Beer Drinkin’ Chili Eatin’ Dogs


Minn, my grandparents’ dog, loved chili. It was her favorite meal. Second favorite: corn on the cob, which, yes, she would hold upright in her tiny paws and nibble until every kernel was gone. Ridiculously adorable. “The only thing she didn’t like was mushrooms,” my grandmother reports.

Minn lived to be 12. For every one of the days that made up those years, she ate whatever my grandmother prepared for dinner for herself and her family. Not one kibble of dog food entered that house.

I can’t begin to image the repercussions of giving Nala a heaping bowl of chili. I’m sure that within the hour my pretty aqua paint would be peeling off the walls and my eyes would be watering. At least that’s what I imagine. But this is not to say that Nala has never had ‘people food.’ In fact, most of her diet is made up of ‘people food.’ She eats Sojourner Farms, a grain base that is mixed with raw or cooked meat (she gets raw) and whatever else the human-feeder is inclined to add. When I have leftover fruits and vegetables, in to the mix they go. On top of that, puppy vitamins. This was the same diet Miko, my previous dog, received for most of her 12 years. I would like to think that this somewhat natural diet is why at such an age she had no signs of arthritis, or problems of any kind. She did, eventually develop a tumor that took over her abdomen. But as my grandmother, the one that had Minn, says, “We all have to die of something.” But perhaps the food had nothing to do with her fantastic health. Maybe because she was a mix she had fewer problems. Who’s to say?

But many would disagree with such blasphemy as giving a dog ‘people food,’ especially as the main part of its diet. Some might claim it creates table begging, or, worse, that the food is simply bad for them, even life-threatening.

On the Today Show website Sloan Barnett reports “’People foods’ that can kill your pet.” Of course we want to treat our dogs, she introduces, but are we really hurting them more than helping?

Food Danger for Doggie #1: Avocados

Okay… I’m not sure how many people, or dogs for that matter, consider avocados a treat for an animal, but this seems doable.

Food Danger for Doggie #2: Beer

According to Barnett, or whoever her sources are (they are not listed), beer can “damage the animal’s liver and brain.” Sound familiar? And “the smaller the animal, the more deadly the effects can be.” So small dogs are lightweights.

But I grew up watching my father and his friends without fail give the last swigs of their beer to their dogs. The dogs loved it as much as their masters. None of the dogs died specifically from liver damage, nor did they seem to get drunk, or dumber in the long run due to lack of brain power… unlike their human counterparts.

Only a few days ago Nala found a beer can while on our walk. She carried it around for a while, and when a bit of beer feel out, she stopped to lap up the liquid treat. I let her. She’s still kicking.

Food Danger for Doggie #3: Nuts (especially walnuts and macadamia)

Nala’s favorite food for training: peanuts. Dry roasted. However, according to this, if I were to replace those peanuts with one of the no-nos, she could vomit, fall over from paralysis, or die within 12 hours.

I tried the “train me” treats that the pet stores sell for around five bucks a bag. She would take them, spit them out, and, funny enough, lose interest in my commands.

Should I replace the nuts with hotdogs or something because of this article?

Food Danger for Doggie #4: Chocolate

We’ve all heard this one. I’ve even heard horror stories about running to the vet from acquaintances. I have never witnessed this myself. But what I have witnessed is my uncle’s dog eating an entire bag of chocolate kisses, rappers and all, off the dinning room table. She lived to be 14. My father’s dog eating chocolate cookies from the counter. She lived to be 12. Were these just lucky exceptions?

Food Danger for Doggie #4: Candy

I can see that this treat would be rather pointless for a dog and, according to the article, it can cause a sudden drop in a dog’s blood sugar. Really no big surprise, it’s not good for humans either. But anyone who has a dog AND kids probably knows that a dog not getting a piece of candy here and there is highly unlikely.

Food Danger for Doggie #5: Caffeine

I’m not sure how this would even be possible. I can’t imagine a scenario when a dog would help itself to a cup of coffee. Tea even seems less possible.

Food Danger for Doggie #6: Grapes and raisins

I have watched a number of dogs attempt to eat grapes. They have never actually consumed them. The funniest grape-dog situation involved a Char-pei.

Raisins might be an issue if there are children in the house, I’m guessing?

Food Danger for Doggie#7: Onions

I let Nala sniff an Onion once. I didn’t see her for 20 minutes.

Food Danger for Doggie #8: Medicine


However, when my boyfriend’s mastiff was developing severe arthritis, he was told by the vet to give her baby aspirin. I was also told by a vet many years ago to give a dog a very small amount of Pepto-Bismol to treat severe diarrhea. It worked.

Another friend with a severely energetic lab once came home to find her then puppy had eaten an entire bottle of sleeping pills, along with most of the bottle itself. She rushed him to the vet. The vet saw no signs of emergency, sent them home, and the two of them had a quiet afternoon of napping. “He was calm for two days,” she told me.

However, the article does claim some good news. Lean meats are okay. But high fat meats should be avoided. And never…. NEVER give them bones as they could result in choking.

My previous mailman had a Golden Retriever that was fed half of a raw chicken every night for supper for all 12 years of his life. His name was Rigsby and he had the shiniest coat in town.

Remember the post about dressing up our dogs? This is yet one more symptom of forgetting that our four-legged friends are not people. Just as we should remember that not every dog is going to enjoy wearing a cute sweater, we should also remember that they have a different anatomy than our own. But they are still animals, descendants of wolves. They may just do better on a diet that is more substantial than kibble.

But, at the same time, perhaps articles like these, whether on-line, in Dog Fancy, or reported live from Studio 1-A in Rockegeller Center, should not be taken so seriously, or so literally. Consider the amount of articles and reports we read/hear about children. If parents pay too much attention to the dos and don’ts, they can become paralyzed with the never-ending list and confused by the constant contradictions. Let’s face it. We live in a fear-based society. And fear creates consumption.

Don’t feed your dog ‘people food’ or it will die! Feed it dog food. Buy dog food.

The dog food industry has been flourishing since 1890. By the time the second Great War was over, pet food sales were knocking on $200 million. It gave companies a chance to get rid of their by products. It didn’t seem like a bit deal. Since the beginning of dog and man, dogs had been eating the parts of animals that humans didn’t want. The problem arrived with the added stuff, sawdust and the heads of diseased rats. That’s not entirely an exaggeration.

Sure. Things have gotten better. As our concern over our pets has grown, so have our expectations for what we put in their bellies. But we still need to remember that they are what they are. They are carnivores. They are animals. Somewhere, deep down, behind those weepy eyes, they are wolves. They deserve more than kibble, and they deserve more respect than an avocado.

Maybe my grandparents had it right. It’s hard to argue with low vet bills, absent dog food costs, and a happy dog.





3 responses »

  1. Great post, full of keen observations, anecdotes and examples. I especially like your list of food dangers and your comments about the dog food industry. We do live in a fear-based society and manipulation of those fears does create consumption.

    Loved hearing about Minn, the chili eating dog! 🙂

    I am now following your excellent blog!

  2. If avocados are bad for dogs, then why is there a whole dog food line based on avocados? As for the caffeine, my border collie mix just ate a coffee bean that fell on the floor this morning before I could pick it up. I can’t imagine him being even more hyped up than he is, but it’s not going to kill him. As for the nuts, my lab once got into a bag of mixed nuts… I was none the wiser until scooping poop one day… they came out whole. Go figure.

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