ATLANTA — After 27 years of marriage, my husband and I started a second family: we adopted a dog.
I’m the last person I ever expected to own a pet. Growing up as one of four siblings, with three cats and two dogs, our home was the noisiest zoo in the neighborhood.
I wasn’t interested in playing the companion of Babo, Chris, Pepe Kitty, Ms. Pac, or Little Bit (so named because most of her tail was cut off with a paper cutter in an incident). The dogs didn’t care about walks because they kept each other happy. The only thing I got in exchange for changing the litter box or opening a can of smelly cat food was Siamese and Calico cat hair on my bed covers.
My recent change in attitude towards pet ownership is probably due to the emotional roller coaster ride that life is. My youngest son graduated from college. Perimenopause sucks. I’m pretty sure I’m suffering from the lingering effects of Pandemic Stress Disorder. And I’m the one making medical decisions for my eighty-year-old mother, whose dementia continues its downward spiral.
The day I turned off Mom’s cell phone because she couldn’t even figure out how to operate a clamshell anymore was tough. But Peaches, as her name was when we got her, was there for me with therapeutic licks and a belly that looked ready for a rub.
When my husband and I brought Peaches home from Fulton County Animal Services in June, we naively thought we were making a deal because the adoption fees were waived. In our enthusiasm to bring home the “best” dog in the shelter, little did we realize that we had chosen an energetic, purebred American Pit Bull Terrier that would require a lot of training. Thank goodness for Cesar Millan aka the Dog Whisperer and his YouTube videos.
After visits to the pet store and vet, we quickly learned that a free dog from an animal shelter is not really that free.
The dog food aisle is particularly confusing. Do we feed canned peaches, dry or a combination? I don’t remember looking at labels that closely when I was feeding my kids. Now I’ve read the nutritional information on 50 pound bags of dry dog food touting oral care, the immune system, digestion and skin and coat benefits. There are so many varieties.
Then there’s the large category of dog treats, which we’ve learned are particularly useful for training. We tried at least three brands because some seem to be giving her the runs. Just like when our kids wore diapers, we’re examining Peaches’ poop for clues about her digestive health.
And we don’t wait for vet visits to find out if our 5-year-old rescue dog has put on a few pounds. We stand on the scales with her and without her and deduct the difference.
It goes beyond food.
I watch Peaches’ hydration as much as I do my own. On hikes we pack them in a dog saddle bag and throw water bottles in both side pockets. When I unwrapped my dog’s birthday gift of a water bottle with collapsible plastic water bowl this summer, you might have thought I’d been given a diamond ring.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one concerned about my dog’s well-being.
We’re in a moment of the “crazy dog mom revolution,” said Rachel Meyer, owner of Botanical Bones, a superfood dog treat company in Asheville, North Carolina.
I met Meyer earlier this month at the Chow Chow, an annual festival in Asheville that celebrates foodways of southern Appalachia. Meyer was there selling her line of peanut butter-based dog treats. Flower Power from Botanical Bones supports immunity and well-being. Balance and Calm, which we’re trying at Peaches, helps boisterous dogs relax. Inner Glow promotes digestion.
Dog-loving Meyer started her business during the pandemic. “While everyone else was making sourdough, I started making dog treats,” she said. Her booming business is about to explode thanks to a recent $50,000 grant awarded to her by NC Idea, a North Carolina entrepreneurship support foundation.
Meyer has also collaborated with Amanda Yu-Nguyen, a boutique dog treat maker from Atlanta, on a doggy trail mix. The mix includes unsweetened banana chips, dried blueberries, dried carrots, freeze-dried green beans, and dog treats. Meyer said they sold out in two hours. They’ve restocked, and each time the mix sells quickly.
Similar to Meyer, Yu-Nguyen’s small business idea took shape during the pandemic. For her Barkuterie Boards, she curates made-to-order charcuterie-style boards for dogs. Their perishable boards — which are only available for pickup or delivery in Metro Atlanta — include high-protein tuna, shrimp, beef and antelope bites, along with carrot and pumpkin biscuits and a cucumber rose and other treats that will perk pup ears. Nonperishable boards, which she ships nationwide, are made with vegetable and fruit molds. The plaques can even be personalized with the dog’s name in cheese letters.
Peaches’ adoption papers say her birthday is March 3rd. I might actually be willing to shell out $40 for one of Yu-Nguyen’s creations to celebrate the occasion.
My four-legged therapist is worth it to me.