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Tales from the Dog Run: The REAL Omnivore’s Dilemma

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Nina and her puppy, Gus

Nina and her puppy, Gus

A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
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By Nina Pajak

I have a confession to make: I don’t give a crap about eating organic. I know I fit the demo of the Pollanated New Yorker and we’re all supposed to be filled with whole foods now, but it’s just so much damn work. And if I switched to all that chemical-free, preservative-free, unprocessed blahblahblah, well, I’d really miss my fat free Kraft Singles, okay? Not to mention a number of other equally disgusting food-like products which I eat guiltily in the back of my closet so no one can say, “Ew. Do you know what’s in that?!”

I’m not dead yet. In fact, I feel pretty good.

So naturally, when I buy food and treats for Gus, all-natural doesn’t necessarily cross my mind. He’s a young, healthy dog, the operative word in that phrase being “dog.” He eats garbage and buttons and all manner of textiles. He licks his own rear end, for heaven’s sake. I don’t know how health-conscious a person needs to be for an animal that can’t be trusted not to eat feces, whether they be his own or someone else’s. So I get whatever looks fun and interesting and enjoyable for him, often something in tiny, novelty shapes with some sort of junk in the middle. I’m not buying him X-brand Salmonella Bites, but I’m not shopping at the dog food co-op, either. Up until recently, I was under the impression that this was not only fine, but totally normal and unremarkable. Certainly nothing of which to be embarrassed.

Wrong. So wrong. I should have known. Talk in the dog run sometimes turns to food, and everyone chimes in on their preferred brand of all-natural, organic, grass-fed yadda yadda. I’ve heard of dogs on raw diets, dogs on raw diets which are delivered to your doorstep, like a doggie Zone system, and dogs whose owners feed them whole chicken legs, “like they would eat in the wild.” Someone told me about that last one second-hand.

See Also: Two Brooklyn Women Plan To Eat Dog Food For An Entire Month

“There is no ‘in the wild,'” I said. “Dogs have been domesticated for millenia. They need raw meat and bones about as much as we need a Brontosaurus burger.”

The woman shrugged. “I hear the dogs love it,” she said. Of course they love it. They’re dogs. Mine tries to eat pigeon carcasses and dead bugs.

See Also: Guide To Owning A Dog In New York City

When treats are being doled out and shared, the other owners usually make a point of declaring their brand to be safe and free of suspect substances. I nod knowingly and hang back, never offering any of my treats. I’m afraid everyone would spot my mass merch biscuits and ask me to put them away, shaking their heads and thinking sadly of the trailer park life Gus must be living.

Part of me thinks that I should follow their lead. There was that huge recall of tainted dog food a few years back, which caused a number of animals to die. I would feel awful if my dog got sick from some cut-rate kibble. But then I see him chowing down on a big ball of lint in the laundry room or drinking filthy puddle water and I can’t help but feel like admitting they’re right would be giving up a small piece of my sanity.

I’ll probably do it anyway. I was never great with peer pressure. Or guilt. But if anyone tries to get me to give up my Fresca or Tasti-d-Lite, there will be blood. Oh yes, there will be blood.

Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.

Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.

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