No People Food by Alice Chan
This submitted article first appeared on DogHeirs in 2013.
It’s been a while since I have sat down to write and in part, the reason has been that I was digesting the news that my dearly beloved companion of 12 years, Hector, who has long played a lead role in our merry band, was diagnosed with cancer a couple of weeks ago. Since then, my culinary endeavors have been devoted to getting him to eat.
As a big, handsome English Labrador, he never met a bowl of food he didn’t like. In fact, once, upon finding the lid off his kibble container, he decided to dive right in and inhale as much of it as he could before he was discovered. I found him outside with a blue tongue, choking and unable to breathe because he had stuffed so much in his mouth! He quickly recovered.
It has been very hard to witness his decline and increasingly fussy appetite. Throughout his life, I had a strict rule about no people food. I also regulated his diet so he wouldn’t end up overweight like so many Labs, never letting friends or family or feed him from the table – much to their (and his) chagrin.
He had great table manners. He would go lie on his bed and never begged when we were eating. Yet when it was time for his meals, he would prance and careen around the house like a horse, so excited for his favorite hour of the day. He stopped doing this just a few weeks ago, which is when I started to think something was up. That, and the fact I noticed he didn’t finish his meal for a couple of days in a row. These were completely ‘did hell freeze over?’ type of events. Kibble would typically remain in his bowl for precisely 15 seconds.
Over the course of a few days we made repeated visits to the vet and learned that he had tumors on his spleen and cysts on his kidneys. The prognosis was poor and his decline shockingly rapid, although we don’t know how long he had had the cancer before we discovered it.
Devastated, I was determined to make his last days comfortable and ensure that he felt loved by us. We spent the first few nights camping out in the sitting room with him, but soon realized that none of us were getting much sleep that way, although I think it lifted his spirits. Labradors always want to be with their people.
The hardest thing was that he didn’t want to eat much, if anything at all. He immediately turned his nose up (or rather, away) from anything that resembled dog food. My ‘no people food’ rule flew out the window. Bowls were no longer for him. Being hand-fed, by me alone, became the only acceptable food delivery mechanism. I didn’t care what he ate, or how he ate it. I knew as long as I could get him to eat a few hundred calories a day he would have enough strength to keep wagging his tail and bark at the mailman – key indicators that he still wanted to be with us.
We tried prescription-only high calorie dog food from the vet. I heated up hot dogs to release the aromas, bought expensive roast beef, deli ham, turkey, baby food and roasted chicken. It soon became transparently clear that Hector was on a mission: to eat only people food, and to sample as wide a variety as he possibly could.
One day he would LOVE ham, so I’d rush out and buy as much of it as I could lay my hands on, only to find the next day he’d give it a disdainful sniff and turn his head away. This went on for a few days until he had exhausted all the options I had to offer. Then I cottoned on to the fact that he was only interested in what we were actually eating, no Hormel luncheon meat for him. We started to bring home leftovers: burritos, pizza crusts, calamari. In fact, I started to order things I never eat, just to tempt his palate.
For a couple of weeks it worked and each time he accepted an offering I would feel irrationally happy. He ate just enough to stay alert and get outside to the yard a couple of times a day. But all too soon he decided that he had sampled all he wanted from my ‘all you can eat buffet’ and it was time to lay down his head for the last time. We were there at the end, and my heart is broken. But I know we gave him the best of everything, including people food.
Hector left us on August 1, 2013. He will be forever in my heart as my most faithful, enduring love.
This article originally appeared on Alice’s Blog here: alicedishes.com/no-people-food/
After the article appeared on DogHeirs, many people commented about her loss. Alice followed up on November 8, 2013 with an update:
“Thank you every for your comments… it’s been three months but I still miss him every day. I can’t look at a picture of him without tearing up. Crazy. We have in the meantime adopted an older black Lab, who is giant(!) called Tank appropriately. I will post some stories about him soon. He’s a character.”
John and Jamie Perretta, Nov 07, 2013
My heart goes out to you.😥 we just lost our beloved Lady the same way. She was a Lab also 12 yrs old. We love our babies unconditional the same way they love us.
Rae, Nov 06, 2013
Oh Alice, I am so sorry for your loss and I feel your pain. Having lost one dog to cancer just over a year ago and facing the same thing again with my Rhodie, Honey, right now, I know how devastating it is to watch their slow decline. My Honey girl gets whatever she wants, whether its the leftovers my mom brings her or her very own steak, I am working hard to make sure that her remaining time is filled with love and delicious humane food. RIP Hector, may you and the rest of our four-legged loves play forever across the rainbow bridge.
Apollo, Nov 01, 2013
It’s hard to bear, it’s hard to read the story to the end. I have a chocolate Lab of my own and I love him dearly. I know how difficult it is to let go. I’m very sorry for the loss of Hector. Labs have pretty much same characters and eating habits specially when it comes to food (and non-food alike). I adore all Labs. They are the greatest human-companion dogs.
Loredana Dodson, Oct 31, 2013
I lost my Jake ,my gentle giant on October 21st ,I know how you feel .The love jake give me was unconditional , I miss his soft fur , his tail wagging and even his barking in the morning when he use to go outside and try to catch a teasing blue jay up in the tree .he was my faithful companion for 13 years ,a long time everyone said to me for a dog that size (154 pound ) but not long enough for me .
Diego de la Mora, Aug 06, 2013
I´m very sorry for your loss and for Hector passing away. A few years ago I lost “Max”, my golden retriever”, in very similar conditions. I had always fed him with dry kibble and he developed cancer in his esophagus, throath and gums. The process was quite similar than yours with Hector and my and his reactions identical. He didn´t want any pet food whatsoever and I gave him any other human food available. After some years processing it, and seeing that the same thing happens to many dogs in different parts of the world, it becomes clear to me that feeding them kibbles all their lives is not healthy at all. It can´t be!!! This food created to last months in shelves has to be one of the main reasons dogs develop so much cancer, it´s obvious that is an increasing pattern. What do you all think about this? Any suggestions?? Best regards…..
Darrin Henry, Aug 05, 2013
I’ve gone through this a few times, and it is always hard. They begin to stop eating and you’ll do anything to get them interested in food again. It leaves you facing a decision that goes against everything a dog lover is. As a dog lover you will do anything to keep your dog happy and healthy. I’m sure that Hector left you with many beautiful memories to cherish. You have my heartfelt condolences for your loss.
Alvilda Breeze, Aug 05, 2013
I’m so sorry for you loss. R I P poor Hector. We lost our choccy english lab Sammy, almost two years ago due to cancer of the spleen. He was just eight.
Shelly, Aug 05, 2013
I’m so very sorry for your loss. I lost my Gunner(a Golden) in the same manner 7-26-13 he was only 8 yrs old, I’m devasted and heartbroken. I can only say that I feel your pain and we know we loved them with everything we had until the end. They know they were loved. My thoughts are with you and your family.
Cheryl Hampton, Aug 05, 2013
I am so sorry for your loss. When we found out we were going to lose our Lab, Brady, we gave him a steak dinner. We still miss him and since that time have also lost our Golden, Brandy, and our German Shepherd, Duchess. It’s so hard to lose our 4 legged family members. Your Hector knew he was loved to the end. Condolences to you and your family.
Cori Schultheis, Aug 05, 2013
So sorry for the loss of your friend and companion. Love is love and it hurts just the same when it’s gone….whether human or animal….
Jennifer Herd, Aug 05, 2013
I am sorry for your loss. We lost our Maddie when she was five after surgery, she had some type of infection that she could not recover from. To the end she was wagging her tail. It was heartbreaking as it was to be a routine surgery. I don’t think I will ever get over the heartache I feel. You are lucky to have had so many years.
Donna, Aug 05, 2013
My heart is breaking, we are on the same journey with our beloved Lulu a 20 year old female Schnauzer. Her daddy and I know with her medical problems it will not be long so every day is a pamper and spoil her affair. I prepare all her meals (cooked chicken and veggies or beef and veggies) she can have as many treats she wants and I think I have a bag/box of every brand made. Bless you and bless Hector. I know he is playing at the Rainbow Bridge waiting for you. “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ~ Will Rogers.
Sylvia, Aug 05, 2013
My deepest condolences to you and your family. I, too am forever grieving for my baby I lost last Jan 11, 2013 of brain infection. The pain is just as bad as it was the day she left us, I still call her name and weep at nights just thinking of her… hopefully in time we both find the courage to heal… God bless you for making Hector’s last few days as happy as can be… He misses you just as much, always remember this.
Joy Hemingway-VanEck, Aug 05, 2013
I am so sorry for your loss. I have a 13 year old Black Lab, Boomer, and he’s the spitting image of your dogs pictures. My heart aches for you. I pray the grieving won’t prevent another set of paws in your future!
Una Geiger, Aug 05, 2013
Alice, I’m so sorry for your loss. Hector sounds like an amazing dog. Our Cenour also had the no ppl’s food rule because he tended to get on the chubby side (and not a good thing with him being a Podengo who have similar physique to a greyhound). When we knew we had to let him go, he got all his favourite food from roasted chicken, glaced ham and chips (French fries). Hector knew you loved him and I think you have now a very special angel looking out for you and your family.
Sahana Dutta, Aug 04, 2013
So sorry for losing Hector…parting with your best friends is so difficult and painful and nothing we do can heal it…but Hector had a beautiful life with you and he was so loved…no words can make the pain go away..all I can say is he is now free of his illness and surely playing with many buddies across the rainbow bridge… I too have 2 black labs along with a beagle…n though i try not to give them people food..i can’t always control myself…so I do indulge them once in a while and for their regular meal I give them home made food….
Jocelyn Green, Aug 04, 2013
my heart is with you too….how lucky he is to have you..he is now peacefully and physically in peace…i had lost many wonderful dogs before and i understand how it feels..it will take time and they were always gonna be a part of our life…