I was very young when I first heard this expression, and more than a little shocked by how casually it was thrown around. To the foreigners saying it, it seemed painfully obvious how dumb I was, so much so that it made me wonder how I could have possibly missed it. I didn’t think I was an idiot. To my knowledge, none of the people I knew fell into that category either. This changed as I grew into a young adult. I developed this nasty habit of categorizing people the moment I met them. I would pick apart their every perceived imperfection until I had decided whether they were the stupid Americans I had grown up hearing about or normal and smart, like me. In other words, I had become a complete jack ass. Fast forward a decade later: I’m married, have three children, and two dogs. My wife has ironed out most of my inner douche, but something else has happened along the way. Parenting, or more specifically, putting other people’s lives before mine, has exposed a terrible secret: I was the stupid American all along. I did things without ever once stopping to think about why I was doing them, or the damage I was causing in the process. The stupidity came from acting out of habit rather than with purpose. This column will be dedicated to questioning habits we all take for granted, habits that may seem normal to us, but are at best dubious in the eyes of anyone living outside the country. In the age of information and open forums, there’s no longer any excuse for stupidity. This is the time for the informed American, the New American. So let’s begin with:
The look on my father’s face was priceless. “You’re going to feed them that?” he asked, horrified as he watched me prep raw chicken legs for my dogs. “They’ll choke on the bone,” he exclaimed. “Or worse, they’ll develop a taste for blood.” I shrugged. His concerns were not unexpected: I imagine most people would have reacted the same way, to one degree or another. In fact, I had a similar experience years ago. “What the hell?” I had thought to myself, as I read the ingredients in a bag of dog food I had just fed my dog. “What’s corn and sugar doing in here?” The culprit was a brand of chow decorated with pieces of chicken, beef, and vegetables. The animals pictured eating it all looked happy, healthy, and vibrant. The food was also expensive. For these reasons it had never occurred to me to question the quality of the product. Yet there it was, right in front of me, a list of garbage that had absolutely no place in my pet’s diet.
I jumped on the computer and immediately started researching prepackaged dog food. Horror stories were everywhere. Obesity, tooth decay, diseases, recalls that had claimed the lives of countless animals, all directly linked to the f̶o̶o̶d̶ crap being pushed onto dogs. “How can a natural carnivore possibly be expected to live a healthy life off of corn, sugar, or any of the fillers that make up commercial dog food?” I asked myself. “Why had it become so normal for people to think this was ok?” I had only to look within for the answer. The commercials I grew up with, the advice from veterinarians, & the accepted truth that pets need “pet food” had groomed me into thinking this was the way.
My dogs, Daisy and Cortez, are adopted Cairn Terriers. When they first joined our family, Daisy was obese (so much so she couldn’t climb the stairs without help), and Cortez needed eye drops for cataracts that had formed in his eyes. Since then, I have weened them off commercial dog “food” and onto a diet that consists of raw chicken legs in the morning and raw beef at night. Uncooked soft bones (like chicken legs) provide them with necessary calcium and never splinter, the act of chewing and working for their food fights tooth decay and satisfies their natural desire to chew, and beef (along with other natural foods like organ meat, yogurt, and pumpkin) adds diversity to their diet.
Daisy can now easily outrun me up the stairs and Cortez’s eyes have never been clearer. It doesn’t get any more natural than that.
Feeding our dogs in the raw isn’t any more expensive than using premium commercialized dog feed, and when you factor in the lack of vet bills, it’s actually quite a bit cheaper. Being different is always going to raise a few eyebrows. At the end of the day, and in this functional family, health and knowledge will always come first.