...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Food for Thought

by Susan J. Kroupa

© Caraman | Dreamstime.com
Recently, a reviewer who otherwise liked Bed-Bugged, gently chided me for that fact that Molly often slips Doodle some of her food. The reviewer stated she didn’t agree with the author that human food was good for dogs.

I smiled because the author was just allowing the characters to act naturally.

The quickest way to turn potentially engaging characters into cardboard is to have them become puppets to mouth all the author’s pet (no pun intended) ideas.

In the Doodlebugged books, the three main characters have three different ideas about what foods should be in a dog’s diet. The boss, Molly’s father, thinks Doodle should only eat dog food. Molly acts as most ten-year-old girls might—she slips Doodle scraps and extra treats when she gets the opportunity. And Doodle, well, he views the whole dogs-shouldn’t-eat-human-food idea as selfish behavior on the part of humans. Early in Bed-Bugged, when Doodle is still getting used to his new job, the boss picks up some hamburgers on the way home from work. Doodle notes,

“I can’t help but drool for the rest of the drive back, the scent of those burgers filling the van.
Of course, it’s the same old dry dog food in my dish when we get home . . . But I’ve known since I was a pup that the bosses are stingy with their own food, which they like to say is bad for us. I wonder if they say that so they can keep it all for themselves.”

Three different characters and three different views on the issue. 

That said, since the books are aimed both at middle-grade kids and readers of all ages who enjoy gentle mysteries, I wouldn’t want to promote, through a sympathetic character, anything that could be actively harmful to dogs. It is totally within character for Molly and the boss, as reasonably well-educated dog owners, never to give Doodle chocolate. Doodle, on the other hand, notes that chocolate smells wonderful, and views the fact that humans won’t share as more proof they want to keep it all for themselves.

He’s wrong, of course. We all know chocolate is bad for dogs, just as we know we have to be careful to keep it out of reach, since many dogs will eat it given the chance. 

But this got me wondering about dogs and food and I innocently wandered over to the Internet to read about what dogs should or shouldn’t eat. Image

As Doodle would say, Whoa! I’ll leave the often rancorous dog-diet wars (Omnivore or carnivore? Higher protein or lower protein? Raw food or cooked food? Grains or no grains?) to more hardy souls.

While I don’t subscribe to the idea that dogs should never be given any human food, I believe all dog owners should know which foods can be dangerous for their pets. Most sites agree that along with chocolate, forbidden foods should include grapes, macadamia nuts, coffee, anything with caffeine or alcohol, onions and garlic, xylitol (a sugar alcohol used in gums and some candies), and yeast dough. Some add dairy products because, like humans, some dogs can have lactose intolerance. And most advise to avoid or limit very fatty foods, as too much fat in a dog’s diet can lead to pancreatitis.  Finally, never give a dog any human medicine unless it has been prescribed by a vet. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen lead the list of human meds that can be toxic to dogs.

The website http://hounddogsdrule.com/k9-classroom/dangerous-foods-toxic-substances/ has a colorful chart of foods that are both good and bad for dogs. Other sites might have some differences in their lists.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue slipping Shadow the occasional bite of cheese or banana.

Doodle would approve. 

Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville's Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests.

She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa


  1. Thanks for posting this, Sheila!

  2. Ha! I'm one of those rabid souls...except less rabid than most, I think. My dogs eat whole prey raw, but not obsessively whole prey. (It's hard to feed elk to dogs in a whole prey fashion, yes it is.) I'm fussy about treats, but still do buy commercial stuff for them (though have made my own at times with certain dogs).

    I've been exploring the whole dog food thing actively since I was grooming in the early 90s, so have extended experience that allows me to feel confident about my knowledge (and to feel very strongly about kibble, even the best of which is at least 40% carbs in an animal that does not need them). Also, I have a breed that seems particularly susceptible to carb issues (Beagles are like Shetland ponies in that way!), so it behooves me to be aware!

    But in the end, all I really want is the choice to feed my dogs the way I think is best for them. I think it crosses the line to rancorous when people forget that it's not their job to make decisions for other people (and their dogs!). :P

    PS OMG, yes--! I used to feed grapes back in the day as treats, because who even knew?

  3. Doranna, yes, I used to give grapes to Tiyo, my hound/German shepherd mix! I cringe at the thought now. If all dog food/dog training/human food/health food/ etc. advocates were are reasoned and articulate as you are, it wouldn't be dangerous waters in Internet-opinion land. :)

  4. Oh, blush! I think it's like the wild west out there. People have forgotten how to be civilized in this new environment and need to relearn. (Like dogs, apparently we don't always generalize.)

    As for my fictional dogs--I believe that Dale will get around to feeding a raw diet when I write the next Dale & Sully (wish that was *right now*!). But in other situations, my characters will be thoughtful, and will do what they can with their personal circumstances. I don't have a problem simply evading the matter, and I don't have a problem tackling it (ie, having Molly's dad discover her very natural transgressions and saying "Hey, don't," or showing her which scraps are the best for Doodle), but I also don't think that writing in a child who sneaks scraps to a dog is the same as the author saying, "It's good for your dog to sneak scraps!" Yiii. Imagine if we were limited to writing things that were only beneficial and perfect... HuLLOWW, then there's no murder mystery in the first place!