Thanks to the companies who sent samples for WDJ’s annual dry dog food review.
Since 1998, the Whole Dog Journal has published a review of dry dog food in its February issue. This timing causes some difficulties, as I need to receive samples and literature about pet food companies and their products during the holiday season in order to complete the review in time to be printed in the February issue. Lots of company employees take annual vacations at this time, and they or their replacements are difficult to reach. Shipments get delayed, lost, or the request for them gets buried beneath a sea of “real” orders. The holidays themselves meant that shipping companies were closed on certain days.
I wish I could change the timing of the review, but it’s in my publisher’s hands. In the past, I’ve solicited the samples sooner – but then I’m literally tripping on bags of dog food in my home and office for weeks and weeks. I’ve also tried soliciting them sooner and, as they came in, examined, photographed, and donated them to my local shelter – but every time I’ve done that, I’ve found myself wishing I had the label to look at one more time after I’ve sent the bag away. It actually got to the point where I discouraged companies from sending samples; instead, I learned all I could about each company’s products from its website, the literature it sent me, and answers to the questions I sent them.
But this year, I was determined to do better. It really does help me get a sense of what a company is all about to see its actual packaging. The amount of nutrients on its guaranteed analysis, the location and prominence of its “best by” date, the label claims and descriptions of its ingredients – it’s all very revealing.
Plus, this year, as a member of the Board of Directors of my local shelter (the Northwest SPCA in Oroville, CA) and frequent volunteer there, I’m acutely aware of how scarce donations have been this past year – and how many more dogs (and cats) have been surrendered to the shelter by their owners than in an average year. I donate all of the samples that I receive to the shelter – to Otto’s and my husband’s dismay. (Otto would like to “try” everything that comes in; he loves smelling the packages that arrive. My husband doesn’t fully understand why I continue to buy dog food when so much arrives “for free!”) I was determined to make this a banner year for both the food review and donations to the shelter.
In the letter I sent to each company whose products are on WDJ’s “approved foods” list (asking for updated information about their products and manufacturing), I explained that every sample they could send would be donated to the NWSPCA – and that while larger donations wouldn’t get them a better review, they could at least rest assured that the food would do a lot of good. The NWSPCA serves the city of Oroville (where I live) as well as all of the unincorporated areas in Butte County, which is one of the poorest in California (per capita).
This year, I hired an assistant to help me shepherd the samples — from all the companies on WDJ’s “approved” foods list, through the holidays, into the editorial office, and back out of the office and into the Northwest SPCA. With her help, and the generosity of the companies on our “approved foods” list, we collected 1,100 pounds of pet food (some companies sent samples of their cat foods, too!) for the shelter. It was enough food to require the shelter to make two trips to pick up all the food.
Our thanks, and thanks from the NWSPCA, to all of the companies that sent samples for our review.