Please…No Diamond In The Ruff (pooch)

It’s one of the most important decisions a sportsman/pet owner can make.   I’m talking about the food stuffs you put into your pet.   In fact, aside from choosing the right breed for your hunting needs and the best trainer…perhaps no other decision is nearly as important to a canine companion as to deliver the proper nutritional health to your four-legged friend.

In recent weeks, however, this particular topic has really hit home with me.   Maybe you heard about the Diamond Pet Foods recall of tainted dog food.   Certainly this has the makings of some bad news for dog owners…and if you haven’t heard about it then listen up.

I’m not going to go into all the details here…but suffice it to say that a controversy seems to be brewing as to when the pet food company knew there was a problem and IF it continued to sell the dog food after this awareness.   But that’s a topic for another day and likely complex enough it will need to be settled in the courts.   For more information on a brewing lawsuit, link here.

I’m saddened because up until this incident I have always had high regard for Diamond dog food.   In fact, it is the only food my soon to be 7 year old dog has ever eaten.

It all began back about 7 years ago when I was searching for a new puppy.   I read everything I could and searched out all the information I could absorb to do everything right with this dog.   Part of that research brought me to a friend, Karla.

You see, Karla was the manager of several large independently-owned pet stores and knew more about dog food than I could ever possible learn in this lifetime.   She explained to me the importance of choosing the right food, especially since I had planned on bringing home a new black lab puppy to the household.

I had never heard of such a thing, but Karla cautioned me on the importance that the diet of large-breed puppies (such as the lab) need a vastly different ratio than many smaller-framed dogs.   The appropriate protein, fat, and calcium levels for large breed puppies must be delivered at specific ratios to ensure bones develop strongly and properly.   It made sense at the time…so I followed her recommendations.
Karla laid out a feeding plan for me that started my new seven week old puppy on adult dog food from the get-go.   Her choice…none other than Diamond Premium Adult.   She explained that Diamond was a quality food for the money and most importantly, as a pet store manager who could feed her own dogs whatever she wanted; she had no qualms about recommending Diamond over most other brands.   As I recall, the only two other brands at the time that even compared to Diamond was IAMS and Science Diet, both good premium dog foods in their own right.

Now it’s important to understand that Karla was not giving me this advice as a sales person looking to make a sale.   Nope, when I discussed this with her she had just quit her job as pet store manager and was going back into her nursing career.   She had no vested interest in what or where I purchased my pet foods.

Over the years I have turned lots of folks on to the Diamond brand of dog food.   In most cases it was usually $10 to $15(or more) cheaper than the previously mentioned brands.   Karla explained that Diamond gets by with this because they do not spend the millions on advertising such as the other big two.   Still, the quality of the food is certainly comparable…at least until this recent incident.

Even though my state (Minnesota) does not fall within the recall list of states served by the Gaston, SC Diamond facility…I’m feeling a bit perplexed these days and my anger is slowly building.   When I shell out $25 for a premium bag of dog food I expect the product to be wholesome and nutritious.   I certainly don’t anticipate my dog growing sick from the food and warranting a trip to the vet.   More importantly, reports are that perhaps dozens of dogs have died to date possibly as a result of eating this tainted dog food.   How sad.

Diamond Pet Foods, even though the food I am serving my pooch (and have served her for nearly seven years) was not on your recall list…my confidence in your ability to provide a quality product has now been shaken.   Believe me, when I must stop at the pet food store within the next two weeks to purchase another bag of food…for the first time in years I will likely not be looking exclusively for the Diamond brand.   What a shame.

As a sportsman who loves his canine partner and strives to give her the best…I’ll be watching closely how you handle this current crisis.   More importantly, if someday its proven that some bad judgments were made by your company you need to make it right with the dog owners who were directly affected.   I’m not sure what actions you will need to take to accomplish that difficult task…but you better get creative and do it sooner rather than later.

And let this be a lesson, not only to the Diamonds of this world…but to all manufacturers of pet-related products.   When sportsmen and dog owners perceive they have been taken advantage of in some manner…we’ve learned to speak loudly and effectively by keeping our pocketbooks closed when contemplating future purchases.   Somehow I already sense that Diamond corporate is well aware of this growing PR nightmare.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Dog Gone…Well, Not Exactly

Recently the story broke about two Minnesota Conservation Officers (game wardens) who had the day off and were doing a little duck hunting in Southeast Minnesota.   Everything was going as planned when one of them suddenly realized the dog was missing.   At the time they were boating across a lake with the dog tethered to the front of the boat, but obscured by the blind material.

Upon making the realization that the dog was missing, it was quickly determined the dog, Dutch, had been pulled by its collar for upwards of a minute when it fell overboard.   The two wardens were quick to rescue the dog…but this is where it gets interesting.   Or does it?

You see, the dog’s owner CO Todd VanderWeyst determined the dog was clinically dead.   Now realize that clinically dead is not necessarily medically dead, but unless some quick intervention takes place things will be irreversible.

So what are two quick thinking, trained officers going to do?   Yup, you guessed it.   They performed CPR on the dog and brought it back to life.   Heroes to everyone who knows them and loved the dog.

But not so fast.   I don’t think these two officers were looking to exploit their escapade.   Moreover, I will be the first to admit that what they claimed happened is certainly possible, albeit highly improbable.   You see, performing CPR and having a successful save is one of the surest ways to gain publicity and hero notoriety…but I’m just not buying the story.   Not here…and not the countless dozens of times I’ve heard it first hand from rescuers suddenly thrust into that position.

Here’s the deal.   I’m a recovering emergency medical professional who worked almost 18 years as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), many of those years employed by an Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance service.   Have I seen CPR work…most definitely.   But in EVERY case that comes to mind CPR alone is not what saved an unfortunate victim.   It was a combination of the drugs that were eventually administered along with the electro-therapy (heart start defibrillators) that jolted life back into the lifeless.

More often what happens is a minimally trained rescuer during the moment of excitement simply doesn’t feel properly for pulses.   Hey, this is sometimes hard to do even for trained professionals who make their living in the business.   Thinking a pulse is absent, CPR begins and stimulates a body THAT IS NOT LIFELESS.   In the matter of moments a person is elevated to “lifesaver” status.

I always found it curious that ordinary citizens seemed to have a much higher success rate for CPR than trained professionals.   Sure, the argument can be made that often these folks are immediately on the scene and intervention is quick.   Yea, but I don’t buy that.   The point I am trying to make with all of this is be very skeptical whenever you read about the bystander exploits of performing CPR successfully – whether on a human being or a dog, for that matter.

I’m not taking anything away from the two game officers who obviously shared their story with the media.   Indeed, important lessons can be learned from the episode such as keeping a watchful eye out for your canine companions on such hunting trips.   But if they really expect me to believe they performed CPR on a dog, in a boat, on a lake then I am one gullible sportsman.   Besides, I challenge most sportsmen to even tell me where they would palpate a pulse on a canine they suspect was in cardiac arrest.   Especially a cold, wet canine dragged under or behind a boat.

I guess given similar circumstances I would have certainly reacted the same way with my dog.   What the heck!   The big difference, however, is successful or not on the revival, I would not have disclosed this to the world through the media outlets for scrutiny.   I understand these officers’ motivation to use the experience as educational (for safety), but I’m not buying the act they performed or the praise they are surely now receiving as successful lifesavers.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

How Much Is That Puppy On The Corner?

There’s no doubt about it, one of the most exciting times in a sportsman’s life is when the decision has been made to add to the existing sporting family.   I’m not talking about a young couple choosing to have another child…oh no…this event is sometimes equally as important to that.   I’m talking about the decision and the process of adding a new puppy to the household.

Today I was driving to a local sporting goods store when I came to an intersection with a four-way stop.   On one corner was a flea market-like stand peddling flowers in advance of Mother’s Day (tomorrow), and on the other corner were two camo-clad adults with a small puppy pen and six energetic black lab puppies bouncing around with that “pick me, pick me” exuberance.

This got me thinking how puppies can be such a magnet for sportsmen.   There was literally a line of folks waiting to take their turn at playing with and holding a puppy.   There were children (who seem to be particularly attracted) as well as older adults who seemed mesmerized by the little black fur balls.

I, however, continued forward past the intersection and put the little impromptu puppy peddlers in my rearview mirror.   What I was not able to put behind me was the thought of what those sportsmen were trying to do on that particular intersection.

First off, I sincerely hope that nobody who stopped at that stand on this day decided to purchase a puppy on an impulse.   The fact is dogs can be a lot of work and can result in a real expense that needs to be carefully considered into the family budget.   And I’m not just talking about money here, either.   I’m also talking about the investment of time.   A pet, no matter what type you own, brings with it a set of responsibilities that any new potential pet owner should not take lightly.

But let’s get beyond the decision of whether or not a dog should be purchased.   My other big concern is doing your homework to make sure you get the right dog.   Once you determine what breed best fits your needs, you then need to move on and find a reputable breeder to fulfill your new puppy goals.   Take a lesson from me, DO NOT overlook the importance of this step.

My current hunting dog, Duchess, is a black lab that I purchased about six years ago.   I thought I did my homework as well as spoke to several sportsmen in the local retriever club.   I then settled on buying a dog from a reputable hunter, but albeit a new breeder.   I learned that sometimes buying a dog is much like a crapshoot.   You can do all the research necessary to hopefully make the gamble pay off…and in the end still end up somewhat a loser.

While Duchess has been a great companion she most certainly has also been a big cost to the wallet.   At just 22 months of age she tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) as well as began developing early signs of canine hip dysplasia (CHD).   This condition, as I later learned, was also present in at least one of her other littermates.   In real money, the dog has cost me nearly $3,000 in surgeries and medications that I did not anticipate.   Moreover, I now have a dog that, in what should be the prime of her life gets sore quickly and must end the day’s hunt far too early for a dog of her age.

Even though I hold no hard feelings toward the seller of my dog…it certainly emphasizes the point to me that you can never be too careful when buying a new hunting dog.   Even when I thought I took all the necessary precautions and care, I ended up with a pooch that hasn’t quite met my expectations as far as her health.

My pointers when picking a new puppy:   1) Give it lots of careful thought and discuss how it will fit in with the family (for heavens sakes…don’t buy on an impulse); 2) Do your homework and spend the time necessary researching what breed and breeder seems to have the best fit for your situation; 3) Realize that to bring up a puppy properly it takes a real commitment of time…and be prepared to spend it; 4)  Discuss with the breeder the health history of the puppy’s parents and get a health guarantee in writing.   Usually most breeders will warrant their puppies for 24 months (sometimes longer) against genetic health difficulties; 5) Get the dog to the vet immediately for a baseline health inspection; 6) Talk to a qualified trainer early to get your dog scheduled for training, or at the very least pick up some tapes and books and do it yourself.

As you can see, if you follow the guidelines I have just described you will likely not want to stop at some intersection and purchase a puppy much like you would buy a package of gum at the grocery’s checkout line.   Buying a new hunting pal that will be part of your family’s life for the next 13 years or so needs much more careful thought than that.

I guess it comes down to this.   If you are really hard pressed to find a Mother’s Day gift it might be better to stop first at the flower stand on the opposite corner of that intersection.   Besides, it might take a huge bouquet of flowers to pave the way in convincing the “mom” of the household of your impending puppy purchase.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.