Living foods, from plants or animal sources, contain enzymes (but they are wiped out by heat beginning at 110 degrees…so cooked food does not contain active enzymes) .  The body, human or animal, manufactures enzymes.  But as we age, our store of them and our ability to make them gets depleted.  And they’re important not only for digestion but  for immune system response, and to catalyze all kinds of chemical activity in the body.  I believe enzymes, and proper digestions,  might behind the vitality you see in a really healthy person or animal:  ask what they eat, and I would bet 9 times out of ten the diet has a huge raw component.  Think of the opposite of Morgan Spurlock after a month of eating only at McDonald’s (‘Super Size Me’).  Remember his girlfriend, the vegan chef?  Who brought his liver back to health at the end of the documentary?

Probiotics are the ‘good’ bacteria.  They help with digestion and they  maintain balance in the digestive tract.  They even kill the ‘bad’ bacteria.

My pancreatic pug Zip will always get enzymes (and probiotics) added to any food he’s given, simply to lighten the load of his pancreas (which secretes enzymes to break down protein and fat).  I take enzymes and probiotics too, even though I eat a lot of raw food, because I’m getting older and I think it helps me get the most benefit out of my diet.  But do you really need to add these supplements to a pet’s raw diet?

For the first month of a raw diet, yes, I think you do.  The body needs time to produce the enzymes it needs for this new regimen.  Though the raw food itself contains enzymes, the load on the body to digest the new ‘material’ will be eased (as will your pickup duty) by sending some backup enzymes down the hatch.  And then after 4-6 weeks, most animals will be fully transitioned into the  new diet.  But because you will be rotating among different proteins in the raw diet (you will, won’t  you?), keep those enzymes and probiotics (sealed, at room temp, for max potency) for the next change in diet.

And dogs  don’t have the ability to break down cellulase, which is found in the cell walls of fruit and vegetables.  So if you aren’t pureeing the carrot your dog loves to chomp, it won’t do any harm but he won’t get the nutrients trapped inside either.  Unless you add an enzyme mix containing cellulase.  For some quick straightforward questions & answers, read the FAQ page on Prozyme here.

There’s some controversy over whether or not enzymes make it through the acid bath of the stomach to the small intestine.  Steve Brown writes in See Spot Live Longer (along with co-author Beth Taylor) that enzymes are designed for the environment where they do their work; so an enzyme destined to break down protein in the stomach has the ability to withstand the acid.  This article I found on the web (not on Prozyme’s site)  says that Prozyme will withstand the stomach acids.  Interesting stuff; to be continued.  Comments welcome.

I went to a dental talk at a reputable neighboring vet’s office last fall.  It was actually a sales pitch for annual anesthetized dental cleanings.  I have a real  fondness for vets; I absolutely believe that they are drawn to their profession for love of healing animals.  But I disagree openly with the ones who routinely recommend Science Diet, or who over-vaccinate, or prescribe steroids or antibiotics as a first response to symptoms like scratching or vomiting or ‘leaking’, or who categorically trash raw bones.

Raw bones are controversial.  As a raw feeder, and someone who sells natural pet foods, I’ll never gloss over controversy.  I provide resources and information, and my customers can decide for themselves what to buy and feed.  My dog in fact has pancreatitis, and can’t tolerate the fat in marrow or in chicken skin, so I don’t feed him raw bones anymore.  I don’t even feed him closely trimmed bones because I’ve seen an acute pancreatic episode, and it’s  not worth the risk.  So I don’t tell my customers that all dogs must be fed raw bones.  But, most dogs don’t have pancreatitis, and all dogs need to chew; and further, dental health doesn’t just happen in the modern dog world of biscuits and kibble and cans without some plan in place.  So I do generally recommend raw bones.  But  I’ll never say  ‘don’t ever get your dog’s teeth cleaned by your vet’. I wish vets who are inclined toward categorical stances would, for the benefit of animals everywhere, soften their language and concede controversy (rather than implying, or outright stating, that there is only one valid points of view:  theirs).

I  wondered,  why did the vet not mention the risks of putting your animal under anesthesia yearly (and didn’t mention, either, the cost of this treatment)?  And further, why is it that vets who sell foods like  Science Diet don’t mention that feeding your animals an exclusively highly processed food whose ingredients list starts with  by-products  and fractionated grains (grain, usually corn, then slips under the radar as the #1 ingredient) can cause obesity, diabetes,  food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, myotoxin poisoning, kidney disease, and dental problems.  Not to mention the nightmarish food recall lessons we learned in 2007.

When I refer to bones, I’m not just referring to beef  marrow bones, which can be too hard for some aggressive chewers who won’t give in (they are the ones who are likely to crack a tooth); I’m referring to turkey and chicken backs and necks and wings, and fish bones (from whole raw fish), and knuckle bones, and bison/buffalo/elk bones.  When you see the dental benefits of a reversal of severe tartar to white teeth (I’ve seen this in a customer’s adopted border collie), not to mention the instinctive attraction of puppies to bones, it’s hard to imagine excluding raw bones from the diet without a good reason.

Where are the frites?

Every month at both stores (Portland and Boston, Fetch and Fish & Bone) we pick a brand of pet food to discount by 10%.  The idea is, encourage customers to experiment, or move what we have an overstock of, or just give a good deal because it’s fun.  Who doesn’t like a bargain?

This month we need to defrost one of the freezers at Fetch and we’re also bringing in Nature’s Variety to Fish & Bone, so all raw food is AT LEAST 10% off, all month.  Bigger discounts on full cases, and on some things we have a lot of, like Bravo Burgers & 1- and 2-pound chubs!

And we’ll be demystifying raw feeding this month: the benefits, the basics, routines that make raw feeding easier.  We’d like to hear from raw feeders out there.   Email us if you have experiences, tips or suggestions to share!

Where are the frites?

I’m still reading Dr. Michael W. Fox’s Dog Body, Dog Mind.  It’s smart and sensitive, and I think it might have a really profound impact on your relationship with your dog.  I just read about touch & the impact of grooming, petting etc.  The heart rate goes way down (for the pet-ter too… I wish I could remember the name of the guy who wrote about his Pomeranian’s role in his recovery from traumatic burns.  His doctor instructed him to stroke pet his dog for 20 minutes every day to speed healing).  Baby animals respond to stroking from the mother by secreting more digestive juices, which kicks in digestion and absorption; and without the nutrients and calories in food, the babies become sick and vulnerable to disease.  “Maternal deprivation, or lack of tender loving care, can therefore be detrimental to survival.” p. 56, Dog Body, Dog Mind.

When it comes to the animals in our lives, what’s the best way to show the love?  Owning two retail stores for dogs and cats, I could say (and given the impact the weather has had on sales, I probably should say) you really need to spend some money.  I’m always concerned with Zip’s happiness, but I’m not always clear on whether I’ve been successful (pugs have those worried faces).  I’m up for the new toy, and definitely for the healthy treats (I know that short term anyway, that works) but I want to know that I’m providing for his fundamental emotional welfare.  It’s the least I can do to say thanks for all the companionship, snorts (and snores), love and loyalty.  And laughs.  I’ve been reading  Dog Body, Dog Mind by Dr. Michael W. Fox, so I’ll share with you the 5 Freedoms.  Dr. Fox writes that to get a sense of your animal’s happiness quotient,  see how you’re doing in providing the 5 Freedoms:

1. Freedom hunger & thirst
2. Freedom from pain, injury & disease
3. Freedom from discomfort (eg, temperature extremes, uncomfortable floor surfaces
4. Freedom to express themselves naturally
5. Freedom from fear & distress

Simple and powerful.  Agree?

Glacial Waterfall Courtesy of Some Terrific Nature Blog
Glacial Waterfall Courtesy of Some Terrific Nature Blog

Yes apparently this photo is possible.  Even in arctic conditions, water can move.  We found this to be true this morning at Fetch.  Apparently, the glacier upstairs (in one of the vacant floors above) started to melt.  And water, we can confirm, does run downhill still.  While the store did not exhibit the magnificence of this glacier in the photo, there are similarities.

Cold. Water.

That’s about it.  We are, and will remain, open. However our credit card machines & computers are taking personal days. They may or may not come back.

Bulldog contemplating fireworks

Bulldog contemplating fireworks

Every year I read up again on fireworks/thunderstorm phobias to see if I can find any new information.  Just this morning I came across this post on Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue that is really thorough without glazing your eyes over.  It’s not new (quotes some pretty old Whole Dog Journal issues), but it’s really well done.  It talks about phobias, behavior modification, plant extract remedies (things like passion flower & valerian), the natural hormone supplement for insomnia (melatonin), flower essences (which treat on an emotional/energetic level), music therapy, hug therapy, and drugs.  Thank you YGRR for making my job so easy today.

Melissa's Going Away Dinner

You know, this intermission has not been all work and no play.  Perhaps you’ll enjoy seeing some of the lovely Fetch crew in their downtime.  Against our will, we were forced to bid ‘Aloha’ (which you must know means hello & goodbye, so we expect to see her again) to our dear Melissa.  We forgive her for mistakenly thinking that her husband being stationed in California would be a legitimate reason to leave Fetch, and we await her return.  Melissa?

Melissa's Going Away Dinner

Kind of like how for no good reason I’ve been avoiding the multivitamin jar, I’ve fallen off my blog.  Taking on the launch, of a new brand as well as new store (Fish & Bone, at 217 Newbury Street, opening this summer),  in the continuum of challenges has felt somewhere between advanced placement tightrope-walking school & feeding bears salmon with your teeth.  I’m not complaining though, I’ve loved it; just didn’t know all of what I was getting into.  Which is good, because sometimes you’re better off not thinking about all the possible things you could set in motion when you flip one switch.

Now I’m neglecting my paperwork by writing my blog.  See, avoidance can be constructive if you channel it.  During my protracted intermission I have been figuring out better systems for keeping all of the social network platforms I’ve signed onto updated (including Fish & Bone on Twitter and on Facebook).  Tweetdeck seems to have improved a lot, so I picked up the newer version and I’m trying to figure out how to use it to update the blog too.  So please consider the intermission over.  I hope you’ll come back….there’s lots to tell about the launch & more suspense, I’m afraid, to come!

I’ve been radio silent on this trip to LA & San Francisco b/c there is so much to do.  And I try to keep the posts content-driven.  But sometimes you just want to chat, right?  I know.  Well, here you go.

Arrived last week on a retail vision quest.  How do retailers solve problems of display and merchandising?  Only way to find out is to go and see.  I’m sure there are creative retailers in every metropolitan center but California is warm.  At least, in June, warmer than Maine, even if the sun isn’t shining (and it hasn’t been while I’ve been here, at least not on the coast).  I walked for hours in SF; all day, for the two days I was there.  Fascinating.  LA of course is more spread out, but the boutiques I checked out were in interesting neighborhoods.  Not surprisingly, various ‘hoods have their own culture and sometimes their own graphic vocabulary.  Tight cross-pollenation.  Like in Portland, or in Boston; but LA or SF-style.

So what can I tell you?  The world is getting more dog-friendly, first of all.  If we can do something about airline travel with animals, we’re all set; we can stay anywhere.  The West Coast is not as warm in June as you think.  And what I went looking for, solutions, like how best to display harnesses, are answered systemically.  Or at least, that’s how I see it.  What does that mean?  Whatever you are trying to solve, whether, like me, how to make a small retail space sell what it needs to sell at reasonable prices in order to create a successful business that impacts its community positively on multiple levels; or really any kind of problem, steep yourself in inspiration (hopefully away from your day-day life) in whatever form it takes, and let the solution find its expression from the roots up.  What we put out there in the world is our expression of how we see, and what we experience.