Monday, January 26, 2009

Pet food companies cashing in on goodwill

It looks like Purina will be drawing on the success of Pedigree’s campaigns and will be running a Super Bowl ad that focuses on adopting a shelter animal, rather than how (ahem) terrific their food products are for your pet.

I’m like a lot of pet owners who are concerned with the quality of the ingredients that are found in our pet food. So these types of campaigns tend to leave me a bit disoriented. On the one hand, I’m not a huge fan of either company’s products. All too often as I’m reading down the ingredient list there are items listed that I know far too much about, thanks to Ann Martin’s book “Food Pets Die For” and Susan Thixton’s site The Truth About Pet Food. Things I’d rather not have my pets eating. And, to be sure, when people watch the adorable and, in some cases, heartbreaking commercials, sales of their pet food go up. As much as we the public would love to believe that pet food companies are standing up for adoption because they so deeply believe in it, truth is that if the ads didn’t sell dog food Mars (owner of Pedigree) and Ralston-Purina would move on to a new campaign.

Question is, even knowing that their ultimate goal is for people to purchase more of their brand of dog food, are these companies to be applauded for talking about shelter adoption as the way to acquire a pet? Isn’t talking about shelter pets and the importance of adopting worth having to see the company logo at the end of the ad?

For my money, the answer is “yes”. First off, at least the ad isn’t trying to tell my about the incredibly high-quality ingredients that are contained in that cute little bag, which most pet food-educated people know is horse patootie. There are few things that annoy me more than those ads talking about the great premium ingredients, knowing that most people will never actually look at the bag to see the myriad of by-products, chemicals and meal that make up their packaged pet food. The pro-adoption campaigns don't mention the food at all, other than to say that a portion of purchases go to help homeless animals. At least that's a little truth in advertising.

If you go to the Pedigree web site you have to roll over a notation just to get info on their food, evidence of how well their image campaign has gone. Purina is a bit more obvious, but we'll see if the site changes after they unveil their Super Bowl campaign. Still, the food is only one of the items in a web site that's geared much more towards the pet-owner bond than in selling products, which, of course, helps sell product.

Look, these companies are going to sell pet food for as long as people have pets. Are their shelter pet-focused campaigns a bit of shameless manipulation? Of course they are, but if they manage in the context of doing so to do a little good for homeless pets and shelters, so be it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In the afterglow

As much as we enjoy company, the pets are always a wee bit stressed that interlopers have arrived in Bakersfield to compete for all of the best food/sleeping spots/seats in the house. As much as they love their "grandparents", they are equally happy to be able to flop out in peace once company has headed down the road.

Here's Weebs, chillin' in a chair that no decent person would want to steal from her in the first place --- but don't tell her, because she thinks it's the bee's knees.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Meet Wally!

Once I received these photos, how could I not beg for the chance to put them on the blog? Not only is Wally adorable, the shots are beautifully artistic creations in themselves.


Check out Ravioli, an adorable pup adopted from Animal Control by my friends Andy and Cat...

What a doll he is!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday sunshine

Leave it to a cat to find the sunniest part of any room during the winter. Here's Bo, taking a quick break from sleeping to let out a yawn.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kern County euthanasia rate rises again

James Burger has written yet another compelling story about Kern County's complete failure to reduce the number of homeless pets being euthanized. Despite a 41 percent increase in the number of pets being pulled from the county shelter by rescue groups in 2008, Kern County Animal Control still posted a 5.7 percent increase in euthanasia over 2007.

What I find even more disappointing is that given the economic downturn (to put it mildly), the County Board of Supervisors appears to have all but thrown in the towel.

I have to say that of all of the cultural adjustments I had to make when we moved to Bakersfield, living in a place that seems so completely ambivalent about the pet overpopulation issue is the hardest to come to terms with. Most of the residents don't seem to care, evidenced by how few choose to involve themselves in the issue at all. Fewer than one percent of households are members of the Bakersfield SPCA (or any other pet organization). Even at the height of the Animal Control Commission meetings there were maybe 100 people in attendance, despite the town having a population of over 300,000. And while I understand on some basic level that in a budget-strapped economy there doesn't seem to be any money to provide for much-needed animal services, what is the excuse for not acting when the money was flowing?

And why do so very many people seem not to care?

Read the complete article here.

You become responsible, for ever, for what you have tamed.
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, from The Little Prince

Pet pics sharing time!

Since writing my first column for the new Bakersfield Voice I received a wonderfully nice note from Judith. Being a fellow pet lover, Judith has started an online business, Beyond the Tail, that carries some lovely items for pet enthusiasts.

Judith was also kind enough to send me some photos of her fur-babies. This adorable shot is of Sugarplum the (now) cat with Walter.

And here are Thumper and Fonzi, her current babies:

Thumper thinks he's the perfect fit for the toddler walker:

And a baby pic of Fonzi with his best-buddy, Thumper:

There are few things I enjoy more than seeing adorable pictures of happy pets with loving families. If you have some you'd like to share, bring 'em on.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday on the bluffs

It matters not that the sky outside seems stuck in some sort of permanent shade of pussy willow gray, nor does the chill in the air hold any real meaning. What does matter is that it's Sunday, and although Darby does not know the days of the week, he is most definitely aware that this is a "stay-home-mom" day, and as such the opportunity for a trip to the bluffs is high on his list of hopes.

He watches, sometimes from the corner of his eye, sometimes openly, as we move through the paces of morning; coffee drinking, paper reading, dishwasher running, more coffee, making the bed, then a shower. He is waiting for one of the immutable signs that his fondest Sunday wish is going to be granted.

My husband begins putting on his tennis shoes as I make one last trip to the restroom (having a bladder slightly larger than a lima bean). Darby's head is slightly lower, ears forward, tail wagging at the very tip.

Then he sees it.

I reach for my sunglasses, but not my purse. He begins to get the wiggles, multiplied exponentially as I open the drawer where his leash is kept. He all but vibrates on the small kitchen rug as I slip the Martingale over his head which, once in place, sets off a series of puppy-whines, sounds we only hear from him as we ready him for a car trip.

We take him out to the bluffs, where nearly no amount of walking can wear him out, as he is young and strong and we are middle-aged and tired. Arriving back at the house, he will need another bunch of minutes to race around the yard like a maniac, both to finish off his workout and to burn off the rest of the energy he generated in trying to make his wish come true.

Finally he slows down, sides heaving, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, lips stretched into a goofy grin worthy of Bark's smiling dogs pages.

It is Sunday, and all of his wishes have been granted.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sports Illustrated features Bad Newz Pit Bull update

The Dec. 29, 2008, issue of Sports Illustrated features a cover shot of Jasmine, one of the 47 pit bulls who were rescued in the aftermath of the Michael Vick dogfighting conviction, as well as one of the best articles written on behalf of one of the most-maligned breeds of dog ever to be domesticated by man.

Jim Gorant goes well past all the sensationalizing of the Vick story to the heart of these dogs. That the story appears in Sports Illustrated, a venue liable to reach large numbers of people who have misgivings about the breed, does much more to bring to light the true nature of pitties than were it instead published in a more "pet-related" vehicle.

I may need to purchase this issue as a keepsake.

To read the article for yourself, head here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My New Year's wish for animals

May the lost dog find
his way back home
to his worried family,
because his tags and collar
stated where he ought to be.

May the old cat left
out on the street
discover a new friend
who'll take her in and keep her
until her natural end.

May the dog who's spent
most of his life
tied outside on a chain
receive the gift of freedom,
and ne'er be staked again.

May the mother pets
who've lived their lives
having litters without end
be altered, thusly saving them
from breeding yet again.

May the wildest of creatures
be shot through camera lens,
made immortal in a
as the trophy hunt doth ends.

May the animals
who find themselves
battered and ill-used
find safety and security
and ne'er again abused.

And may people
in their busy lives
stop and look around
and take notice of the wordless ones
just waiting to be found.

And rather than just
moving on
about their busy day,
may people choose to stop instead
and help them on their way.

For we are all they have,
you see,
and each small thing we do
in bringing comfort to their lives
makes our lives better, too.

So when you step
outside your home
remember they are there
awaiting a kind act from you
to let them know you care.

For when we join together
these wishes may come true
and bring about a better world
for them,
and me,
and you...


Vicky Thrasher


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