being Chuck’s mom as well as being Heather, which means that you will leave his side to do other stuff, but only after you have ensured that he will be cared for in your absence. The haters who don’t get this can just go get stuffed already.

    Love to Chuck from Sonic, Spooky and Pepper!

  • Deminimis

    How I know that I have been spending too much time in comment sections?

    After reading, “I didn’t respond to that email because my energy was required elsewhere, but my answer would have been, “You don’t get to say anything.””, my mouse immediately and unconsciously moved to click an imaginary like button.

  • Lauren3

    Make that three — as I commented on that instagram post, we switched to Canidae for our dog after I read Heather’s posts about it and after doing my own research.

    And the thing is, if you are smart about how you’re buying the food, it doesn’t even cost that much more than the stuff you find in grocery stores. I found an online retailer that delivers the food and provides a discount for auto re-orders, and constantly emails new coupon codes.

    It’s only been a couple weeks so I don’t have much to report, except this: we’re feeding her the recommended amount for her size, and it’s less than what she was used to with her old food. This worried us because damn, that dog loves to eat. But while she happily woofs down the food, she’s begging less in between meals. We’re chalking it up to the fact that Canidae is so nutrient dense and keeps her feeling full longer. Oddly enough we have also noticed that she’s no longer taking nibbles of the grass in the backyard.

  • Susan

    I love your whole family…I have a coupon for Canidae I can’t wait to use.

  • Jennifer Cafferty-Davis

    You and Chuck are the only ones who can make decisions about Chuck. You are doing right by him. I’m glad you did a post about the dog food – I will be switching our dog over to it right away.

  • THANK YOU for posting this info. Wish I’d know about Canidae years ago when my Nugget needed it. Do what’s loving and necessary for both Chuck and you, and the hell with anyone else. Many hugs.

  • kth201

    After your first post about Canidae, I bought both the wet and dry for our cat…but she won’t eat it. I keep going back and forth between wanting her to eat something really good for her but then just wanting her to eat. Has anyone else had trouble switching their pets? Does it just take awhile? I’d love to get away from the crappy stuff, but it’s all she seems to want to eat.

  • Michele Behnke-Nead

    It took a while to switch my cats over to healthier food. I switched it over very gradually, mixing a little bit more of the good food in every few days.

  • Richard Morey

    Chucks health, life, etc. are up to you and Chuck to decide and no one else. I can’t believe people would judge you or berate you about how you are handling things. I think we should all feel blessed that you have shared Chuck with us and although we will all be sad when his time is over we will support you and Chuck in however his time came to an end.

  • Sarah Davis

    You put it perfectly, this is between you and Chuck. He will tell you when it’s time. As you have so eloquently put it int he past, those other people can suck it. Your posts about Chuck are a testament to the love you have for him and this is just one more. I wish him many more days in the sun and you peace.

  • Lisa Sankey

    When our basset hound turned 8, he developed diabetes. He was still young, active, just needed insulin shots twice a day to keep him healthy. Numerous people told us to put him down. Five years later he began get tired more easily and needed a few extra bathroom breaks, didn’t see as well, but was still fairly active. Around this same time our son was born with a life shortening genetic disease (cystic fibrosis) and again the comments came about putting him down. We weren’t about to put him down because other thought he was an inconvenience. We figured he’d let us know when it was time, because he wasn’t suffering, he wasn’t inconveniencing us and our son LOVED him. I came home for lunch one day and our dog didn’t come greet me. I found him on his dog bed, he’d apparently had a stroke, still alive, but not responsive. So we took him to his vet, knowing we’d most likely be saying goodbye. So he made the tough decision for us. Recently came across photos of him, similar to yours, hanging out with his human brother.

  • Erica Sandoval

    Heather- thanks for bringing this great pet food visibility. I have been trying different kids to deal with the dog smell. Now on our first bag of canidae, I am so glad to have found a food that comes from truly good sources!

  • marjoy97206

    Thanks for the update. And keep on doing what you’re doing and listening to Chuck. You’re the only two who know, so let the haters hate.

  • Hannah Murphy

    I switched over to Canidae after reading your first post and my (senior) cat has lost weight (which he really needed to!) and his coat is glossier. I had tried another brand of “healthy” cat food and it gave him diarrhea.
    I’ll never feed him anything else, especially after reading this.
    Thanks for posting Heather. And thanks for caring, Canidae!

  • Rachel

    Have people even been reading? If the former Congressman needs something, you’ll provide, obviously, like always. How is he supposed to write bad poetry and listen to the Cure if you’re *hovering* all the time, jeez.

    I like to think that the families of everyone telling you to kill him because of pee have taken note, and will smother those people in their sleep when they get old, and don’t have great bladder control anymore.

    My Old Man is going through similar trouble, and it is an awful pain in the ass, but he is still happy and eager to greet the day. If that means I have to deal with his incontinence for a few years, so be it.

  • Michael Mathews

    “You don’t get to say anything.” I must remember that line. Keep on keeping on, Chuck and Heather and everyone else.

  • Tera

    Love you and Chuck. I have two dogs myself, one is getting up there in age. You say this food makes your dogs smell better… but haven’t you written about Chuck’s farting like for years? Do his farts smell better than my dogs farts?

  • Michael Mathews

    I bought a bag of dry cat food from Canidae and they are loving it. I will be migrating to the wet food soon as that is what they mostly eat.

  • Shelly

    You and Chuck make good decisions together. Always have. Nothing’s changed. <3 to both of you.

  • Samantha

    Those baby pictures of the Former Congressman are ADORABLE. Thank you for continuing to do you, regardless of what the various readers of your blog and social media say – and by doing you, I know you’re going to do right by Chuck.

  • Jodie KIngsbury

    I’ve been using Canidae for our dog since you talked about it and had the coupons on this page. My dog has not puked since she started on this product. I absolutely love how much more energy she has and the groomer even said her hair was feeling better when she cut Bailey’s hair. Thank you for the coupons again.

  • Leslie Ristaneo

    My 80 year old father suggested once that I needed to put my 15 year old beagle down. My dad is handicapped, in a wheelchair, and occasionally has to wear a Depends. My beagle has the same issues, a weak back-end, wears a diaper on occasion, but is generally in good spirits. I nicely told my dad that since his issues were worse than the beagle, that maybe I should talk to mom about putting HIM down. Needless to say, he never said another word about it! We know what is best for our animals, don’t let anybody tell you different. 🙂

  • JenniferA

    Same here! My dog loves Canidae and had already been eating it for a year, and sometimes my cat will eat his food, but I buy her the cat Canidae and she won’t eat it! Go figure. I even tried mixing it with her old food but she would just eat around it. Maybe there’s another flavor I could try.
    Heather, our pets are part of our families, and I have no plans on putting my parents or my kids down when they get incontinent, so why would I do that to my dog? Best to you and to Chuck, always.

  • Leslie Ristaneo

    My 13 year old yellow lab has diabetes as well, insulin twice a day. Yes, it sucks that I can’t go out to dinner like a normal person, because I have to be home for shots at 8, but he’s my boy so it’s just something you do! So sorry about your basset!

  • KatR

    I’m sure the people who said nasty things to you for taking a vacation also guilt trip their friends who take care of themselves while taking care of a sick family member. Some people are just miserable.

    I’m in the process of switching over my dog to CANIDAE from Blue Buffalo, after Blue Buffalo admitted that there were byproducts in their food. I’m doing it slowly, but I’m already seeing improvements in him.

  • Amy Kathryn

    I have been reading your website for, what, 11 years and this is my first comment. Chuck is awesome. I, too, have an awesome dog. I switched to Canidae after your first post on the food. So, I hope you can rest a bit easier knowing that you’ve likely given at least one gal more time with her own wonderdog. Thanks, Heather.

  • Nancy B.

    You are a wonderful pet parent. You and Chuck are lucky to have each other. May you both enjoy many more years of fun, companionship and love.

  • Jen

    I heard once in a meeting with a market research expert that some people really like the feeling of having a relationship to a brand/organization, and sometimes complain because it’s a way to keep that relationship going. The expert surveyed these people to see whether anything could be changed to make them happier, and there just wasn’t anything-the complaints were simply a way of being heard. I’d imagine that that feeling of connection becomes amplified when it’s tied to a real live person who is sharing personal stories. So I don’t know if that feels helpful, but it has helped me in situations where I’ve felt anonymously criticized to think about the fact that maybe I am serving as a point of contact to people in the world who are just seeking connection.

    Love to Chuck, and here’s my little piece of anonymous encouragement to say that I’m confident that you’ll make the right decisions whenever it is that you need to make them.

  • Amanda

    Although, Mr. Canidae dude, the most valuable nutrition in a potato is from the skin…surely as a purveyor of canine haute cuisine, you would know that?

  • Marley C.

    I’m sorry people who aren’t in your situation are making big assumptions about it. I applaud your ability to not let it bother you. You are right about you and Chuck. YOU know him better than anyone. There are so many people who quietly support you, but don’t ever doubt their support. For each person who is criticizing you, there are 50 to 100 who support you.

  • kaitlynsage

    I’ve been thinking about you and Chuck a lot lately, and sending all kinds of love your way.

    I also wanted to thank you. I switched my sweet 11-year-old mutt to Canidae after your initial post, and the improvement in his health has been remarkable. He smells better, he has more energy, and he’s markedly less anxious. Thanks for spreading the word, Heather.

  • Debra

    Heather, people can just SUCK IT. You are a wonderful pet owner. Just one of the things I love about you.

  • issascrazyworld

    People never cease to surprise me with their insane comments…which is why I try so hard not to read them anymore. Anywhere. My dog (a 12 yr old Aussie) is on pain meds. Her back right hip has no cartilage anymore. Home girl is happy as a clam though and this has helped her be mobile again. She and I have an agreement. She’ll let me know when she’s not happy and I’ll then let her go. Until then, I pick up monthly pain meds for ‘Lilith dog’. You’ll know. This I truly believe. Enjoy the former congressman until then.

  • jillyj

    Heather, you will know when it is time. Chuck will let you know. I hope it it a long, long ways away. Shortly after I left a comment on your last Canidae post, my Myra (who was in a similar situation as Chuck healthwise–trouble moving, peeing everywhere and eventually not eating…not even the omelets I was cooking for her daily) told me it was time. It is all at once once one of the most difficult and most humane decision to ever have to make. My heart is completely broken without her, but I know I did the right thing. Wishing Chuck a long life with you. xo

  • Heather Armstrong

    I blame his farting years ago on the fact that I used to give him scraps from the table all the time when my own diet was terrible. In more recent years I blame it on the fact that he eats poop. If I don’t catch him, he’ll poop and turn right around and eat it. Life with a dog!

  • Suzy Soro

    When my dog got diabetes all my friends said I should put him down. I mentioned that Mary Tyler Moore had diabetes, should we put her down as well? My vet said the dog will tell you when it’s time to go. I believed him.

  • Courtney Brillhart

    Hi Heather! What type of Canidae food do you recommend? I know they have a few different ones. Thank you for this post. I love Chuck!