It is now hour five of camping with Winston, my golden retriever, and it has become obvious to me that he was not the dog the pet food industry had in mind when they found a need to create energy bars for dogs.
Even though the Montana sky is faultlessly blue I’m encased in full rain gear. For the last 30 minutes Winston has found it necessary to repeatedly launch into Lava Lake, paddle in a circle, and then charge up to me and shake, making me feel as if I’m spending time with a low-pressure front.
His status as man’s best friend is quickly plummeting to man’s most annoying outdoor companion.
During the hike in Winston pulled and strained on his leash while zigzagging back and forth on the trail, creating for me the disjointed sensation of backpacking while holding onto a fishing line with a struggling 60 pound skipjack tuna.
Then when I let him sprint free he exhibited the exact mannerisms of a 14-year-old trying to avoid being seen walking with his parents, always staying at least 50 feet ahead. Consequently, every 20 seconds I’d sound like a hapless substitute teacher yelling roll call: “Winston? Winston? Winston?”
All of which brings me back to dog energy bars. Who determined dogs are in dire need of a boost?
I could understand an energy bar for a cat, or for the algae-eating thing in my aquarium that rarely moves and is always suctioned to the glass making me wonder if it’s a fish or a window decal. But not dogs.
Dogs possess more energy than the sun. If science had discovered a means of harnessing canine energy 40 years ago Dick Cheney, right now, would be in the dog breeding business.
Yet, despite my doubts, yesterday, while shopping for pet food, I bought Winston an energy bar.
When I first paused before the dog energy bars I quickly scanned the aisle to make sure that nutty MTV prankster, Ashton Kutcher, wasn’t rushing up to me to giddily gush, “You’ve been Punk’d!” A reasonable fear considering the bars were displayed on a shelf laden with other odd pet food items.
Next to the energy bars were colorful aluminum pouches of freeze dried ice cream treats for dogs, which claimed in large letters “Ready to Eat.” When has this ever mattered to a dog?
There were also Kung-Fu Fido Fortune Cookies. I tried imagining what type of fortunes dogs would enjoy hearing: “You will one day solve the mystery of door knobs.” Or: “Your canine species will get its wish by having toy poodles reclassified as cats.” Or: “You will one day enjoy sweet revenge by finding yourself locked in a room with no one else but the guy who invented the electric collar.”
Displayed one shelf over were containers of GoDog Sports Drink. According to the label the drink contained blood-flow boosters, oxygen transporters, stamina builders, and recovery promoters. I have another name for this beverage: Dog Disobedience Drink.
And to the left of these towered cases of Bottled Water for Dogs. Why? They drink out of toilets.
If the 27-billion-dollar-a-year pet industry possesses the time to hatch such fringe canine concoctions as these, why can’t they also brainstorm more practical food aids like: Stop Barking Bars, or Stop-Staring-at-Me-while-I’m-Trying-to-Read-the-Newspaper-Causing-Me-to-Feel-Guilty-For-Not-Taking-You-Outside Treats, or an Experience-Absolute-Exhaustion-After-Chasing-a-Tennis-Ball-for-Twenty-Minutes Drink.
If this last item existed I’d buy it by the barrel. My dog is so obsessed with chasing tennis balls I’m convinced that if I were to unravel his DNA strand I’d find a dominant Wimbledon Ball Boy gene.
There were three energy bars to choose from. Despite my reservations I applauded the manufacturers for at least possessing the smarts to market these in bar forms rather than in tablets. One of the supreme mysteries in life is how dogs will eat anything out of trash cans, yet suddenly become selective when it comes to a pill. Trying to place a pill on the back of my dog’s tongue is like trying to slide a wrinkled dollar bill into a Las Vegas slot machine. It’s in, it’s out. It’s in, it’s out. It’s in, it’s out. Then when I think the pill has finally tumbled down his throat, 20 minutes later I’ll hear that infamous dog gagging sound (a canine’s version of saying “Ta-daaaa!”) and like magic the pill has appeared again completely intact.
One bar was called Vive. Short, I assumed, for revive. It sounded effective, but too effective, leaving me with that same uneasy feeling I’d get if I saw a laxative named “Boom” or “Blast.”
Vive came in one curious flavor—vanilla. If the Vive manufacturers had any marketing savvy they’d offer this bar in the one taste that all dogs, even cocker spaniels, would universally go mad over: Used Paper Towel.
The Thunder Dog K9 Power and Nutrition bar claimed, “Designed to provide rapid replenishment of lost nutrients for dogs under stress...” Stress? What could animals that don’t think twice about licking themselves during dinner parties possibly get stressed about?
For no particular reason I eventually settled on a Pro Plan Performance Bar, which I’m now holding.
I had planned on feeding it to Winston after setting camp. But I think I’ll postpone this, for it looks like a four legged rain storm, packed with a ton of energy, is heading my way.
Jeff Wozer (jeffwozer.com) works as a nationally touring stand-up comedian and has performed at the Baxter’s Wednesday Comedy Night.