The puppy dropped onto my doorstep. Literally. One morning a spotted, soft, tiny batch of pups were born behind the bushes near my front door in front of my home. The mother lived on our property; I didn’t even know she was pregnant. With a heart that falls hard for four-footed friends, I was head-over-heals in love before they opened their eyes. Was a pooch possible at this time of my life?
It had been years since a canine came into my life. Divorce, Down syndrome (my son is seven), and day-to-day life kept me busy enough. My daughter pined for a pup, while I cautiously stepped back, knowing that the responsibility was another level of time, effort, and money. Did I have the right yard? Could I handle the extra stress of another living being dependent on me for safety, health, and food? The food — what about the food? Organic? Store-bought? Raw? What in the world would I do?
As time went on the pups grew and liked to hang out in my garage. They had a fabulous mother that patiently fed, cleaned and groomed them in the first few months. I wondered about vaccines, ticks, fleas, and food. And food, now that they were bigger. The ability to look up anything on the Internet has afforded a channel to ask silly and important questions on how to raise not only puppies, but hamsters, iguanas, and even tarantulas. As the puppies began to drink less milk, it became a bigger question: What is organic for a dog?
In the past, I’ve fed the dogs in my life: table scraps, supermarket dog food, raw meat, raw eggs and “natural” speciality food delivered to my door. I live in Central America, where it’s warm and pooches can have the run of the mill, so to speak. Their life involves a lot of dangers. Ticks are terrible. A two-minute walk through the grass might leave anyone with ticks, but a tiny pup with stout legs and a tender tummy are a delight treat for the tenuous terrors.
Could there be an organic remedy to repel ticks and fleas? Garlic came to mind. I gave it a try, yet had a weird feeling after a couple of days. Maybe it wasn’t good for a dog, like chocolate. I got on-line. No, said several sites, it’s not good for dogs; it’s toxic. Then, the Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer — a holistic vet — said yes to garlic. And tea, and lemon, and grapefruit seed extract. Hmmm….sounded a lot like what I already had in my kitchen. As I searched more, the organic pet issue versus the conventional living issue looked an awful lot alike. What to do? As the information wagon rides through our thoughts, it is easy to find an opinion to support whatever value one wishes to employ. If I wanted the garlic to be toxic, so be it, since I found information supporting that opinion online. If I wanted the garlic to be beneficial, so be it, I found that online, too.
After several test runs with the puppies to see which ones could withstand my son’s overzealous love and excitement (ie, picking them up upside-down or his little-bit-too-hard-of-a-hug), we decided to adopt the runt of the group. It’s an adoption with benefits. The pup remains a part of the pack that lives on the property, yet we accepted his health care. In this culture and climate, it’s not an easy go for dogs. The traffic, over-population, and insects challenge these dogs the minute they are born. Since I couldn’t afford to help the three remaining pups, perhaps I could help influence their care.
In the end, what will we do? We’ll most likely head down the path of organic with a mix of conventional. I do not have time to hand crush just the right amount of herbs and vitamins for a dog, nor make homemade biscuits. I can toss in a bit of garlic, or add some organic vegetables to the dish, or toss some fresh lemon in a spray bottle to repel fleas. However, as with my own life, I temper the temptation to be over-vigilante about organic, as it can bring with it all sorts of pitfalls along the way.
Organic brings tremendous benefits, but it does not make us better than the next guy or gal. We live today, in a world of transition. Perhaps these beastly burdens of how to feed, what to feed and when to step in and out of the conventional world of medicine is a way for each of us to learn, teach and help carve a path of more tolerance and less judgement. We can transform one action at a time towards a gentler, more natural and simpler way to treat our pets and thus ourselves.