The Year Was 2012…

…when the KC finally decided to *peek* their collective heads out of their collective arses, and institute health checks for the Best of Breed winners of 15 breeds that are identified as “at risk.”

I’m so unbelievably excited about the step that the Kennel Club has finally taken, although cautiously optimistic that this is Step One, rather than Step About Halfway Up One Stair And Then Stampede Back In To The Arms Of The Breed Clubs.

This new practice of subjecting these Best of Breed winners to veterinary exams started at this year’s Crufts Dog Show and will continue at every future show.

From what I understand, we already have dismissals for the Bulldog, the Pekingese, the Clumber Spaniel, Mastiff, and Neopolitan Mastiffs.  The Clumber is the only one to have its veterinary report leaked (eye defect and ear infection anyone?) but it sounds as if the eyes are the target du jour.

I do have an opinion on this situation (several – surprise!), but it’s still unfolding, and I’m one of those people who likes to take a BIG story like this and chew on it for a bit before diving in.  I’ve commented a bit on other blogs (there is a LOT going on this week!) but I hope to have a full piece prepared at some point.

In the meantime, I’m going to send you a few places to track the story.  First, the woman of the hour, of course – Jemima Harrison of Pedigree Dogs Exposed – the documentaries, and the incredible blog.  It is true that countless others have stood before the world of dogs and demanded better for our “best friends.”  But no one managed it with the sheer impact you have had, Jemima.  You give us all hope for our respective breeds.  In fact, were I a Cavalier person, I’d be kissing your feet.  Luckily I was never taken in by their cute faces, always too concerned about their heart problems.  I can’t count the number of people you have spared from having to endure the torture that is watching your best friend hurt and not being able to make it better.  Here’s to hoping that some day, very soon, I will be able to recommend Cavaliers once again as the incredible breed that I know they could be.

Over to Terrierman Patrick Burns, who, as usual, is showing CNN just what it means to be “on the ball.”  Check out his blog for the latest information about Crufts and the inevitable breed club blowback.

And for an interesting, no-nonsense discussion about what REALLY needs to be done to improve the health and lives of ALL purebred dogs, stop in and visit with Gina Spadafori and her pack of pet bloggers.  Our hearts are with Gina right now, who is kicking up her own dust in the AKC and Flatcoat communities in an effort to reduce (eradicate!) cancers in Flatcoats.  Keep up the great work, Gina.

One final thought, to the Kennel Club.

You surprised us today.  A lot of us.  In a good way – which is not the way we’re used to being surprised, particularly when the Kennel Club is involved.

Suddenly we find ourselves behind you, urging you to continue forward – rather than facing head to head, trying to make you see the way you came, and where the wrong turns occurred.

Do us both a favour.  Don’t turn back around.  Keep going in this direction.  It’s not going backwards, it’s heading back from whence you came to correct errors.  Then continuing forward along a path that leads to healthy, happy, beautiful dogs, and a Kennel Club that dog lovers everywhere can be proud of.

More to come.


We look a little different today. This probably will not be the final form of this blog, but I was getting the occasional complaint about the colour scheme in our last Theme when a few people mentioned they were having difficulties reading white-on-black.

When I get a chance I will be shrinking down that header and making a few additional changes, but right now I just don’t have the time or the motivation to mess around with it. The change will likely be made when I get around to moving the entire thing over to our actual domain, hopefully before Christmas.

As the weather cools down (but the ground stays soft) the dogs want to be out doing something pretty much all of the time, and I’m more than happy to oblige.

Fable and Lexus enjoying some wide open spaces. Fable is actually holding herself back - Lex is speedy, but Fable, well... the word "supersonic" comes to mind.

Guilt and Responsibility

I suppose the title of this post should really be “Responsibility and Guilt.”

You see, the rational part of my brain believes firmly that we did what needed to be done, and certainly what was best. Unfortunately, the emotional part of my brain is equally convinced that I deserve to die a thousand deaths (preferably by papercut) for “giving up” on a dog – especially my own dog – and let’s face it, when faced with equal amounts of guilt and almost any other emotion, guilt generally comes out on top.

To be clear, this was not a decision we made lightly. It was not a decision of convenience, as these decisions so often are. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The truth is, we made the decision to rehome Juno when it became clear to me that keeping her in this environment was the best decision for ME, not for HER. For Juno, the best move was one right out of here and into a pack she felt comfortable with.

Instead of living for the next 10-15 years with two dogs who despise the very sight of one another, Juno now lives with a wonderful family that adores her as much as we do.  She has children to play with, a work-at-home dad and a mom she shadows in the evenings.  She has both dogs and people in the neighbourhood she has made friends with, and frequently entertains visitors who come specifically to see Her Royal Junebug.

She doesn’t have to live in a world of management, leashes, tie outs, crates, baby gates, stress and tension.  Asking her to do so would have been for me – so that I could see her, love her, snuggle her, play with her and enjoy her company every day.

Juno is not one of those dogs who is easily disturbed, rather she’s a rock-solid girl who tends to roll with the punches.  This was never more true than when her new family came to pick her up.  She recognized them immediately and had to be physically restrained from bounding head first into their car… she never looked back.

Juno - my baby Junebug - smiling in her new home, with her new family.

Today I received the above photo from her new family.  She’s been with them for six weeks and the placement has seemed ideal from the very beginning.  Doesn’t she look happy?  The other dogs were noticeably relieved that she was gone, much more so than I expected, in fact.

So why do I still feel so horribly guilty?

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive, helpful and informative over the last several months.  It has been very appreciated, indeed.  Hopefully I will be back to blogging again soon.

Trick or Treat Should Not Apply to Dog Biscuits

Wow, it’s been a rough year for Nature’s Variety.

Don’t confuse that sentence for sympathy, however – it’s actually outrage that they haven’t been shut down or at least exposed in a more public forum than my tiny little blog.

My anger began when I found sharp items in a bag of Instinct Dog Rabbit.  After speaking with NV and being blown off by both the local sales rep as well as their head office, we investigated further and found sharp (and in many cases unidentifiable) objects throughout numerous varieties of Instinct kibble.  To add insult to injury, while NV was telling us that there were NO bones in their products and that they could find no problem worthy of their attention, we had a dorsal ray fish bone removed from a piece of kibble and identified – and found dozens of reports across the web of consumers finding adulteration in their canned and frozen products as well.  You can read our entire report by clicking here.  At that time, we had not found any issue with their frozen bones, grain inclusive kibble or their treats.

A few months later we discovered a study done to promote a particular brand of “alternative protein” food for allergies.  During the study, the authors learned that with many products what was on the label was NOT what was in the bag.  Surprise, surprise, Nature’s Variety had made the list – by adding Soy to their Venison and Millet diet, despite having a very clear “NO SOY” advertisement on the front of the bag.  Interestingly, chicken livers were on the list and yet no chicken livers were found in the product.  Since then, the online ingredients list has been altered to remove chicken livers, so it could have been an ingredient change issue… but the soy pretty much convinced me that this line of pet products was not what it claimed to be.  You can read our entire report by clicking here.

The last straw for us came just yesterday.  In the US, a pet parent opened a box of Instinct Chicken Grain Free Biscuits, marked with “best if used by RM Jan 24 12 18:04″ and discovered this:

The foreign material was visible immediately

Upon further inspection, they discovered that the adulteration was spread throughout the package:

These photos are remarkably similar if not identical to many that we have recorded from kibble samples

And throughout the individual treats as well – this is what they discovered when they broke one open:

Sharp objects contained within the treats

Thankfully, through the magic of the interwebs, the discoverer of these adulterated cookies found our blog and our previous post involving sharp objects in their kibble and other products.  We immediately contacted her and asked her to hang on to the product, inform the store manager/owner, and to lodge a complaint with both Nature’s Variety and if possible, the FDA.

We had debated from the beginning about possible causes for the presence of these sharp objects – what this tells us is that it is extremely likely that this is (as we suggested to NV originally) a raw ingredient issue.  Pet food companies order their ingredients already prepared.  For example, if they order fresh chicken, that chicken has to meet certain standards like protein and fat content, ash content and the level of grinding/screening required.

We have seen this problem before in products like Orijen 6-Fish Dog and Wellness Fish and Potato Dog, when fish meal that hadn’t been thoroughly screened made it into the mix the final products contained sharp fish bones.  Orijen issued a product withdrawal and instituted better QA practices – Wellness still hasn’t even admitted there was an issue (surprise, surprise…).  When I suggested this to NV, it was quickly dismissed.

To Nature’s Variety I have to ask – if your raw ingredients are properly screened (as you claim), WHY are these large pieces now being found in so many products?  So far we have recorded adulteration in their raw food, Instinct kibble, their canned products and now their treat line.

I’ll say it one last time – We are avoiding ALL Nature’s Variety products and we encourage our clients STRONGLY to do the same.

PLEASE, if you discover something unusual in your pets’ food or treats, documentation is key.  Take photos, save samples, and contact the appropriate people.  The first response is often to return the product to the store – unfortunately, too often these problems are swept under the rug.

We will keep you posted on this issue if we receive any more information.  In the meantime, please contact us if you have discovered something unusual in your pet product, Nature’s Variety or otherwise.  If you’ve discovered this post while trying to find a cause for your adulterated product, please take the time to let us know so that we can continue to track this issue.

One final note, I would like to add – I really don’t care what these sharp objects are.  I care that they are SHARP, and that they are in my pets’ FOOD. 

Toothy Smiles

We’ve been a bit behind (blame it on the crazy weather!) lately and the blog has been somewhat neglected. Unfortunately that’s going to continue for today, at least, so we’re posting these photos just to keep things moving along.

We’ve been sharing cheery dog photos for the past while on our Facebook page, in an effort to keep the overall feel, well… cheery! There’s been a lot of negative news for dogs recently, and positive stories are becoming harder to find. Whether this is due to a lack of positive news or simply a lack of positive news coverage remains to be seen, but there you have it.

Today our canine model for the happiest smile was actually our latest foster dog Wrangler. Soon after we had an in-house competition going, with Denny coming in a close second. I guess the foster dogs know how much they have to smile about!

Since our readership is much smaller on Facebook than it is here, I felt the need to repost these photos on the blog so that everyone can enjoy them. I hope they put a little shine on your Friday!

Denny, who failed to capture "Best Smile" but won us over with "Best Cuddle"

Wrangler takes "Best Smile" in today's impromptu backyard competition. (For the record, he also won "Best Zoomies")


Both Wrangler and Denny are available for adoption through Jasper’s Rescue.  You can contact us by email at, and you can check out both of their bio’s at our Petfinder site.

(click photos to embiggen)

Evangers Joins the Party – On the “Do Not Buy” List

Hey Evangers - this is NOT a duck. Are we clear?

May 5, 2011, the FDA sent a letter to the Evangers company of Illinois outlining a few problems with their canned products.

Sadly, this is not the first time.  Not even close.

After reports of manufacturing practices that could potentially lead to botulism contamination, the FDA revoked Evanger’s ability to sell their canned products over state lines in April of 2008.

You can click here for a good example of how that situation played out.  In general, the FDA is difficult to glean information from, and with Evanger’s at the front of a media tsunami trying to play down the situation, many people came to the company’s defense.  Most consumers seemed unwilling to consider that their favourite brand was involved in unsafe practices, and others simply viewed this as an attack on a small private pet food label (at the time there was a flood of complaints regarding Nutro products and outrage at the fact that it appeared the FDA was mishandling the situation – some people even believed that the attention paid to Evangers was an attempt to distract consumers from the Nutro situation).

Also - NOT a duck.

As a pet store employee during this time (at a store that not only carried but supported Evangers) I can tell you that for the year leading up to this we were seeing significant signs of problems.  Foreign matter was found in the cans, cans frequently arrived with broken seals, and at least two moldy cans were reported.

Since then, however, it appears that things have taken a turn for the worse.  (*** edited to add: the FDA required Evangers to apply for an emergency operating permit in 2008 before they could resume interstate transport.  They revoked this permit in June of 2009 because an inspection conducted between March and April of that year revealed continued unsafe practices.  No other pet food company that I’m aware of has such a tangled history with the FDA, and I believe that this most recent incident proves just how totally ineffective the current system is at even enforcing the rules already in existence. ***)

This year we learned of three varieties of Venison dog food that contained foreign material – poultry, beef and soy (Eukanuba, Natural Balance and our old friend Nature’s Variety).  It appears that the FDA may have taken notice, since the latest complaint leveled at Evangers involves protein substitution.

Note that I said “substitution.”  It seems that the FDA tested two varieties of Evangers, “Lamb and Rice Dog Food” and “Grain Free Duck Pet Food.”  Their findings were very upsetting, although perhaps not surprising.

The “Lamb and Rice Dog Food” was tested for lamb – and was negative.  It was, however, positive for Bovine protein or Beef.  Considering that lamb and rice formulations are almost always used for allergies and/or stomach upset, and the fact that beef is often listed as one of the worst allergens for dogs, could Evangers have made a worse choice?  It’s important to pay special attention to the complete lack of lamb protein.  This wasn’t a matter of trying to reduce the overall cost of a product by substituting some cheaper ingredients – this is a blatant case of fraud.

I suppose the issue should have been apparent, you can see on their website that under canned dog food their “Lamb and Rice” product is actually the cheapest one they offer.  Less than beef, chicken, turkey, duck or vegetarian.  Could this have been the first hint?  The Lamb Dinner in their “Classic” line is also the same price as the chicken, which of course leaves me to wonder just how many products were actually tested.  There’s a big difference between only finding two substitutions after testing the entire product line and only finding two substitutions after testing a portion of the product line, and considering the pricing I can’t believe that they would substitute lamb in one and not the other.

Still... NOT a duck!!

But it doesn’t end there.  The “Grain Free Duck Pet Food” was found to contain NO DUCK.  The protein source is not specified (which leads to even more questions, as far as I’m concerned) but they are quite positive that the product does not contain duck.  Considering the price of duck and the reasons that consumers would choose this product over other alternatives (allergies, food sensitivities, etc) this situation is beyond despicable.  I should note that again, this product is SERIOUSLY underpriced if it were to contain what was on the label.  This is not a new issue – these cans used to retail in our area for under $2 a can.  Is it any surprise that for $1.69 you’re not actually getting a balanced grain free duck product?  (Not that cheap products should be held to a lower standard when it comes to labeling and safety!)

Because of these and past events, we have added ALL Evanger’s products to our “Do Not Buy” list.  This company has proven themselves time and time again to be far more concerned with the bottom line than with safety or quality.  Need more proof?  You’ll notice that there is not a WORD of this issue on the company’s website.  You’ll notice they have NOT issued a recall for these products.

Once again, I ask you to vote with your wallet.  And once again I have to ask why we don’t have a certification program in place?

*** No, I am not suggesting that Evangers was using zucchini, dogs or cats in their canned duck product.  The fact is, we don’t know WHAT is in that can.  The use of zucchini, dogs and cats dressed as ducks is an exercise in sarcasm, nothing more.

State of the Union

So, just a quick update for those of you who have been watching our civil war unfold.

At the moment we’re having some serious difficulty obtaining the correct muzzles (I can be overly particular about equipment choices – if we’re going to have a disaster I don’t want it to be caused by equipment failure) and so we haven’t done any serious work with the two girls together aside from their bicycling exercises.

Juno continues to be extremely uncomfortable around Fable, and targets her every chance she gets.  If I ask them to be near each other but say, on two sides of a gate, Juno’s anxiety is palpable.  Whether that anxiety is caused by the conflict between my desires and hers (I’m asking her to remain in one spot within 10′ of Fable, while Juno would prefer to scale the gate and eat her) or by an actual fear of Fable I can’t say for sure, although I’m certainly leaning toward the former.

Fable hasn’t had that same kind of response – she’s certainly distrustful of Juno, but she is far more wary than anxious.  Juno remains the aggressor (continuing to lunge at Fable through her kennel bars, etc), and the focal point of our assessments.

Other than that, not much else has changed other than Fable learning two new tricks this week.  Hopefully we’ll have some video to post soon.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has commented, posted or emailed us to offer advice, understanding or both.  Once we are fully and properly equipped we will proceed with trying once again to integrate what has become two separate packs.  Until then, we remain a house divided.