Editorial June 1999 Issue

Take Care

You CAN change the world; start with your dog!

Occasionally, as he casually scans the printouts that decorate every horizontal surface in my home office, or picks up a new item we are reviewing for WDJ, my chosen life partner starts laughing out loud.

This can be partially explained by the fact that Brian is not exactly a “dog person.” He likes dogs, but he casts a skeptical eye on any but the simplest dog care practices. For instance, like many people, he’s a staunch believer that “all dogs belong outside, no matter what.” (If my dog wasn’t so easy to live with, so well-mannered and inconspicuous in the house, we’d surely have one HUGE fight on our hands over where the dog lives.)

Brian’s most recent inspection of my office was typical. He started off by howling at the package for the “Doggie Dooley,” a dog-waste disposal system we are currently evaluating. (“Can you train a dog to poop right into the potty?” he chuckled. “Where do you hang the toilet paper roll?”) Then he spotted a water-delivery system that we are reviewing for another issue; it’s similar to a bottled-water cooler for people, but the base is a drinking bowl, rather than a tap. “Where is the refrigerator unit?” he had to ask. “Why can’t the dog get the water chilled?”

My partner’s good-humored criticisms stem from an abiding sense that people today have lost perspective. One of his favorite rants is, “Dogs today are living better than people!”

I can see his point – to a certain extent. It’s true that in our part of the country, the heavily dog-populated San Francisco Bay Area, most dogs live well. And it does give you a bit of a turn when you see a homeless family panhandling at an intersection while a pooch gazes idly out the window of an expensive car, on his way to an appointment with a dog masseuse.

I’m not here to argue whether or not the world has enough resources to feed every man, woman, child, and dog on the planet, and what politics preclude this. But I will defend what Brian (and many others) laugh at – doggie toilets, special water bowls, and dog massages. And not just because they are beneficial for the health and well-being of our dogs.

I seek out, write about, and defend any beneficial dog-care practices and products because I think there is an incredible lesson that can be learned from caring for another being, even if it is “just a dog.”

I’ve seen the following transformation many times: It starts out with a person who loves her dog more than anything. In an effort to remedy a health problem, or just because she “wants the best for her dog,” the person starts feeding the dog fresh, real, top-quality foods, using herbs and nutritional supplements, and exercising the dog, all of which result in bringing the dog to a glowing state of health.

It doesn’t take long for this person to realize that what’s “good for the goose is good for the gander,” and starts improving her own diet, exercise, and medical care. (After all, how can you buy fresh meat and vegetables for your dog, and then sit down to Hamburger Helper or frozen TV dinners? You can’t!) She soon feels so much better that she begins “preaching health” to her friends and family. A health revolution has begun in her circle.

And, by learning about the value of dog waste composting systems, for example, people might learn about alternatives to dependence on landfills and sewage treatment plants. By learning about the health benefits of clean, pure water for their dogs, people might begin drinking (and valuing) fresh water. And, surely, when people learn the benefits of giving their friends a little relaxing massage every now and again, it makes the world a better place to be. Caring for others is how you start to change the world, for the better.

-By Nancy Kerns

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