Back in 1620, when the Mayflower docked at the New World, its passengers included 102 bold pilgrims from Plymouth — and two plucky pooches. The canine adventurers — one a mastiff, the other an English springer spaniel — belonged to 25-year-old John Goodman of England, whose life they are credited with saving on at least one occasion and whom they both outlived. Like so many settlers, Goodman did not make it to that famed first Thanksgiving. But his dogs did.
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Almost 400 years ago, in the makeshift settlement of Plymouth, Mass., there was no Unleashed by Petco, no feed stores at all. No low-cal salmon treats, no cozy dog beds, no dog booties to protect sensitive paws from rough terrain. The Mayflower dogs earned their keep — tracking, hunting, protecting the settlement. And for their efforts, they received a great bounty straight from the plate of man. That’s right: Table scraps! “Human” food!
Just imagine the salivation as those dogs circled that first Thanksgiving table, stalking gravy-slathered turkey, sweet cranberry sauce and those candied sweet potatoes decked out in marshmallows and brown sugar.
Not so much.
The menu for the first Thanksgiving looked more like this: eel, cod, eagle, crane, seal and venison, with peas, radishes and carrots seasoned with parsnip and olive oil.
If today’s Thanksgiving feasts in any way mimicked the original, there would be no concern about dogs hanging out in the kitchen or scarfing platefuls of leftovers.
But they don’t. And only a tiny percentage of American dogs get enough exercise to counter the massive intake of fat and calories that comes with the “traditional” Thanksgiving feast. On any given afternoon in the New World, most dogs appear to be tryptophaned out — turkey overdose not required.
So this Thanksgiving, skip the scraps. Cover the trash. Offer rawhide bones and safely discard poultry bones that can splinter and cause tearing of the digestive tract. No sugary treats, which includes cookies, pies, cakes, cranberry sauce and, yes, that sweet potato concoction described above that your great aunt will undoubtedly bring again this year. If you want your dog to have a special day, make him a special meal. Delight him with nutritious dog-friendly morsels. You’ll find a cornucopia of healthful dog recipes online.
As an added note, if you’re having guests for Thanksgiving, people coming and going, make sure your dog is chipped and tagged and all gates to the yard are secure. And provide him with a peaceful retreat somewhere inside the house. The holidays aren’t stressful only to humans.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.
Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc.