by Lara Gladych –
Seaside Magazine wants to live up to our slogan of being “the voice of the Saanich Peninsula,” so, in every issue, we’ll be asking people to answer a question. We’re looking for responses from all ages and across the diverse neighbourhoods that form our community.
For this month’s column, I was curious to know how people keep their pets happy and healthy. We have such a variety of accessible outdoor spaces for dogs, in particular, to walk, hike and play with their owners. On the Peninsula, we also have a wide selection of pet stores and animal food suppliers to choose from. Going out to speak with the public, I expected to come across a range of answers in terms of what people are doing for their beloved animals in terms of activity, nutrition, care, etc.
My dilemma was that the pet owners who are most visible are dog owners out for walks, and in my experience, it’s also with dogs that you see the greatest range in dietary variation, as well as with owner-pet involvement given their needs versus those of say cats or rabbits. For this reason, my question of the month more narrowly addressed what dog owners had to say.
When I first shared my column topic with a friend, she immediately recounted to me the success she’s had with a raw-food diet for her dog. Nadine, 41, told me how quickly and significantly several of her dog’s ailments and skin issues cleared up once they made the switch to raw food, and that the change has even been noticed by friends.
I visited Cy Hampson Park on Lochside Drive, where I found people of all ages out with their dogs on a glorious April afternoon. Perfect subjects for interviews.
“How do you keep your pet happy and healthy?” I asked. Ken, 71, and Alexandra, 72, are parents to a nine-year-old dog, and they told me that they do exactly as she says. She lets them know when she wants to go out, when she wants to play, when she’s hungry … They tell me that they simply “listen” to their dog to satisfy her needs and keep her happy. Fresh vegetables and meat are what’s on the menu at their house.
Next I meet another Alexandra, 28. Daily exercise is key for her pet, and Cy Hampson is their favourite dog park, not in small part because of its beautiful view. Parks like these fulfill the socialization aspect for dogs, she says, which can’t be satisfied through walks alone. Alexandra happens to be studying to become a veterinary assistant, and her focus is on holistic health for animals. She prefers flash-frozen and freeze-dried food.
Robin, 49, and Alexandra clearly know each other, as do their dogs. Exercise and socialization are what she feels is most important for her dog’s health and happiness. Again, the dog park is important in her eyes because it allows pets to interact not only with other dogs, but with other people, too. Her choice for mealtime is kibble mixed with raw food.
Before we parted, Robin and Alexandra noted how this is a wonderful place to meet other dog people, from which comes conversation about pet issues and a sharing of ideas around problems, concerns, questions, etc. Friendships for both animals and owners evolve here. “We may not all know each other by first name, but we know each other by dog name.”
Moving along, Aileen, 37, said that bringing her dog here is what keeps her pet happy and healthy. “She has a lot of energy, and this is her favourite park. She does a grain-free diet. She’s pretty sensitive, and can’t have chicken or turkey, which is breed-related. We did have her on a raw food diet, which actually was really great, but it’s so expensive!”
I cross the field to meet Roy, 70. “Well, she’s very spoiled,” he says of his dog. “She expects her special breakfast the minute she gets up. My wife cooks for her. We got a cookbook that has all kinds of recipes,” said Roy of his dog’s diet, which is supplemented by kibble that their vet recommended.
My smallest interviewee that day was Hunter, age two, who was visiting the park with his dog and dad, Kyle, 37. They keep their dog happy and healthy by “taking him for lots of walks, and feeding him well,” said Kyle. They use a high-end pet store kibble. Hunter loves to give his doggie treats, hugs and baths.
I think about what my family does for our two dogs; love and cuddles top the list. Ours are smaller breeds that don’t need an enormous amount of exercise, though their happiness is plain to see when they get to go for ” big” walks and new adventures. One of the things I didn’t hear mentioned by others I spoke with is the importance of weight control. We are diligent with food portions and not too many treats to keep them lean and light.
Listen to your dog, feed them well, and enjoy outdoor spaces as much as you’re able. It’s the recipe for a happy life with your animal.