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My dog Mattie has recently been featured in “Bird Talk” Magazine’s column, “Memo to Parker and Pepper”, which I happen to write. In the column, Mattie is the perpetual victim of Parker and Pepper’s terroristic antics, always getting toys thrown at her or getting pooped on. It’s a fun column to write and from the email I’ve been getting, the BT Readers seem to be getting a kick out of it.

I thought I’d give you a short history of Mattie, with the emphasis on “short”. Two years ago, a neighbor found Mattie in my Condominium Association parking lot and called me immediately. I ran down and there she was in the hot sun laying on the asphalt  and looking as it appeared to us, half dead. She was densely matted, could barely open her eyes and couldn’t walk very well. I soon discovered that for all practical purposes, she was deaf.                                                                          

Mattie was a mess. I had no idea where she came from, and despite living in the neighborhood for over ten years, I had never seen her before. I carried her up to my condo, gave her water, found her some food and tried to make her comfortable. She was obviously in pain, very upset and her gums were pale. I got her to a Vet where he had her sedated and shaved her down. The mats the Vet Technicians cut off of her filled a gallon-sized, zip-lock container to bulging proportions. (I saved this in case someone wanted to claim her as their dog. I wasn’t going to have any of that; if they did, I was willing to go to Court and take Mattie, photos, plastic “Bag-O-Mats”, the Vet report and the six-hundred dollar vet bill  with me…)  She was matted so badly I was worried she would have maggots in the mats. She didn’t, thank God, but she had an intestinal infection, an ear infection, and an eye infection. She was malnourished but not underweight. She appeared to have two tails, (one was a long sausage-like mat), and her feet looked like bananas. Her toenails were two inches long and fur encased the nails like cocoons. No wonder she couldn’t walk.

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 Once we got her shaved down and the infections cleaned up, this is what we found under all that mess:

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My friend Jen calls her “Mattie-Pattie”

Mattie had sores all over her body from the matted fur pulling on her skin and she was disinterested with life and pretty skittish. In time, she began to come around. I started her off on a quality canned diet for a while and after much soul-searching and hours of research, I began to convert her to a raw diet. This was no effort. It took about one meal before she was wolfing it down.  I surfed from brand to brand, and found a few that seem to work in terms of quality, value and convenience. She eats this prepared frozen diet that I thaw out in the fridge overnight before serving and Mattie also gets green tripe, vegetables, occasional sprouts, raw bones, salmon oil, and organ meats for treats.

The B.A.R.F diet stands for  “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones and Raw Food”. It’s controversial, but growing in popularity ever since there was that pet food scare a while back. It is based on the philosophy that dogs should eat what they are evolutionarily suited to eat. 

Here is a link to a website that explains it: http://www.barfworld.com/html/barf_diet/barfdiet.shtml

I put Mattie on the diet and she began to bloom. The Vet guessed that she was about eleven and although she had a slight heart murmur and all of those infections, she was actually in pretty good shape. After a couple of months, Mattie began to show some personality and didn’t sleep twenty-two hours a day anymore. Unbelievably, her hearing came back. Of course, cleaning up the ear infection played a a part in that But it wasn’t until I got her on the raw diet that her hearing came back. That was months after we cleaned up the infection. She began to run. She’s alert, she seems to enjoy life and although she is still a quiet, introspective little girl, her eyes shine, her coat is beautiful and she’s loving her life. 

Now on to the ummm, “nitty-gritty” of one aspect of the raw diet and what it does. Her poops are small, well-formed and firm. Amazingly, they have virtually no smell. She had nothing but huge poops and diarrhea when she was eating the canned diet.  I didn’t understand why this was. It wasn’t until I did some research and found that the diet is so nutritionally dense, you don’t need a ton of it to keep them healthy, so there is less waste.

Detractors of the B.A.R.F. diet are legion. They argue that while dogs began by eating raw food, they have been eating cooked food with humans for centuries and living longer than dogs in the past. The pioneer of B.A.R.F., Doctor Ian Billinghurst, an Australian Vet and Author of the book, Give Your Dog a Bone, says in its defense:

“Head in the sand science is very poor science,” he said. “Veterinary nutritionists have no experience feeding BARF…Their problem is that they neglect to be scientists when faced with something outside their experience. Instead of making proper investigations or simply being honest and admitting their ignorance of BARF, they make a series of assumptions and parade those assumptions as if they were scientific fact. On that basis, they assume that meat containing potentially pathogenic bacteria will cause problems, and forget that the dog is designed to eat bacteria-rich food, such as feces…They assume with absolutely no evidence that immune compromised animals will succumb to infection when introduced to the BARF [program.]”

He goes on to state: 

The commercially fed dogs’ shorter lives were filled with misery, as they suffered from the whole range of degenerative diseases, often from a very early age. The problems they suffered included arthritis, periodontal disease, diabetes, skin problems, the whole range of orthopedic problems in young dogs, including hip and elbow dysplasia, and many, many more, including the worst and most frighteningly abundant of all—cancer.”

The thing that impressed the hell out of me is all of these people who went out of their way to report the changes in their dog’s health and disposition after starting the diet. I’ve never come across someone on the internet that fed a raw diet and then changed their mind, switched to kibble and raved about the difference in their dog. 

And the debate rages on. In the meantime, I have a very lovely, healthy and happy dog who seems to be thriving on the diet. And to paraphrase an old saying: “The proof is in the pooch.”

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