Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 20, 2013

WDJ’s Food Review Help a Local Shelter

Posted at 08:50AM - Comments: (4)

My dog Otto has a love/hate relationship with the UPS and FedEx guys. He hates the rumbling trucks – will growl when he hears one rumble by anywhere in the neighborhood – and is outraged by the behavior of the drivers, who complacently open our front gate and leave packages on our porch with impunity (knowing Otto is safely contained in the backyard). But once the front gate is closed and the trucks have pulled away, he’s always psyched to go investigate the boxes. He smells each of them long and hard. I sure wish I could see what he sees, smells, or thinks of the boxes.

Sometimes the boxes contain samples of products that companies send us in hopes of a review. In these cases, Otto often gets to sample treats or play with a new toy. This happens frequently enough to keep him excited about the arrival of any box.

For the past month, most of the boxes have been full of dog food – a big month, in Otto’s eyes. I ask the companies whose products I am reviewing for WDJ’s annual dry dog food review to send me samples. Sadly, for Otto, it’s not for a feeding trial or even a taste test. I let the companies know that ALL of the food samples will be sent to my local shelter as soon as I’ve finished examining the labels and taking pictures.

Pet food labels can tell you a lot about a company. Of course, it’s my mission to educate dog owners to read the ingredients list and the guaranteed analysis, and understand those parts of the label well. But it’s also informative to see what OTHER text companies include on the label. Is it instructive? Accurate? Or just marketing crap, full of fuzzy logic and euphemisms? Also, is it easy to find the company’s contact information, and is there a toll-free phone number and website included? Or just a city and state? Is there a date/code that lists the date of the food’s production, or just a “best by” date (which indicates the food’s suggested expiration date – but without a date of production or the knowledge of how many months the maker suggests the food is good for, this is “soft” information). So, even if I have had all my questions answered about “what’s in the bag” by the company’s website and representatives, seeing the bag is helpful, too.

I try to make it clear to each of the companies whose products I am reviewing that the sample is not a requirement of the review (again, I recommend or approve foods based on what they contain, which I can learn from the company and its website) and that it won’t IMPROVE their review –– but I also let them know that the samples are helpful, AND that the samples will help a deserving shelter. That shelter is the Northwest SPCA, located here in my town of Oroville. It’s an “open admission” shelter with contracts that serve both the city of Oroville AND all the unincorporated areas in Butte County (there are other towns and cities in the county that are served by their own shelters). The quality of care and dedication given to the animals by the small staff has surprised and pleased me ever since I moved here in 2006 from the San Francisco Bay Area –where most of the shelters I had experience with were far better funded and supported by volunteers. Here in Oroville, the shelter is used to accomplishing a lot with very little, and I’m happy that WDJ’s review can benefit them in some way.

It took two trips with one of the shelter’s small pickup trucks to carry all the food samples from my home office to the shelter when the review was complete. My sincere thanks go to the pet food companies – especially the ones who sent multiple boxes of extraneous samples. Otto will get over his loss; I bought a bag of some special dried meat-treats to ease his disappointment at seeing all the boxes of food taken away.

Comments (2)

It is a personal mission of mine as a dog foster to try and get adopters to continue to feed the best food available and supplement it with fresh food to the dogs they adopt from me. I also give them an easy recipe for a dog friendly/healthy birthday cake. Many of my adopters keep in touch and are happy with the results of their efforts on behalf of their new best friend.
Keep spoiling Otto...we all love to read about his happy adventures!

Posted by: Olivia | January 25, 2013 5:13 PM    Report this comment

Very nice! i originally subscribed to WDJ about 7 years ago for the dog food reviews, and have enjoyed the publication ever since; my ablsolute favorite article was the interview with Steve White about positive training for K-9 units.
It actually never occurred to me that you would have all those bags (not sure where i thought the photos came from...) but that is great that you have such a good shelter and are able to help them this way.
Where i live there is also a small shelter, whose employees for the last 5 years have made great effort to reduce the number of dogs euthanized by forming good transfer relationships with shelters in more populated areas.
The director is adamant that the animals all be fed one and the same food, so any donations are giving to people in the community (which is also good).
Thank you for this post. Rachel Shwayder, Sterling, CO

Posted by: Rachel S | January 22, 2013 10:49 AM    Report this comment

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