Lynda Wood is an animal advocate and founder of The Waggary Pampered Paws Dog Treats. She’s got a great blog featuring adoptable dogs and dog adoption news, and has been kind enough to share her experience with dog rescue. This interview shares great advice about pet food and treats towards the end, so be sure to read the whole thing!
HTB: Lynda, I understand that you became involved with dog rescue as a teen. How did that come about?
LW: It certainly wasn’t from a lack of things to do 🙂 I was a student and I had three part-time jobs already, but that’s all they were to me: jobs. They weren’t my passion. I had always toyed with the idea of maybe becoming a vet one day, or at least a vet’s assistant, so volunteering at my local humane society seemed like a great way to start helping animals in some capacity right away.
I began volunteering on weekends along with several others my age, and by about week three I was the only one left. Scraping hardened dog food off kennel walls and hosing down dirty kennel floors is not glamorous work, but I loved it. Anything I could do to make the dogs’ environment better while they were at the shelter, that’s what I wanted to do. Eventually I began going out on rescue calls with the shelter attendants, and also tagging along with the dog catcher as he made his rounds.
Rescue work, I learned very quickly, is not easy work. You see things you never want to see, and it changes you. You begin to look at the world in a different way, and there were days that my heart felt so heavy from being such an up-close witness to the cruelty humans can inflict on helpless animals. But none of that ever compared to the pure joy that came with the unconditional love these dogs gave in return. Their ability to forgive and trust in mankind again was inspiring to me, and every time a family came into the shelter and found the perfect dog for them, I experienced such a deep sense of satisfaction. It made all the heartache and hard work worth it.
HTB: What advice would you give teenagers who are interested in getting involved with dog rescue?
LW: Do it! It’s hard work, and there will be times when you feel as if your heart is breaking, but it will also prove to be some of the best, most satisfying work you ever do. Dogs give us so much and there is such personal reward in giving back to them.
There is no job, no kind gesture, and no amount of time spent, that is too small. Cleaning up a dog’s living quarters, taking him or her for a walk, offering a gentle hand or throwing a ball—these are all things that make a difference. Some of these dogs have rarely heard a kind word or felt a loving human touch. As many of the homeless dogs as there are starving for proper nutrition, there are those starving for a single moment of attention meant just for them.
Don’t stop at volunteering at your local human society either. There are numerous dog rescue organizations popping up every day as dog lovers do their best to combat the growing need for care and shelter of the neglected, abused, and abandoned. Most of these rescue organizations are run by volunteers so every helping hand is an important one, and very much appreciated.
No matter how much you give to dog rescue, you will get more out of it than you could ever imagine.
HTB: Your love of dogs has led you to start Pampered Paws Dog Treats. What makes your treats special? Where can people get them?
LW: Well I never did become a vet, but I did work at a veterinarian hospital, and what I saw there on a daily basis proved to be the catalyst for Pampered Paws Dog Treats. Young dogs, very young dogs, were being diagnosed with cancer. Allergies and chronic ear infections were being treated in alarming numbers. There was clearly something going on, and even my own dog Toby, a miniature poodle, was suffering from undiagnosed seizures. These seizures were becoming so frequent, and so severe, that I felt it was only a matter of time before I would have to make the painful decision to have him put down. It broke my heart as he was my best little buddy, but watching him suffer was beyond painful.
In the midst of that, I adopted my German Shepherd, Temperance. The breeder was retiring her from the show ring due to an injury, and it was through this breeder that I first became interested in nutrition. She only feeds her dogs natural food, and all it took was a little investigative research on my part before the horrors of what really goes into commercial pet food were revealed to me, and had me switching over to the same diet.
I did my research, spoke to professionals, and within weeks of transferring my two dogs, as well as my daughter’s dog, over to a natural diet, Toby’s seizures began to lessen in frequency and severity. I didn’t even make the connection at first; I was just so happy to see him thriving as he was. I kept researching, kept learning all that I could, and that learning led me to looking into what was in the treats I gave my dogs, and ultimately finding healthy alternatives to the preservative-packed options that are out there. The most fun alternative turned out to be baking my own dog cookies, which my dogs were very happy about. They went crazy over these treats and when I began sharing them with family and friends who have dogs, and their dogs loved them like mine did, I decided to share them even further by creating Pampered Paws Dog Treats.
What makes Pampered Paws Dog Treats the most special is probably what they don’t have in them, more so than what they do. There are actually very few ingredients in my dog treats, but those that I use are all of the highest quality, organic whenever possible, and healthy. What Pampered Paws Dog Treats don’t have is added salt or sugar, no artificial colors, and they don’t have any of the harmful preservatives that allow commercial dog treats to sit on the store shelves for months, sometimes even years at a time. They are also baked fresh, by hand, in my home kitchen with the same care I use when baking for my own dogs. For me, every cookie is a representation of the importance of proper nutrition, the care that goes into that, and something every dog deserves.
There will be a more permanent Waggery website in the future, but for now
Pampered Paws Dog Treats are available on-line at http://thewaggery.ecrater.com/
If anyone has any questions, or if they’d like to talk with me about a dog with special needs (like allergies), they can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
HTB: What are the three top things people should know about pet food and treats?
LW: Well, firstly, pet food manufacturing is a multi-billion dollar industry that is basically self-regulated. There is no one outside of themselves holding them accountable, and as Ann N. Martin writes in her book Food Pets Die For – Shocking Facts About Pet Food:
. . . there are many deplorable ingredients that legally can be used in pet foods as sources of protein—in particular, euthanized cats and dogs, diseased cattle and horses, road kill, dead zoo animals, and meat not fit for human consumption. In addition, fiber sources in many foods are composed of the leftovers from the food chain, including beet pulp, the residue of sugar beets, peanut hulls, and even sawdust sweepings from the floor of the rendering plant!
Secondly, preservatives that are known toxins are used to prevent the fatty contents of pet food from becoming rancid. The main three to watch out for (and completely stay away from) are BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and Ethoxyquin.
Wendell Belfield, D.V.M. writes of his concerns in a letter to the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM):
“Chemicals such as BHA and BHT, which can initiate birth defects, and damage to liver and kidneys are commonly used preservatives.”
And Animal Protection Institute (API), a nonprofit advocacy organization, states in a 1996 report:
“Ethoxyquin has been associated with immune deficiency syndrome, leukemia, blindness, skin, stomach, spleen and liver cancer in companion animals.”
Pet food companies will often times state that they do not add these particular substances to their foods, however what they won’t tell consumers is the fact that the meat suppliers they use may well have added one or more of these preservatives before shipping those raw materials to the pet food company. If this is the case, the pet food company does not have to list that on their ingredient label; they need only list those ingredients they knowingly added themselves.
Thirdly, just because a commercial dog food or treat is labeled “veterinarian approved” does not mean it is healthy. I hold great admiration and respect for veterinarians. I love, love, love my vet, who is also a personal friend, but they don’t teach animal nutrition at veterinarian school. The basis of their nutritional instruction comes from what pet food company representatives have to say, which is why so many vets will caution against using anything but commercially prepared dog food and dog treats. They really are advising you how they see best, but it’s up to you, as a responsible dog owner, to do your own research and make the best educated decision for your beloved friend based on what you believe is best for them.
As for the decision I made, I am very happy to be able to say that since putting my dogs on a natural diet, and feeding them only Pampered Paws Dog Treats, they are all shining examples of health and vitality, and Toby has not had a single seizure since. It’s been two years now and he is healthier than he has ever been. I have also rescued a Boston Terrier in the last year, one that was suffering from horrible skin allergies and whose future looked to be filled with medications that included steroids. Fortunately I’ve been able to control her allergies with diet alone, and her itchy, painful skin is now a thing of the past.
For me, having happy, healthy dogs is what matters most. It’s the best recipe for life 🙂