I spent last weekend in Vermont with my family and my dog, Buster. We went out to dinner one night and my father ordered steak. At the end of the meal he asked the server to box up the fat from the steak that he had cut off so he could bring it home to the dog. The server was shocked and refused to pack up a doggie bag for the leftover that I am sure Buster would have appreciated. She explained that fat is not good for dogs, just like it is not good for us! We are an easy going bunch and big animal lovers so we all got a kick out of her response. Personally I appreciated her concern for our dog and the story she then told about her own dog. She found out pretty quick that she was talking to the right crowd.
The experience reminded me of the talk that Jon Katz gave at our recent Dog Days of Summer event. He talked about his new book Soul of a Dog which explores the question of whether dogs have souls. As part of the process he looked at our history with dogs and noted that we didn't have prepackaged pet food until the 60's. Pets ate what we did, usually the leftover table scraps. In that relatively short period of time, our relationship with our pets has truly transformed. Many of us think more about what we feed our pets than what we feed ourselves. In the past few years there has been huge growth in natural and organic pet food sales and people have come to realize that their pet's nutrition affects their lives just like ours. (On this same trip we bought some Wagatha's dog biscuits - made in Vermont they are vegetarian, organic and kosher - and yes Buster loves them).
How and why did this transformation happen? I recommend reading Jon Katz's book for more on that subject. I think that as a society we have really embraced the relationship that we have with animals. We continue to learn that animals think and feel more deeply than we ever imagined in the past and our connection to them continues to grow stronger.
Would Buster have been happy if he had gotten a big hunk of steak fat when we got home? You Bet! But mostly he just seemed happy that we were home and rubbing his belly.